Exclusive: Former archbishop of Canterbury says Britain is no longer a nation of believers, as Telegraph poll reveals Christians are reluctant to express their faith
Britain is now a “post-Christian” country, the former archbishop of Canterbury has declared, as research suggests that the majority of Anglicans and Roman Catholics now feel afraid to express their beliefs.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Lord Williams of Oystermouth saysBritain is no longer “a nation of believers” and that a further decline in the sway of the Church is likely in the years ahead.
While the country is not populated exclusively by atheists, the former archbishop warns that the era of regular and widespread worship is over.
His stark assessment comes after David Cameron ignited a national debate over the place of religion in British public life. The Prime Minister urged Christians to be “more evangelical” about their faith and claimed that Britain should be a more confidently Christian country.
His remarks, in the run-up to Easter, provoked a furious response from atheist and secular groups, and prompted a succession of senior politicians to give their views, culminating in Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England.
However, an exclusive poll for The Telegraph today discloses substantial support for the Prime Minister’s view. Findings from the ICM survey of 2,000 people conducted last week included:
• More than half the public – 56 per cent – regard Britain as a Christian country, a figure which rises to 60 per cent among men and 73 per cent among the over 65s;
• Almost two-thirds of practising Christians appear to be frightened of speaking out about their beliefs. The poll found 62 per cent saying the rise of religious fundamentalism had made Christians afraid to express their faith;
• Widespread concerns also emerge over the perceived vulnerability of Christians in the UK to abuse or discrimination. Sixty-two per cent of people who hold Christian beliefs but do not worship regularly say they feel Christians are given “less protection” than other religious groups by the state;
• Overall, 52 per cent of respondents described themselves as either practising or non-practising Christians, while a further five per cent said they belonged to another faith group. Some 41 per cent said they were not religious.