LONDON – New figures from the Office for National Statistics has found that most British people still consider themselves to be Christian. The number of homosexuals, meanwhile, is far lower than previously estimated.
According to the office, 71 percent of the population is Christian. The statistic was welcomed by the Evangelical Alliance, which claims to have bolstered the cause for believers to become more open in expressing their faith.
"Christians have increasingly felt bewildered about what they can and cannot say or do," Stephen Cave, advocacy director at the alliance, commented. "Of course faith is personal to each individual but that doesn't mean to say it's entirely private – far from it."
"In fact we welcome dialogue with people of all beliefs, including atheists. Where possible we should engage in conversation not confrontation," he added.
"Our challenge now is to demonstrate that being a Christian is much more than belonging to a certain group. Quite simply it's about making a commitment to Christ and enjoying the freedom of conscience to do that in public life."
The survey found that the number of people describing themselves as Christian still far outweighs those who say they have no religion, who account for 20.5 percent of the population.
The figures will be good news to those who believe Christianity should still have a prominent role in public life and indicate that affiliation to the faith remains strong in spite of declining church attendance.
Their release comes just one week after the Pope spoke out against the marginalization of Christianity and attempts to push faith into the private sphere.
Still, the percentage of people saying they have no religion has risen from 2001, when 15.1 percent of the population said they had no religious affiliation.
Meanwhile, Muslims make up 4.2 percent of the population, followed by Hindus at 1.4 percent, Sikhs at 0.6 percent, Jewish at 0.5 percent and Buddhists at 0.4 percent.
The Office for National Statistics also revealed that just 1.5 percent said they were gay or bisexual, amounting to only around 750,000 people in the overall population.
The number is far below figures suggested by the government in 2005, which estimated homosexuals in Britain to number around 3.6 million, and gay rights group Stonewall, which previously estimated that between five and seven percent of the adult population in Britain was gay.
Of those who said they were homosexual, 1.3 percent were men and 0.6 percent were women.
Gay rights group Stonewall said it believed the real number of homosexuals could be higher as many of the surveys were conducted over the phone or on doorsteps, possibly discouraging people from giving their real answer.
Mike Judge of the Christian Institute suggested that the government should lower its spending on same-sex issues to reflect the figures.
He told the Daily Mail, "A large amount of public money has been spent on the basis of higher figures, which have turned out to be a lie."