Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The Bishop of Norwich insists it is “doubtful” the city is the least religious in the country - despite new figures showing more than 55,000 residents have no religion.
Census 2011 data released yesterday ranked Norwich first for the highest percentage of people in England and Wales who declared they had no religion.
The city is home to 59,515 Christians, or 44.9pc, 2,612 Muslims, 1,017 Hindus, and 10,827 people who chose not to state their religion.
But 42.5pc of the 132,512 respondents said they had no religion.
There are also 783 people who classify their religion as Jedi Knights, 11 people who believe in Satanism, two Scientologists and one person pursuing Realism.
A further 65 people declared their religion as “heavy metal” - making Norwich the heavy metal religion hotspot of England and Wales.
But despite the results, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham James, said the city is a “centre of vibrant Christianity”.
He said: “The cathedral is seeing hundreds of worshippers every day during December and will welcome thousands on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
“There are many other sizeable or growing churches in Norwich in all denominations.
“More than that, the homeless, those dependent on drugs and alcohol, women in prostitution, or young people seeking advice and those hungry in the streets have all benefited from the work of Christian agencies established in recent years and supported by the churches here. Norwich Foodbank is one of the most recent and most needed.
“So it seems doubtful that Norwich is a less religious place than anywhere else in the country. It would not have above average churchgoing rates if that was the case.
“But it may be a place where the vibrant presence of the churches means that people have to make up their minds about faith more definitely. And that’s no bad thing.”
Norfolk as a whole has 523,163 Christians out of 857,888 respondents, 5,021 Muslims and 2,901 Buddhists. The heavy metal contingent stands at 122 across Norfolk while the Jedi Knights have 3,052 followers.
The average percentage of people in England and Wales who declared they have no religion is 25.1.
Keith Morris, publisher of www.networknorfolk.co.uk, which reports on the Christian community, added he found the Norwich figures surprising, with 94,000 different people visiting the site in the last 12 months.
He said: “Every week we report on a huge range of activities of vibrant churches across our area and Christian projects serving the most vulnerable such as the homeless, the hungry and those suffering from dependency on drugs and alcohol.
“We have literally hundreds of churches listed on our site across Norwich and Norfolk, most of them very active in their communities.”
Adrian Cooke, Norwich Sound and Vision festival director, said the statistics showed the people of Norwich had a sense of humour when it came to celebrating their passion for music.
He said: “I think there has always been a heavy metal scene not just in the city but in the county.
“On the one hand, people in Norwich have got a good sense of humour and the other thing is music is taken quite seriously in Norwich.
“It’s quite important to people. I think metal fans are quite committed and it’s probably a way of life.
“I wouldn’t have said Norwich had a stronger rock or metal scene than elsewhere in the country.”
The census figures reveal 51,978 out of 110,805 people in Norwich are classified as single - either having never married or never registered a same-sex partnership.
A further 37,036 are married, 300 people in same-sex civil partnerships, 11,909 divorced and 6,753 widowed.
Norwich is ranked as 21st for the most number of people who have not married and 20th for the number of divorces.
Great Yarmouth is listed as the ninth highest for divorces, with 9,066 people out of 79,748.
Yarmouth is also ranked second nationally for the most number of people without passports. There are 28,133 people, or 28.9pc, without passports, while North Norfolk is ranked sixth with 27.4pc of its population, or 27,852 people, without the documentation to allow foreign travel. The average figure without a passport in England and Wales is 16.9pc.
North Norfolk is also home to the oldest population nationally, with a median average age of 51. Norwich’s average age is 34, Breckland’s 44, Broadland’s 45, Yarmouth’s 43, West Norfolk’s 45 and South Norfolk’s 45. The average for England and Wales is 39.