Islam is on track to become the dominant religion in Britain within the next generation, according to new census data published by the British government.
The numbers show that although Christianity is still the main religion in Britain -- over 50% of the population describe themselves as such -- nearly half of all Christians in Britain are over the age of 50, and, for the first time ever, fewer than half under the age of 25 describe themselves as Christian.
By contrast, the number of people under 25 who describe themselves as Muslim has doubled over the past ten years: one in ten under the age of 25 are Muslim, up from one in 20 in 2001.
If current trends continue -- a Muslim population boom, combined with an aging Christian demographic and the increasing secularization of British natives -- Islam is set to overtake Christianity in Britain within the next 20 years, according to demographers.
A new report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on May 16 offers additional analyses of the 2011 census data previously published in December 2012.
In the 2011 Census, Christianity was still the largest religious group in England and Wales with 33.2 million people (59% of the population). The second largest religious group was Islam with 2.7 million people (5% of the population). The proportion of people who reported that they did not have a religion reached 14.1 million people, a quarter of the population (25%).
Although the overall population of England and Wales grew by 3.7 million between 2001 and 2011 to reach 56.1 million, in 2011, there were 4.1 million fewer people who reported being Christian (from 72% to 59% of the population). By contrast, 1.2 million more people reported being Muslim (from 3% to 5%), and 6.4 million more people reported no religion (from 15% to 25%).
The new report, however, shows that the number of British Christians is actually falling at a far faster rate than previously thought. The earlier analysis of the statistics showed a roughly 15% decline in the number of Christians over the past decade, but the ONS found that this figure had been artificially influenced by the recent arrival of Christian immigrants from countries such as Nigeria and Poland.
According to the new report, the number of white British Christians actually fell by 5.8 million people between 2001 and 2011; this decline was masked by an increase in the number of Christians not born in Britain during that same period, but who were there due to immigration.
In the 2011 Census, Christians had the oldest age profile of the main religious groups. Over one in five Christians (22%) were aged 65 and over, and nearly one in two (43%) were aged 50 and over; only one quarter (25.5%) were under the age of 25.
By contrast, Muslims had the youngest age profile of the main religious groups. Nearly half of Muslims (48%) were aged under 25 (1.3 million) and nine in ten (88%) were aged under 50 (2.4 million).
Muslims were also more ethnically diverse than Christians. Two-thirds of Muslims (68%) were from an Asian background, including Pakistani (38%) and Bangladeshi (15%). The proportion of Muslims reporting as Black/African/Caribbean/Black British (10%) was similar to those reporting as "other" ethnic group (11%). 93% of people (13.1 million) with no religion were from a white background.
The number of Muslims increased in all ethnic groups, but there was a particular jump among Asian Muslims. Pakistani Muslims increased by 371,000 (from 658,000 to over a million) and Bangladeshi Muslims have grown by 142,000 (from 260,000 to 402,000).
Just over half of all Muslims (53%) in 2011 were born outside Britain. The numbers have almost doubled in a decade with a rise of over half a million (599,000) from 828,000 to 1.4 million in 2011. A similar pattern can be seen for the number of Muslims born in Britain, where there was also a rise of over a half a million (560,000) from 718,000 to 1.2 million in 2011.
Muslims also had the lowest levels of economic activity (55%), compared to Christians (60%). The numbers are somewhat deceiving, however, as age is a major factor in economic activity. As most Christians in Britain are from an older demographic, this means that a large proportion of Christians not participating in the labor force are "retired" (69%).
By contrast, Muslims had the youngest age profile and were the most often economically inactive because they were "looking after home or family" (31%) or because they were "students" (30%). According to the census data, only 13% of Muslims in Britain were "retired."
In an interview with The Telegraph newspaper, Fraser Watts, a professor of theology at Cambridge University, said it was "entirely possible" that Christians could become a minority within the next decade. "It is still pretty striking," he said, "and it is a worrying trend and confirms what anyone can observe -- that in many churches the majority of the congregation are over 60."
David Coleman, a professor of demography at the University of Oxford, said the findings showed that Christianity is declining with each generation. "Each large age group," he said, "as time progresses, receives less inculcation into Christianity than its predecessor ten years earlier."
Coleman contrasts the decline of Christianity through the generations to what happens among Muslims. "We have a Muslim faith where most studies suggest adherence to Islam is not only transmitted through the generations but appears to get stronger," he said. "Indeed, there seems to be some evidence that the second generation Muslims in Britain are more Muslim than their parents."
In a recently published study, Coleman predicted that up to 40% of the population of Britain will be foreign or from a minority ethnic group within 50 years if current trends continue. By that time the white British population will be on the verge of becoming a minority.
According to Coleman, the combined population of ethnic minorities will exceed white Britons in about 2070; the non-white population could increase to 24 million and other whites to seven million by 2050.
The moment that the white British become a minority will symbolize a huge transfer of power. Coleman says it will underline a changed national identity -- cultural, political, economic and religious. "An older white population would need to co-exist with a younger ethnic population, arguably required for its support," he said.
Coleman has warned of the consequences of the ethnic transformation taking place in Britain and other parts of Europe. "History is not sanguine about the capacity of ethnic groups or religions to overcome their differences. The ethnic transformation implicit in current trends would be a major, unlooked-for, and irreversible change in British society, unprecedented for at least a millennium," Coleman said.
Separately, it recently emerged that nearly one-third of all children born in England and Wales now have at least one foreign-born parent. In 2011, 224,943 babies had either one or both parents born outside of the United Kingdom -- 31% of the total. This is a substantial rise on the figure in 2000, when 21.2% of babies had at least one non-British-born parent.
As Mohammed was by far the most popular name for baby boys born in England and Wales in 2011, many of these foreign-born parents would appear to be Muslim.
The politically correct ONS declared that Harry was the most popular boy's name, with 7,523 baby boys receiving that name in 2011. But if one adds up the 22 different spellings of Mohammed (Mohammed, Muhammad, Mohammad, Muhammed, Mahammad, Mohamed, Mohamud, etc.), a total of 8,146 baby boys born in Britain were named after the Muslim prophet in 2011.
Sir Andrew Green, the director of Migration Watch, a think tank that focuses on immigration, summed it up this way: "This is the clear result of the Labour Party's mass immigration policy which is changing the nature of our society at a speed which is unacceptable to the public who of course were never consulted."
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. Follow him on Facebook.