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Author Topic: Census data 2011 (England and Wales) - Paganism and other smaller religions  (Read 1530 times)

Naomi J

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The 2011 census data for England and Wales was released yesterday. I thought Cauldronites might find it interesting. It's full of fascinating social and religious results, such as more than a quarter of the population now identifying as 'no religion' - a trend that was recently echoed in polls in the US, to a lesser extent.

The data for smaller religions is here. There are 56,620 Pagans, 11,766 Wiccans, 4,189 Druids, 1,958 Heathens, 1,276 witches, 251 reconstructionists, and various other groups with small numbers that are still nice to see represented. (The 'Jedi Knights' thing is a protest vote that started in the 2001 census. If nothing else, it points out the ridiculousness of attempting to measure religion and belief with quantitative research.)

The religion question on the census is optional - 7% of people didn't respond, and there are clearly some who don't identify as Pagan but as another religion that is either pre-Christian reconstructionist or inspired by pre-Christian beliefs. But this is the closest we have to solid data about Paganism in the UK. Pagans are significantly less than 1% of the population (if my maths is correct), but they outnumber, for example, Zoroastrians, Jains and Baha'i - all of which are included in the Interfaith Network, while no Pagan groups are (see this thread for the discussion on that subject). The Pagan-Dash campaign seems to have had an impact - despite its issues relating to illusions of uniformity.
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RandallS

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Quote from: Sophia Catherine;84385
The data for smaller religions is here. There are 56,620 Pagans, 11,766 Wiccans, 4,189 Druids, 1,958 Heathens, 1,276 witches, 251 reconstructionists, and various other groups with small numbers that are still nice to see represented. (The 'Jedi Knights' thing is a protest vote that started in the 2001 census. If nothing else, it points out the ridiculousness of attempting to measure religion and belief with quantitative research.)

It's interestinmg that more people listed themselves as Pagan than atheist or agnostic. It's also interesting that "no religion" apparently means something different that "atheist" to those who listed themselves as "atheist".
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Naomi J

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Quote from: RandallS;84388
It's interestinmg that more people listed themselves as Pagan than atheist or agnostic. It's also interesting that "no religion" apparently means something different that "atheist" to those who listed themselves as "atheist".

 
This seems to be the problem with the religion question on the census. The difficulty with providing pre-coded categories, rather than leaving it as an open question, is that it forces people into boxes that may not be the ones they'd choose for themselves. So while that might handily combine all atheists, agnostics and non-religious people into one category, it might not be the one those people would choose to identify as. Which leaves us with quite vague data to combine and estimate with - which again shows how silly it is to try to count religion and belief.

Same problem with Paganism, actually. The point of 'Pagan Dash' was to keep individual path identities while also being able to get an overview of how many people there are who consider themselves in some way Pagan. The success of this strategy will depend on how the data was collated, though. If everyone who put Pagan-dash-Something was coded as Pagan, the individual paths have been lost anyway. It's a dilemma.
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Nachtigall

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Quote from: RandallS;84388
It's interestinmg that more people listed themselves as Pagan than atheist or agnostic. It's also interesting that "no religion" apparently means something different that "atheist" to those who listed themselves as "atheist".

 
That may be a definition issue. Not belonging to any organized religion doesn't necessarily exclude belief in higher power, which by is not present in Atheism. Strictly formally speaking, I am not sure, for example, whether my solitary practice actually counts as religion (perhaps only in a sense of original meaning of the word "religio", "connection"), but I am not an atheist in any way.

Darkhawk

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Quote from: RandallS;84388
It's interestinmg that more people listed themselves as Pagan than atheist or agnostic. It's also interesting that "no religion" apparently means something different that "atheist" to those who listed themselves as "atheist".

 
I'm not sure I'm surprised enough by the latter to find it interesting.  Strikes me as a category difference, mostly.
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we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Megatherium

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Quote from: Sophia Catherine;84385
There are 56,620 Pagans, 11,766 Wiccans, 4,189 Druids, 1,958 Heathens, 1,276 witches, 251 reconstructionists, and various other groups with small numbers that are still nice to see represented.


80,000 ish people who would qualify as "pagan" under the most-used definition at the Cauldron may not sound very high, but just try and fit all those people into your living room! I don't think many Pagans are concerned about whupping the "world" religions in a demographic competition. What's important is that the number of Pagans seems to have reached the point where it is now a thriving, vibrant aspect of Britain's religious culture with a bright future. If the statistics I've seen are accurate, than there was growth from about 42,000 to 56,000 people who listed themselves as "pagan", without even taking into account Wiccans, Heathens, etc.
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Naomi J

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Quote from: Megatherium;84404
80,000 ish people who would qualify as "pagan" under the most-used definition at the Cauldron may not sound very high, but just try and fit all those people into your living room! I don't think many Pagans are concerned about whupping the "world" religions in a demographic competition. What's important is that the number of Pagans seems to have reached the point where it is now a thriving, vibrant aspect of Britain's religious culture with a bright future. If the statistics I've seen are accurate, than there was growth from about 42,000 to 56,000 people who listed themselves as "pagan", without even taking into account Wiccans, Heathens, etc.

 
Well, and remember that we only have about 60 million people here. That makes 80,000-ish a much larger proportion than it would be in the US, for example.

My interest in this is not about net gain or numbers, really (although I do geek out over numbers), but more about the sociology of it all. I suspect much of the rise in numbers is due to the Pagan-Dash campaign, although I'm not entirely sure either. I'm interested in definitions of religious and spiritual paths, and what they say about society. What makes a religion? What makes a New Religious Movement? What makes people define as Pagan rather than Wiccan on a survey (or as atheist rather than non-religious)? Is it just about a campaign, or is there an issue of identity politics that transcends religious path? I think Paganism is challenging many of the established answers to those questions, as is the trend towards higher numbers of non-religious people (who are often 'believing but not belonging', to quote sociologist Grace Davie).

Paganism does have pretty good soil for growth here in the UK, which is another interesting social aspect of this. We're in a fairly pluralistic religious environment here. I wouldn't say it was a thriving part of British culture - as the argument over the Druid Network and the Interfaith Network shows, or the denial of charity status to the Pagan Federation - but it may be moving in that direction. On the other hand, there are lots of impediments to it becoming a really thriving set of traditions.
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Megatherium

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Quote from: Sophia Catherine;84407

Paganism does have pretty good soil for growth here in the UK, which is another interesting social aspect of this. We're in a fairly pluralistic religious environment here. I wouldn't say it was a thriving part of British culture - as the argument over the Druid Network and the Interfaith Network shows, or the denial of charity status to the Pagan Federation - but it may be moving in that direction. On the other hand, there are lots of impediments to it becoming a really thriving set of traditions.

 
Yes, I may be getting a bit ahead of myself with the "thriving" comment. But I do think 80, 000 people is enough that we can be fairly certain that modern paganism is not a "fad" which is going to disappear in the near future. We may not make up a huge part of the population, but we are here to stay.

I also wonder to what extent these numbers could be extrapolated to estimate the total number of Pagans in Europe and North America? If the proportion of pagans is similar across these countries, than we would have 1.3-1.4 million pagans in the Western world today. That's pretty good for a set of religious traditions that probably would have gotten you killed a couple centuries ago.
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Naomi J

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Quote from: Megatherium;84413
I also wonder to what extent these numbers could be extrapolated to estimate the total number of Pagans in Europe and North America? If the proportion of pagans is similar across these countries, than we would have 1.3-1.4 million pagans in the Western world today. That's pretty good for a set of religious traditions that probably would have gotten you killed a couple centuries ago.


I think extrapolating is difficult. Western Europe and the USA have very different religious climates at the moment (I know less about Canada). I suspect that there are very different social issues affecting the Pagan community in each place - although I don't have much evidence of that, because sociology of religion isn't great when it comes to Paganism. But anecdotally, I've got the impression we're dealing with different issues between the UK and the US, at least.

I'm also not sure the census data represents all the Pagans in the UK. An unknown number will have gone for the non-religious answer. Using membership of Pagan organizations as a guideline, Ronald Hutton recently estimated that there were up to 250,000 Pagans in the UK. I think that's an over-estimate, but he's a good researcher and it's possible there are missing numbers here. But it's very hard to tell how many. (Admittedly, the census data only accounts for England and Wales, but I doubt that there are enough Pagans in Scotland or Northern Ireland to make the number up to Hutton's 250,000.)
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Megatherium

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Quote from: Sophia Catherine;84416
I think extrapolating is difficult. Western Europe and the USA have very different religious climates at the moment (I know less about Canada). I suspect that there are very different social issues affecting the Pagan community in each place - although I don't have much evidence of that, because sociology of religion isn't great when it comes to Paganism. But anecdotally, I've got the impression we're dealing with different issues between the UK and the US, at least.

 
Yeah, there are quit different environments in the U.S. and U.K. I think most people would agree that Americans are more likely to be religious and/or Christian than Brits. What I wonder is if a more Christian or non-religious environment is more conducive to the growth of self-identified pagans.
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Waldhexe

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Re: Census data 2011 (England and Wales) - Paganism and other smaller religions
« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2012, 12:35:26 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;84437
Yeah, there are quit different environments in the U.S. and U.K. I think most people would agree that Americans are more likely to be religious and/or Christian than Brits. What I wonder is if a more Christian or non-religious environment is more conducive to the growth of self-identified pagans.

Interesting question, I'm wondering if there are prozentual more pagans in large cities than in rural areas because of accessibility of pagan moots and stores etc.

RandallS

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Re: Census data 2011 (England and Wales) - Paganism and other smaller religions
« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2012, 07:44:47 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;84437
What I wonder is if a more Christian or non-religious environment is more conducive to the growth of self-identified pagans.

Interesting question -- I have no idea. However, my gut feeling is that there probably isn't that much difference between the two environments. Those truly called to follow deities seem to be called even in environments actively hostile to all religion (or even just all but one religion).
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Re: Census data 2011 (England and Wales) - Paganism and other smaller religions
« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2012, 08:59:20 am »
Quote from: RandallS;84525
Interesting question -- I have no idea. However, my gut feeling is that there probably isn't that much difference between the two environments. Those truly called to follow deities seem to be called even in environments actively hostile to all religion (or even just all but one religion).

 
I wonder if the oppressive environment also drives people to other religions to find something else because, while they feel the need for something spiritual, the hostility to anything that doesn't conform would drive them out of Christianity.  Then you also have the kids rebelling...If society doesn't care as much, the allure of rebellion isn't as strong...

Naomi J

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Re: Census data 2011 (England and Wales) - Paganism and other smaller religions
« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2012, 09:58:13 am »
Quote from: RandallS;84525
Interesting question -- I have no idea. However, my gut feeling is that there probably isn't that much difference between the two environments. Those truly called to follow deities seem to be called even in environments actively hostile to all religion (or even just all but one religion).


That depends on whether you take a theological or sociological view of it. For a start, people need to have a way of finding out about Paganism or other smaller religions - in some religious environments, that's much less likely to happen. Paganism has been on an upward trend, numbers-wise, in the US and the UK for years, and I think that's mainly social. People are getting the chance to experience it, and to experience the gods - not just from books (which obviously helps), but from those who can share real experiences with them. I believe that community of various kinds is important to religions, their development and growth. Many Pagans choose not to engage in community in person, but the internet has allowed a lot of those solitaries to participate in it in more ad-hoc ways, and the various Pagan organizations (again, often existing partly or wholly as 'virtual' networks) give some support to that.

There may be a few exceptions who are lucky enough to be able to hear the gods over the 'noise' of social background, but I think most people are strongly influenced by their social setting. And one way that seems to manifest is the different 'flavours' of Paganism that (I think) exist in the US and the UK. The UK has very few polytheists, for example - we have lots and lots of people working with the gods as archetypes. (There used to be one annual polytheist conference here. It was discontinued due to lack of interest.) That's cultural, I think, and it might partly have to do with the strong influence of the New Age movement in Paganism here recently, which has to do with our very pluralistic religious environment. All of this is speculation, of course - no research yet - although I'd like to research this at some point.
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