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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 06:41 GMT
UK is 'losing' its religion
Church service
Religious worship is declining rapidly
Almost half of all adults in the UK say they have no religious affiliation, according to a new survey.

The decline in religious belief is most apparent in the Church of England which now claims the loyalties of just over a quarter of the population.

The number of people who say they are members of the state religion has dropped by 40% since 1983, according to a poll by the National Centre for Social Research (NCSR).

The British Social Attitudes poll of more than 3,000 people showed 44% said they had no religious affiliation, down from 31% in 1983.

Church of England's Jesus poster campaign
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That figure rises to two-thirds of 18-24 year-olds in the UK who say they have no religious affiliation, compared with a quarter of pensioners.

The report found that 48% of people in the UK claim to belong to a religion, compared with 86% of people in the US and 92% of Italians.

The NCSR's nationwide survey will alarm churches battling against constant secularisation in British society.

Attendances at Church of England services fell below the one million mark for the first time in the late 1990s.

Turn to Islam

Earlier this year, Peter Brierley, the leading expert on church attendance in Britain, suggested that Christian life will be all but dead in 40 years with less than 0.5% of the population attending a church service.

In his book, Steps to the Future, published by the Scripture Union, he said the decline in church attendance will also be marked by a general decline in the basic beliefs of Christianity.

A spokesman for the Church of England said the relative decline in those saying they were CofE was the result of changes in society in general.

Nearly two-thirds of people say there is no excuse for begging
"This is hardly surprising - 100 years ago many, many more people would have said they were Church of England.

"In the past people were much more likely to automatically say they were CofE because it was the state religion - people are less likely to do that now.

"And many more people now belong to different religions such as Islam. It is not about a fall in the number of people who worship but the way worship has changed over the years."

The survey also found that almost two-thirds of people interviewed believe there is "no excuse" for begging.

Nearly half said it was "just an easy way to make a living", while 60% said the existence of a welfare state meant no one had an excuse for vagrancy.

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