Welcome to British Religion in Numbers

British Religion in Numbers is an online religious data resource.

Numbers aren’t just for statisticians. People want to visualise and understand data for work, for study, for general interest, or to settle a debate. Many debates over religion rest on questions of how large? how many? how typical?

British society has changed in many ways since the Second World War, and religious change is a major example.

There is much public discussion of such issues as how secular Britain really is, how religiously diverse, whether people see political and religious identities as conflicting, and how polarised religious views actually are.

Religious data is also important for public decision-making – by local authorities, central government and other public bodies. Religion may have a role in forming “social capital” and in building civic life. Religion may affect lifestyle and health, where people choose to live, and what opportunities are available to them.

To help answer such questions, quantitative data – from measures of observed or reported social phenomena – is critical. There is a great deal of historical and contemporary data available, but it hitherto been scattered, or difficult to access by many researchers. BRIN aims to enable access to religious data, by researchers of all backgrounds.

1. Database of religious data sources

We catalogue the full range of statistics on faith in Britain, in a searchable database:

  • government data sources
  • opinion polls
  • faith community sources, such as accounts or yearbooks
  • faith community contact details.

2. Figures, maps and charts

Here we host a selection of maps and charts, illustrating religion in present-day Britain and religious change over time.

3. Written guides to understanding religious data

Here we provide guides on how to use and interpret religious statistics – for example, comparing different religious categories, change over time, or understanding how the way that data is collected by government or organisations might affect the results. There is also a detailed history of British religious statistics, and an overview of the British religious landscape to put the evidence in context.

British religious statistics are a historically rich and varied resource. In some countries, governments have historically collected statistics on the religion of its citizens. In Britian, this did not happen officially until 2001. Nevertheless, many important and valuable historical and contemporary sources exist. The earliest religious census was conducted as early as 1603. In 1851, a major religious census was carried out as part of the official Census.

From the 1930s, opinion polling firms began including questions about religion – often on press commission. Stories about religion – whether Prince Charles should marry in church, whether people knew the Easter story, attitudes to religious minorities, and what people thought about Sunday trading – have always been of interest to the public.

From the 1970s, large-scale surveys such as the British Social Attitudes Survey and the British Household Panel Survey included questions on religious practice and belief. The 2001 Census included a question on religious identification for the first time, for England, Scotland and Wales.

From such sources, researchers have begun to learn more about changing patterns of religious identification, belief and practice.

BRIN is hosted at the University of Manchester and was originally (2008-10) made possible by the sponsorship of the Religion & Society Programme. Religion & Society was funded by two publicly-funded UK Research Councils: the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Since 2014, BRIN has been a designated British Academy Research Project.

All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here, but the general rule is that unless specified otherwise, the material is issued under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 England and Wales Licence.