1 Percent Debate

Charles Clegg/Flickr

By John Martin

Could the numerical decline of British Christianity have halted? Earlier this year church leaders were saying it could take years for the trend of decline to end. Now new figures from the British Social Attitudes Survey cited by the Sunday Telegraph suggest the number of Britons classifying themselves as Christian nudged up by 1 point from 42 percent to 43 percent.

People under 25 identifying as non-believers (nones) fell by 3 points from 65 percent to 62 percent. Those describing themselves as Christian are now at the same level as they were seven years ago, when “no religion” was the largest group in the survey.

Some, however, like Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University, dismiss the figures as meaningless, not least because 1 percent is hardly significant. Abby Day, a sociologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, told the online newspaper Christian Today that the numbers could simply mean “a pause at the edge of a cliff.”

Other voices contend that claimed growth comes at a cost, as more traditional church people are put off by the methods employed by evangelical churches at the forefront of expansion. The Very Rev. Martyn Percy, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, told The Observer that much of the talk of “being stronger and fitter for the 21st century is simply not believed by most people. All indices show there’s no growth, and a lot of the ways in which [evangelicals] talk about God is fundamentally off-putting. More people are turned off than turned on.”

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