When the religion data for the 2001 census of England and Wales was released, modern Pagans made news as their combined number (around 42,000) made them the seventh largest religious group in the UK. Since then, many, including historian Ronald Hutton, maintained that the number was potentially far larger than that.
“Ten years ago 42,000 people declared themselves as Pagans – the seventh highest number for any UK religion – but some experts believe the true figure was nearer 250,000 – and is significantly higher now.”
So, Pagans in Britain launched the “Pagan-Dash” campaign to help unify the count in 2011, and encourage more Pagans to participate truthfully in the religion question. Now, initial 2011 religion figures for England and Wales have been released, and while the numbers haven’t exploded into the hundreds of thousands, adherents to some form of modern Paganism has nearly doubled in the last ten years. Depending on how forgiving you want to be as to which groups are “Pagan” in some form, they now number over 80,000. In addition, the base number of people identifying as “Pagan” shot up to nearly 60,000.
Here are the relevant raw numbers for England and Wales:
Bringing to just over 80,000 (or so) Pagans. That number doesn’t count how many Pagans there might be lurking within the category of “Mixed Religon” (23,566), “Own Belief System” (1,949), or “Spiritual” (13,832). Other figures of note in the “Other Religion” category include Vodoun at 208, Traditional African Religion at 588 (both numbers that I think are too low), and New Age at 698 adherents.
These figures point to some success for the Pagan Dash campaign, though they were not the far larger estimates many were hoping for. Still, this shows encouraging growth for modern Paganism in England and Wales in an increasing post-Christian Britain. According to the Office for National Statistics, Christianity in England and Wales has dropped considerably, while the number of people claiming “no religion” (the “nones”) have, just like their American cousins, grown considerably.
“Compared with the 2001 Census the most significant trends were an increase in the population reporting no religion – from 14.8 per cent of the population in 2001 to 25.1 per cent in 2011, a drop in the population reporting to be Christian – from 71.7 per cent in 2001 to 59.3 per cent in 2011, and an increase in all other main religions. The number of Muslims increased the most from 3.0 per cent in 2001 to 4.8 per cent in 2011.”
In short, every religion, and “no religion” are on the rise, while Christianity has dropped precipitously. At this rate, it’s very likely that Christianity could lose their majority over the next decade. What these demographic shifts mean for the UK, and for the modern Pagans living there, mean remains to be seen, but it will certainly become increasingly hard to ignore non-Christian voices if these trends continue. I hope to get comments from Pagan groups in the UK on these numbers soon.