Men Losing Faith: The Making of Modern No Religionism in the UK, 1939–2010

  • Callum G. Brown
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


Losing religion has become a very important phenomenon of our times. The people of no religion have been growing very rapidly in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. They represented less than 2 per cent of the population of most Western nations in 1960, but numbers started to rise in the late 1960s and continued to do so. At the 2001 census, 14.6 per cent of English people, 18.5 per cent of the Welsh, 27.6 of the Scots but only 1 per cent of those in Northern Ireland ticked ‘no religion’. By the 2011 census, the figures had risen sharply to 24.7 per cent for England and to 32.1 for Wales.1 Over less than a century, a very large number of people have signalled that they have lost religion. How that ‘loss’ is to be construed is the subject of extensive scholarly disagreement.2 Notwithstanding this, the scale of the change has led a leading religious statistician to comment that ‘defection or disaffiliation of Christians since 2001 is a probable major cause of the decline of Christian allegiance over the decade. Even though it is not the complete answer (after all, the net decline in Christians constitutes no more than 64.1% of the net growth of “nones”), it should undoubtedly be a primary focus of research effort.’3 With a history of only seven decades, the process of mass demographic loss of religious identity is comparatively recent to human experience.


Religious Identity Religious Education Late Twentieth Catholic Priesthood Social Scientific Study 
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Further reading

  1. Brown, C. G. (2011) ‘The People of No Religion: The Demographics of Secularisation in the English-Speaking World since c.1900’, Archiv für Sozialgeschichte, 51, 37–61.Google Scholar
  2. — (2013) ‘Atheism in the Twentieth Century’, in S. Bullivant and M. Ruse (eds) The Oxford Handbook of Atheism (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
  3. Engelke, M. ‘An Ethnography of the British Humanist Association’, various outputs available at, accessed 1 February 2013.Google Scholar
  4. Nash, D. (1999) Blasphemy in Modern Britain 1789 to the Present (Aldershot: Ashgate).Google Scholar
  5. Voas, D. (2009) ‘The Rise and Fall of Fuzzy Fidelity in Europe’, European Sociological Review, 25(2), 155–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Zuckerman, P. (2008) Society Without God (New York: New York University Press).Google Scholar
  7. — (2012) Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Callum G. Brown 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Callum G. Brown

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