This article appears in the Witness section of the Summer 2019 issue of the New Humanist. Subscribe today.

For decades, the number of British people describing themselves as non-religious has grown steadily. New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) offer yet another piece of evidence for this trend. According to the data, the number of Brits who say they have no religion has increased by 46 per cent over the last seven years. This makes non-religious people the fastest-growing group in the country. The data, which is taken from the Annual Population Survey, shows that 39 per cent of people now class themselves as non-religious. In real terms, that’s an increase of around eight million people since 2011.

The findings are in line with other recent studies. The most recent British Social Attitudes Survey actually found an even larger proportion of people were non-religious; they placed it at 52 per cent. But despite this long-term trend, religion still features heavily in many aspects of British public life, from politics to education. This includes the 26 voting places for the Church of England in parliament, the funding of religious schools that discriminate in their admissions policies, and compulsory collective worship in all schools.

Responding to the ONS figures, Humanists UK chief executive Andrew Copson said: “The growth of the non-religious has been the biggest demographic shift in Britain in recent decades, and these figures underline the need for government to tackle entrenched religious privilege in our social institutions and create fairer policies that represent everyone, regardless of religion or belief.”