"In the latest 2010 BSA report, published earlier this month, only 42% said they were Christians while 51% now say they have no religion. Admittedly, some other surveys – including the last census – have produced different findings on these issues, usually to the advantage of the religious option. There is also a margin of error in all such exercises. All the same, and particularly since the trends in opinion over time seem well set, it is hard not to feel that this latest finding marks a cultural watershed.
This Christmas, for perhaps the first time ever, Britain is a majority non-religious nation. Most of us have probably seen this moment coming, but it is a substantial event nonetheless. It is undoubtedly a development that would have astonished our ancestors who built a Britain on the basis that we were and would remain a predominantly Protestant people. The victory of secularism would have flabbergasted them almost as much as the pope appearing on the BBC with his Thought for the Day.
The change ought certainly to inspire some national reflection, though there is no need for national breast-beating. After all, in most eyes, the BSA survey finding simply underscores things that have already become obvious. Today, our three political parties are led by two open atheists, and a prime minister who admits his faith comes and goes, a development impossible to imagine in other parts of a world, in which the loss of religion is not a uniform trend. The Britain of 50 years ago, in which religion was a far larger part of the social fabric and the national way of life, is a country we have lost."