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The United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it have long traditions of Christianity and a link between church and state still remains. Research suggests that 38% of the population have a belief in a God with a further 40% believing in a 'spirit or life force'.[141] People identify themselves with religion for both cultural and religious reasons and this is reflected by the disparity between the figures for those proclaiming a belief in a God and those identifying themselves with a particular religion. Christianity is the major religion with many Christian churches, denominations, and groups. The Tearfund Survey[142] in 2007 revealed 53% identified themselves as Christian. The report compared this to the 2004 British Social Attitudes Survey in which the results were very similar,[143] and to the 2001 UK Census in which 71.6% said that Christianity was their religion,[144] although noting that the latter used "a softer question". After Christianity comes Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism and then Judaism in terms of number of adherents.


Westminster Abbey is used for the coronation of British Monarchs, when they are also made the head of the Church of England.

The Church of England, which split from Rome in 1534 (see English Reformation) is, today, the 'established' Church in England: the church retains a representation in the UK Parliament and the British monarch is a member of the Church (required under the Act of Settlement 1701) as well as its Supreme Governor. Though the direct influence of the Church of England has been on the decline for years, it retains the right to draft legislative measures (related to religious administration), through the General Synod, that can then be passed into law by Parliament.

The Church of Scotland (known informally as the Kirk), which broke with Rome in 1560 (see Calvinism and Scottish Reformation) is a Presbyterian church, recognised as the national church of Scotland, and not subject to state control. The British monarch is an ordinary member, and is required to swear an oath to "defend the security" of the Church at the coronation. The Scottish Episcopal Church, which is now part of the Anglican Communion, dates from the final establishment of Presbyterianism in Scotland in 1690, when it split from the Church of Scotland, and is not a 'daughter church' of the Church of England. Further splits in the Church of Scotland, especially in the nineteenth century, led to the creation of various other Presbyterian churches in Scotland, including the Free Church of Scotland.

In the 1920s, the Church in Wales was separated from the Church of England and became 'disestablished'. The Church in Wales remains in the Anglican Communion. Methodism and other independent churches are traditionally strong in Wales.

The Anglican Church of Ireland was disestablished in the nineteenth century. It covers the entire island of Ireland (both Northern Ireland and the state of Ireland). In Northern Ireland, Protestants are in the majority overall.[145] though the Roman Catholic Church of Ireland is the largest single denomination. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, closely linked to the Church of Scotland in terms of theology and history, is the largest Protestant denomination.

The Roman Catholic Church is the second largest denomination of Christianity in the UK. After the Protestant Reformation, strict laws were passed against Catholics; these were removed by the Catholic Emancipation laws in 1829. There are separate Catholic hierarchies for England and Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Other large Christian groups include Methodists, founded by John Wesley in London and Baptists. There are also growing Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, many of which have flourished with immigration from around the Commonwealth and beyond. Pentecostal churches are now third after the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church in terms of church attendance.[146]

Other religions

The East London Mosque, one of the country's largest Islamic places of worship.

Muslims in the United Kingdom are believed to number 1.8 million.[147] Mosques are present in most regions: The biggest groups are of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian origin. More recently, refugees from Somalia, Northern Cyprus, the Balkans and Arab countries have increased Britain's Muslim population. The 2006 controversy over the burqa, brought up in comments by politician Jack Straw, reflects a split between some Britons questioning Muslim integration with British society, and others who believe that wearing the veil is compatible with it, in Britain.[148]

Religions of Indian origin, such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are followed in Britain. As of the 2001 census, there are about 560,000 Hindus and 340,000 Sikhs. Buddhism is practised by about 150,000 people.[149] One non-governmental organisation estimates that there are 800,000 Hindus in the UK.[150] Leicester houses one of the world's few Jain temples that are outside of India.[151]

There are approximately 270,000 Jews in Britain, according to the 2001 census.[152]

The United Kingdom has a large and growing atheist and agnostic population with 9.1 million (15% of the UK population) claiming no religion in the 2001 census.[153]

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