Sunderland's religious breakdown revealed - including Satanists and followers of 'witchcraft'

Satanism is almost four times as popular as Scientology across Sunderland, new census figures reveal.

The figures from the 2021 Census show 25 people in the Sunderland City Council area describe themselves as Satanist, the 16th most popular definition, compared to just seven who follow the religion espoused by Hollywood Top Gun Tom Cruise, which came in 19th.

‘Christian’ was the number one choice, with 145,806 people describing themselves that way, followed by 108,117 people who ticked ‘No religion’.

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Muslim was third, with 4,846 people describing themselves as such, while the decline of Sunderland’s Jewish population is illustrated by the category being chosen by just 87 people.

There were 59 Wiccans, six people described their religious affiliation as ‘Witchcraft’ and three people opted for ‘Own belief system’. Sunderland has just six self-proclaimed Rastafarians and not a single member of the Unification Church.

Ten most popular religious definitions in Sunderland:

Christian – 145,806 No religion – 108,117 Muslim – 4,846 Sikh – 915 Hindu – 611 Buddhist – 539 Pagan – 253 Other religion – 166 Spiritualist – 142 Jewish – 87

Nationally, less than half of England and Wales’s population identify as Christian for the first time, prompting calls for the role of religion in society to be reconsidered.

Christian is still the most popular religious category in Sunderland

Some 46.2% of the population described themselves as Christian on the day of the 2021 census, down from 59.3% in 2011, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

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It is the first time the proportion has dropped below half.

Over the same period, the percentage of people saying they had no religion jumped from 25.2% to over a third in 2021 (37.2%).

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This was the second most common response and the number ticking this box has almost trebled since 2001.

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The Archbishop of York said the decline in people identifying as Christian was “not a great surprise” but acknowledged it “throws down a challenge”.

The Most Rev Stephen Cottrell said: “We have left behind the era when many people almost automatically identified as Christian but other surveys consistently show how the same people still seek spiritual truth and wisdom and a set of values to live by.”

Humanists UK, which ran a campaign ahead of the two most recent censuses encouraging non-religious people to tick the form’s “no religion” box, said the result should be a “wake-up call which prompts fresh reconsiderations of the role of religion in society”.

Read the full report here.