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← Atheists likely to outnumber Christians in England in 20 years

Atheists likely to outnumber Christians in England in 20 years - Comments

IDLERACER's Avatar Comment 1 by IDLERACER

I don't care how good he looks for his age, Cliff Richard can't live forever. Neither can Paul Jones or Helen Shapiro. Being from the U.S, and a fan of 1960s music, they are the only in-your-face British evangelicals I can name off the top of my head.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 03:31:50 UTC | #925780

Mrkimbo's Avatar Comment 2 by Mrkimbo

Proud to be English! (Shame those rational chaps, the Scandinavians, got there first though. And they were slow to be converted to Christianity to begin with. Respect!)

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 03:35:23 UTC | #925782

Neodarwinian's Avatar Comment 3 by Neodarwinian

A natural progression from better education, communication and, most importantly, opposing this religious nonsense wherever it raises it's ugly head.

They, the wackaloons, don't have it all their own way anymore!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 03:43:57 UTC | #925785

Sample's Avatar Comment 4 by Sample

I suspect atheists already do outnumber Christians.


Sat, 10 Mar 2012 04:48:42 UTC | #925791

mmurray's Avatar Comment 5 by mmurray

Comment 4 by Sample :

I suspect atheists already do outnumber Christians.


Particularly if you define Christian to mean anything other than "I think people should be nice to each other" as the Ipsos MORI poll showed. Another RDF poll for Jews, Muslims and Hindus would be interesting.


Sat, 10 Mar 2012 05:01:27 UTC | #925793

PERSON's Avatar Comment 6 by PERSON

I'm reminded of this bit of Twain when I hear about projections like this, particularly when they're treated as inevitabilities.

Once there was a neck opposite Port Hudson, Louisiana, which was only half a mile across, in its narrowest place. You could walk across there in fifteen minutes; but if you made the journey around the cape on a raft, you traveled thirty-five miles to accomplish the same thing. In 1722 the river darted through that neck, deserted its old bed, and thus shortened itself thirty-five miles. In the same way it shortened itself twenty-five miles at Black Hawk Point in 1699. Below Red River Landing, Raccourci cut-off was made (forty or fifty years ago, I think). This shortened the river twenty-eight miles. In our day, if you travel by river from the southernmost of these three cut-offs to the northernmost, you go only seventy miles. To do the same thing a hundred and seventy-six years ago, one had to go a hundred and fifty-eight miles!--shortening of eighty-eight miles in that trifling distance. At some forgotten time in the past, cut-offs were made above Vidalia, Louisiana; at island 92; at island 84; and at Hale's Point. These shortened the river, in the aggregate, seventy-seven miles.

Since my own day on the Mississippi, cut-offs have been made at Hurricane Island; at island 100; at Napoleon, Arkansas; at Walnut Bend; and at Council Bend. These shortened the river, in the aggregate, sixty-seven miles. In my own time a cut-off was made at American Bend, which shortened the river ten miles or more.

Therefore, the Mississippi between Cairo and New Orleans was twelve hundred and fifteen miles long one hundred and seventy-six years ago. It was eleven hundred and eighty after the cut-off of 1722. It was one thousand and forty after the American Bend cut-off. It has lost sixty-seven miles since. Consequently its length is only nine hundred and seventy-three miles at present.

Now, if I wanted to be one of those ponderous scientific people, and 'let on' to prove what had occurred in the remote past by what had occurred in a given time in the recent past, or what will occur in the far future by what has occurred in late years, what an opportunity is here! Geology never had such a chance, nor such exact data to argue from! Nor 'development of species,' either! Glacial epochs are great things, but they are vague--vague. Please observe:--

In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period,' just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.

Life on the Mississippi by Mark Twain

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 05:19:00 UTC | #925797

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 7 by aquilacane

Here's a happy man scribble: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 05:28:39 UTC | #925798

zengardener's Avatar Comment 8 by zengardener

Samuel Clemens had a gentlemanly way of slowly and methodically pwning someone.

The rates of change, even if they could be measured more accurately, are them selves changing.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 05:51:05 UTC | #925801

robaylesbury's Avatar Comment 9 by robaylesbury

Can I start eating babies publically now?

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 06:35:30 UTC | #925806

Aka Popag's Avatar Comment 10 by Aka Popag

Am I the only one who is a little worried that this news will spur the Catholic Board of Directors into kicking off another intensive breeding program? Amongst their flocks obviously, not themselves. Choir boys being incapable of bearing children.etc

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 07:13:05 UTC | #925817

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 11 by Jos Gibbons

Of course, this may have already happened, but for the moment let’s explore whether it will within 20 years if it hasn’t already; at any rate, whether it will be acknowledged to have happened within 20 years, based on whatever definitions cowardly governments use. This will be a long post about right and wrong ways to say how long things will take to happen, but I feel less self-conscious about its length because of what PERSON copy-pasted. Now, don’t get me wrong: I really hope statements of the form “Group Daily Mail likes that’s bigger than group Daily Mail hates won’t stay that way for more than X years” will come true with X as small as possible, because
(a) I tend to be in the groups they hate,
(b) they tend to be wrong to take the preferences they do,
(c) if people are going to be bigots they may as well suffer the most humane consequences as possible, namely seeing the things that wrongly horrify them coming true,
(d) minorities’ growth helps them be more respected, whereas formerly overwhelming groups don’t tend to lose what they deserve as this change happens, and
(e) just hearing these complaints exposes bigotry, e.g. if you care what happens to the whites-to-blacks ratio that means you don’t think black and white people are equally valuable (whereas if you do accept that basic fact you know the quality of society can’t depend on the ratio, and a move towards greater diversity – namely, the move the right-wingers fear – is sociologically beneficial in increasing our tolerance of what should be unimportant differences).
But while I am hopeful on these fronts, and while we have good reasons to think these changes are probably only a matter of time, we don’t really have a good way to calculate how long it will take, and that’s what I want to talk about.

There are two ways to calculate how long a quantity (here the atheists to Christian ratio) will take to go from its current value to a new one (in this case 1). One is to have a genuinely well-attested scientific understanding of the mathematics governing the quantity’s time evolution, from which we can get the right answer with a differential (or, occasionally, difference$) equation; the other is to assume its current rate of change will be constant, which in principle is no more likely than the quantity itself being constant, which of course we know it isn’t. A real answer has second, third,... order derivatives (or differences) to worry about. Admittedly sometimes this means only computers can get a good answer and a back of the envelope calculation needs to add one correction at a time so you can estimate the error in each update of the answer, but in principle we have far more to gain from doing it properly than from "linearizing" things.

($ A difference equation is a recurrence relation for a sequence in discrete time steps that tell you what changes occur from one step to the next. For example, u_1 = 1, u_(t+1) - u_t = 2t+1 implies u_t = t squared.)

This is the kind of issue that matters with, for instance, climate change. How do climatologists estimate how much warming we're due for? They use some heavy-handed equations from thermodynamics together with some pretty hard work in estimating future anthropogenic CO2 production. We don't know what our future population's size or energy policies will be with much confidence, but we can estimate what will happen under each of various emissions scenarios, and then use the findings to see how important cutbacks are (in short, they're very important). This is the difference between projections and predictions, and it's typically glossed over when "climate skeptics" look at how well models have done so far. They deliberately choose projections from CO2 productions we never achieved just to make the models' outcomes look bad, even though the projections which looked at the CO2 production we actually had are invariably very close to nature in their predictions of temperature changes. Why do "skeptics" flub like this (apart from a desire to be dishonest)? Perhaps because the projection-prediction distinction doesn't exist in their scheme of estimation, which is as follows: "Here's how much warming there was in the 1900s; therefore, we'll have the same amount in the 2000s. Unless global warming has stopped, of course, which will be judged by whether recent periods of our choosing" (translation: El Nino to La Nina periods) "had the same warming rate as old ones. If not, global warming has stopped or slowed." Note incidentally the fact that the multiple "how fast is it?" answers from different period choices shows the paucity of trying to extrapolate the way they do. It's a linearization fallacy again!

Do we have equations for the time evolution of demographic parameters like these as theoretically careful in their origins as, say, Newton’s second law applied to damped, driven harmonic motion? That depends on whether we bother to think about actual or logarithmic changes in numbers of atheists and Christians; do you expect the same number of extra atheists per decade, or do you expect the same percentage rise? If you know anything about how predator-prey cycles are modelled, you’ll have a rough idea how these things are done properly. All the same, I strongly suspect the equations used should we adapt such techniques here will be overly simplified; I wonder how much that will matter.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 07:19:17 UTC | #925818

Rawhard Dickins's Avatar Comment 12 by Rawhard Dickins

Perhaps people really are starting to realise that all that magic wand waving in mythical Jesus land really was BOLLOCKS!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 07:32:10 UTC | #925821

Emmeline's Avatar Comment 13 by Emmeline

The figures in the report are based on 2010 figures, for which the question was:

“What is your religion even if you are not currently practising?” This is how the result was 69.4% saying they were Christian and 22.4% saying they had no religion..

In 2011 they changed the question to

"What is your religion?" The percentage of 'Christians' then dropped to 63% with 'no religion' rising to 28.9%.

As expected, the report shows that religious affiliation is much higher among the over 50s than in the 20 - 35 age group.

The full report can be downloaded here:

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 08:25:32 UTC | #925830

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 14 by Mr DArcy

So there are 41 million "Christians" in Britain? I don't believe that for a minute. Even if it's true, we know from the recent poll that most of them don't believe in Christianity's central tenets anyway!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 08:29:49 UTC | #925832

AdrianTippetts's Avatar Comment 15 by AdrianTippetts

I am totally uninterested in projections about the number of of believers.

It is that the Church of England's well-meaning, secular-spirited, tolerant majority is dwindling. The growth is coming from evangelical Christianity, some of which is extreme in its intolerance. What is important is their disproportionate influence in the media, in government & in law. The current battle over marriage, which has raged for the past two weeks, shows we have an emergency on our hands. It is really important we get organised, form alliances and take this on with passion and perseverance. We aren't doing, and it's a disgrace.

I wrote about this on the national Secular Society website earlier this week. (See: ).

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 08:55:55 UTC | #925837

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 16 by the great teapot

41 million christians. Utter rubbish, where are they hiding?

Not that the number matters, if only one person was a non believer it gives it no credability. but living in England there is almost no evidence that the average person believes at all.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 08:57:06 UTC | #925838

Emmeline's Avatar Comment 17 by Emmeline

Comment 16 by the great teapot :

41 million christians. Utter rubbish, where are they hiding?

Not that the number matters, if only one person was a non believer it gives it no credability. but living in England there is almost no evidence that the average person believes at all.

The numbers do matter though because that's how religious groups argue for privileges. The latest quarter for which figures are available indicates that 37,770,00 people (63%) identify as Christians (based on this survey). That's why the RDFRS Ipsos MORI poll is so important as it shows that 74% of UK Christians don't want religion to have special influence on public policy with only 12% thinking that it should.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 10:02:06 UTC | #925846

thebaldgit's Avatar Comment 18 by thebaldgit

Even with these figures for christianity being heavily overinflated it is obvious christiany is on the wane in Britain and such an occurance cannot come soon enough.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 10:11:58 UTC | #925848

davem's Avatar Comment 19 by davem

Amongst my friends, the Christian : unbeliever ratio is something like 3%. Where they get the figure of 41 million Christians from is probably quite close to their collective bottoms

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 10:12:35 UTC | #925849

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 20 by Alan4discussion

Comment 13 by Emmeline

The figures in the report are based on 2010 figures, for which the question was:

“What is your religion even if you are not currently practising?”

This is how the result was 69.4% saying they were Christian and 22.4% saying they had no religion..

In 2011 they changed the question to

"What is your religion?"

The percentage of 'Christians' then dropped to 63% with 'no religion' rising to 28.9%.

Indeed! We do need to look carefully at the phrasing of questions!

While we are talking about surveys , let's remember this discussion -

Today, a quarter of a century on, there has been a steady and remarkable turnaround. In the latest 2010 BSA report, published earlier this month, only 42% said they were Christians while 51% now say they have no religion. Admittedly, some other surveys – including the last census – have produced different findings on these issues, usually to the advantage of the religious option. There is also a margin of error in all such exercises. All the same, and particularly since the trends in opinion over time seem well set, it is hard not to feel that this latest finding marks a cultural watershed. -

@OP -20 YEARS ??? I think it could be a lot sooner if it has not already happened.

Then there the MORI polls on how Christian the Christians really are! These help to explain the confusion!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 10:20:24 UTC | #925851

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 21 by AtheistEgbert

Like other posters have said, it's probably true today that atheists already outnumber Christians, whether they self-identify properly or not. That's no great victory when religion continue to gain privilege and liberties are fast eroding away.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 10:58:38 UTC | #925855

Emmeline's Avatar Comment 22 by Emmeline

Comment 19 by davem :

Amongst my friends, the Christian : unbeliever ratio is something like 3%. Where they get the figure of 41 million Christians from is probably quite close to their collective bottoms

The Labour Force Survey figure has been amended to just under 38 million based on the latest results but all this indicates is how many people identify as Christian in a survey about lots of other things. It's not an accurate analysis of how many believers v non-believers there are. In addition, those people identifying as Christian in this survey appear to be heavily weighted towards the over 50s.

I think the figures might also be skewed by the inclusion of children & teenagers, whose religion will have been selected by the person filling in the survey.

The figures for the 25 - 35 age group show approx 55% identifying as Christian but this is likely to be inflated as this relates to the earlier question of: “What is your religion even if you are not currently practising?

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 11:10:33 UTC | #925857

mmurray's Avatar Comment 23 by mmurray

Why does the Labour Force Survey ask people about their religion ? Does it ask about other hobbies ?

Thanks Emmeline for the link to the report. Mods can we add that to the original article?


Sat, 10 Mar 2012 11:10:47 UTC | #925858

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 24 by drumdaddy

My household is 100% Atheist. That settles it.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 12:48:57 UTC | #925866

aroundtown's Avatar Comment 25 by aroundtown

Looks like they still want to fudge the numbers. They have the last census figures in their head and will do what they can to try to keep that number high in their minds. It won't work and they know the day is coming when the fairy tale will finally be put out to pasture for good.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 13:20:14 UTC | #925869

CEVA34's Avatar Comment 26 by CEVA34

Good thing this forum is fairly civilised. The real yobbos, if they hear about this, will say that in twenty years the country won't be atheist OR Christian - it'll be Islamic! After all those people breed like rabbits. The same sort of thing will be said in the Daily Mail, just a little more politely.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 13:34:44 UTC | #925872

strangebrew's Avatar Comment 27 by strangebrew

Comment 19 by davem

Where they get the figure of 41 million Christians from is probably quite close to their collective bottoms

I have a nasty feeling, I hope I am wrong, that when the general census from last year gets published in the summer of '12' that the true number of xians in society is...shall we say manipulated... to reflect a not so dire picture for the jeebus droolers.

It is a major document, arguably one on which the religious authorities build their mansions on. I cannot be naive enough to think they would not dare attempt to fiddle with certain parameters or at the very least cast deep suspicion on the...dare I say expected... reported figures. They might and probably will scream long and pitifully about a mistake in wording of the questions regarding religious affiliation which confused worst they might demand a recount and a recasting of the census nationwide. Buys them time and hope that they can instil a little more 'guilt' into the populace in the meantime or directly intervene in their parishes to insure the re-ticked box is the correct box to re-tick!

But then again that would be a very serious and potentially catastrophic result if they got busted for direct interference on any level...does not mean they might not try though..

They are fighting a very rearguard action here...they will be maxxing out the 'woe woe and thrice woe' warnings from biblical perspective well past bedtime if the expected dip turns out to be as demoralizing for them as recent polls seem to indicate.

They must be shitting bricks and girding the metaphorical loins for a disaster...or they have not woken up yet.

But whatever...I would assume that one maybe more ecclesiastical types would be involved at some level, or indeed stage, in the correlation and analysis of the data! Not saying the National Statistics Office would condone any tampering but I have severe doubts about about a government riven with woomeisters and apologists at all levels...a little pressure applied from on high would be mandatory in such a case it would seem, after all so much rides on the result retaining the status quo. I just do not trust the religious they have very little in the guise of integrity or indeed reality but have a fair grasp of mental blackmail...that is all! They have a real vested interest on best outcome for religious mumbo jumbo...they might indeed figure a little 'improvement' in the detail might caste a 'fairer' version on the cold hard statistical result...just saying !

Because whatever the answers received from the census regarding religious affiliations they will embark on a mission to drive up numbers no matter how badly...or indeed well....they actually did in the census. That leaves the tactics of school infiltration, that aspect is the only hope they have left, they will use it...and abuse it to insure a direct link to their delusions. At best they buy time before the inevitable at worst they will moan and groan about the breakdown of society and plead about the intolerance they suffer at the hands of the 'church'/ 'god-haters' whatever one thing is guaranteed...they will muddy the is what they do!

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 13:39:13 UTC | #925873

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Comment 28 by Jonathan Dore

The recent RDFRS Ipsos-Mori poll has really shown up how meaningless these single-question high-level-identification-with-a-word-type surveys are. Hopefully this will be pointed out frequently enough that people will stop embarrassing themselves by trying to use such data to support the "Christian nation" hypothesis. The utterly self-serving nature of such surveys is now clear for all to see.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 14:20:24 UTC | #925879

louis14's Avatar Comment 29 by louis14

I work on the Labour Force Survey. I'd like to add a couple of things.

Firstly, the question relating to religion in the survey is the same as the one they put in the Census last year: 'What is your religion?' As such, the answers given can reasonably be assumed to be similar to the answers given in the Census, and we all know what Ipsos MORI uncovered about that.

The second (lesser) point is that the survey involves 50,000 households in the UK at any one time. Not 50,000 people as stated in the article. The number of people is actually something like 120,000.


Sat, 10 Mar 2012 14:42:17 UTC | #925881

AtheistAtItsBest's Avatar Comment 30 by AtheistAtItsBest

I would rather worry about the increasing number of "sharia-imposing-blood-sucking-disgrace-to-democracy" population in UK.

Sat, 10 Mar 2012 14:44:37 UTC | #925882