"But more striking is the generational change the survey reveals. While 76.3% of people say they were raised as Christians, only 43.7% of people now identify as such. The real story, when it comes to British religion, is the number of people converting to godlessness.
And while 2.3% of people were raised in the faith, 2.4% call themselves Muslims: hardly a story of British ‘Islamification’.
That a few Britons choose to convert to Islam every year – most in order to marry into Muslim families before continuing to live much as before – is hardly news. More remarkable is the growing number of former Muslims who have bravely gone public with their embrace of secularism, despite facing ostracism and sometimes violence for the offence of apostasy.
Ignore the headlines: there’s never been a better time or place to believe in nothing much – despite the paranoia of those for whom it’s always the end of the world as we know it."
No, don’t ignore the headlines. Because, as Eric Kaufmann wrote in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, there is a difference between affiliation, belief and attendance. People do not necessarily have to believe in God to affiliate with a religion, which is why, despite only 5 per cent of English natives attending church, over 70 per cent of them identify as Christians. More significantly, in parts of England where there are now a large number of Muslims, the last census saw a jump in the number of whites who described themselves as Christians, despite church attendance continuing to slump.
For sectarianism to flourish religion is not necessary – indeed religious piety may provide a way of countering it. The IRA did not deliberately murder Ulster Protestants because they objected to Luther’s idea that salvation comes through faith, and the UFF didn’t slaughter innocent Catholics because of their disgust for the doctrine of transubstantiation, nor did Serbs kill Bosnian Muslims because they passionately believed in Christ’s divinity and rejected the notion he was merely a prophet.
For sectarianism to flourish all you need to do is import a large number of people with what sociologist Enest Gellner called “counter-entropic” traits – differences of identity that stop people intermarrying. Race is one such trait, but religion is a far stronger one, with British Muslims (and Sikhs and Hindus for that matter) all more than 90 per cent likely to marry within their own religious and ethnic groups.
This is hardly surprising, when according to the last census, only 0.5 per cent of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis said they had no religion, against 11.3 per cent for African-Caribbeans and an even higher figure for whites.
“You don’t even have to be religious to cheer for Team Islam,” Prof Kaufmann says, “Identity politics stimulates spiritual curiosity and strengthens communal norms of piety that might otherwise crumble.”
Liberals are also deluded about the size of the Muslim population, which is not 2.3 per cent, but as my colleague Damian Thompson pointed out, 4.6 per cent, according to the Pew Forum. Even if our cowardly Government were to stop immigration tomorrow, that figure will easily get closer to 10 per cent within two decades through natural increase. Are deluded liberals willing to bet that “Team Islam” will cease to exist by then? Team Christianity, in the form of the English Defence League, with its heavy use of Crusader iconography, has already come to life in response; indeed one of the reasons why anti-racist veterans don’t understand the EDL is because it is not racist as such but sectarian, a concept English people find hard to understand.
The demographic situation as it is has already entailed serious sacrifices, such as stricter rules about freedom of speech, a return to blasphemy laws, the existence of a large anti-terror surveillance network, not to mention the hundreds of millions of pounds spent on “community cohesion”, with no end in sight. As the Muslim population grows will these problems go away, or get worse? I don’t think I’m being paranoid in betting on the latter.