Census 2021: 40% of the North East are not religious

Written by on 2nd December 2022

40% of the North East say they have no religion, new census data shows.

New data from the 2021 Census reveals that whilst 40% of the North East is not religious, an average of 50.6% of the region identifies as Christian, and 2.9% as Muslim.

Whilst demographics do seem to be changing, a large amount of people in the region still practice their faith, with an average of 55% of people across the North East identifying with a religion.

Census 2021 findings show that those identifying with no religion is increasing. Data from: Census 2021

North East Religion Resources, a charity that promotes and supports religious education in the region, believes that religion still plays a large part in making the region what it is.

Karenza Passmore, Director of North East Religious Resources, said: “Responses in the North East revealed that 1,339,225 individual people here did describe themselves as ‘religious’ in some way, demonstrating the rich, varied and dynamic faith profile of our area.”

She added: “Reading the data from the Census, we all need to understand how complex religion and worldviews can be especially in a region like ours. Religion is a core part of North East life, often in unrecognised and unseen ways.”

But, comparing 2021’s Census to the same statistics from 2001 and 2011 illustrates a dramatic decline in the amount of people nationally identifying with any religion at all.

In 2011, 14.1 million people in the UK responded that they had no religion which equated to just under 25% of the population.

2001’s figures were even lower, with only 14.8% of the UK saying they are not religious.

Twenty years later, non religious people in the UK make up 37% of the population – a 22.2% increase.

Les Milne, Chair of the North East Humanists, personally believes that the societal shift away from religion is to do with modern technology and advancement.

He said: “The move away from religion has been a progressive one since church attendance has steadily dropped over the last 150 years. It is generational and is probably due to a better understanding of science, such as Cosmology with the Big Bang theory on the age and expansion of the universe, along with evolution and DNA.”

He added: “The statistics are most likely an understatement of the extent that the population is
not religious and that the proportion of those with no religion is higher and the
number of Christians is lower.”

Regionally, data painted an interesting picture of which area in the North East is the most religious.

North Tyneside, including the areas of Tynemouth and Whitley Bay, is the least religious area in the North East, with Census data showing that 49% of people from the coast identify with a religion.

On the other side, the most religious area in the North East is Middlesbrough.

Despite having one of the lowest Christian populations in the region (46%), the town has the highest population of Muslims, at 10.2%.


Religious identities in the North East not including Christians and those who are ‘not religious’. Data from: Census 2021

However, despite these changing demographics, religious leaders are still offering support and guidance for those who follow a religion.

The Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell said: “It’s not a great surprise that the Census shows fewer people in this country identifying as Christian than in the past, but it still throws down a challenge to us not only to trust that God will build his kingdom on Earth but also to play our part in making Christ known.”

He added: “We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by… we will be there for them.”

With religion being only one part of the Census, more information regarding other societal demographics are set to be released at the start of next year.

What do are your thoughts on the data? Let us know @SparkSunderland

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