It’s that fun time again when the Office of National Statistics release a whole bunch of completely unsurprising figures that the newspapers can spin to reflect whatever point of view they suspect will sell the most papers. I might as well add my own biased spin to counter the Daily Mail's arse dribble.
In 2011, 68.5% of the UK population apparently identified themselves as Christian, compared to 71.3 % the previous year, with the overwhelming majority of the slack being taken up by us godless heathens.
These percentages of course refer to “Cultural Christians” rather than “Practicing Christians”, indeed the wording of the question includes the caveat “even if not currently practicing”. However, what I think is a far more pertinent statistic, is the actual Church attendance numbers.
The above graph shows the average weekly attendance of Church of England services over the last 10 years. Indeed, if you look at the source you can see this same declining trend in Sunday Worship going all the way back to the late 1960’s. There is of course no surprise in seeing this steady slump in church attendance. Each year an average of 14,300 fewer people attend Anglican services.
That means that on average, each week, 275 regular church attendees have either died or have woken up and decided that it's all a bit silly really and they’d rather have a nice lie in of a Sunday morning.
Of course extrapolating figures generally leads to some very dodgy conclusions, but what the hell, let’s extrapolate anyway.
Assuming the same steady decline continues year on year at the same rate, then on Sunday 16th January 2089 the last 75 stragglers will wander through the hallowed doors for one final sing-song and a couple of nice platitudes before being sent on their merry way for the last time. The following week, Sunday 23rd January 2089, every church, chapel and cathedral across England will be empty, vacant, void. Completely deserted.
I wonder if on Monday 24th January 2089 when the Daily Mail reports with horror that no bugger turned up for Church yesterday, that the government will still feel justified in their support of an education policy that actively discriminates based on the alleged religious beliefs of parents and a theocratic admissions policy for the House of Lords.
After all, if I were to believe this dodgy extrapolation, it could be in the lifetime of my children.