We at the Pagan Federation welcome the publication of the latest census figures from the ONS which gives us a clearer picture of the rich diversity of faiths and beliefs in England and Wales.
It’s worth keeping in mind while we’re looking at these figures that whilst the census numbers are useful, they never tell the full story of the vibrancy, diversity and activity of faith communities who live together and work towards the common good of all people. The data doesn’t evidence the depth of connection within a community, but it does show us the fluctuations in the numbers of people identifying with a particular faith, belief or religion and growth within the Pagan community is definitely clear in these results.
Although we have seen an increase in the number of people declaring themselves Pagan, I understand that it’s possibly true that many Pagans feel more comfortable selecting “No Religion” or their own tradition in the write-in box under “Other”. Interestingly, “No Religion” was the second most common response, increasing by 12.0 percentage points to 37.2% (22.2 million) from 25.2% (14.1 million) in 2011. Among the 405,000 (0.7% of the overall population in England and Wales) who chose to write-in a response, the results were as follows:
- Pagan (74,000)
- Alevi (26,000)
- Jain (25,000)
- Wicca (13,000)
- Ravidassia (10,000)
- Shamanism (8,000)
- Rastafarian (6,000)
- Zoroastrian (4,000)
- Heathen (4,722)
- Druid (2,489)
The largest increase was seen in those describing their religion as “Shamanism”, increasing more than tenfold to 8,000 from 650 in 2011.
As we see the numbers within different religions rise and fall, we know that people will respond to this information in different ways; some pleased, others anxious or disappointed and yet others will be indifferent. They are important and useful though. As I stated in the blog published just before the Census was taken, these numbers inform our work. They tell us the size of the community we serve and work on behalf of. They’re not just important to us at the PF either. The information gathered will have far reaching implications not only on our own provision of services to the Pagan community, but also those organisations and institutions that provide other services that we use throughout life, for example town planning, healthcare and education. One example of this is the data gathered from the 2011 census leading to Paganism being included on the RE curriculum for schools in Cornwall.
Whilst these numbers are without a doubt useful, and they will certainly help direct the work that we do over the next decade in conjunction with feedback from our community, as well as that of government at all levels, they don’t show the vibrancy, diversity and activity of our community. Its members continue to live and work well together contributing towards the common good of all. The PF has always been a place where different beliefs and ideas are welcomed. I promise that we will continue to embrace diversity, and support and represent our communities knowing that we, along with other people of different faiths and beliefs, can work together in creating flourishing communities for all.
I am proud to call myself Pagan. It’s an honour to be a part of this growing community and as it continues to grow over the coming years, I promise to serve you all to the best of my ability.