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Deep Dive into "Any Other Religion" Part One (Paganism)

Sarah Butler

20th February 2023

This is the first in a 3 part series where I will take a deep-dive into the religions that have grown significantly in the UK, according to the 2021 Census (religion info released in November 2022). These other religions make up 405,000 people in England & Wales (0.7% of the population).

The first ‘other religion’ we will explore is Paganism.

74,000 people identified as Pagan in 2021, up from 57,000 in 2011.

Contemporary paganism is often associated with the New Age Movement. The Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us that: “Neo-Paganism in the postwar decades has flourished particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom and in Scandinavia. Some of the major Neo-Pagan groups are the Church of All Worlds, the largest of all the pagan movements, which centres on worship of the earth-mother goddess; Feraferia, based on ancient Greek religion and also centred on goddess worship; Beginning in the late 1970s, some feminists, open to feminine personifications of the deity, became interested in witchcraft and Neo-Paganism.”

As outlined above, the Goddess aspects of Paganism, or Neo-Paganism, create interesting links with feminist theories of religion.

You may be interested to read Carol Christ’s 1978 essay ‘Why Women Need the Goddess’. Christ cites Mary Daly and Simone de Beauvoir in her writing (trigger warning, essay includes brief mentions of s*icide).

Christ also discusses the changing patterns of belief in the ‘new culture created by women, in which the bonds of women to women are beginning to be celebrated’, demonstrating that the (re)emergence of such polytheistic, female-centred religions is not new, yet the 2021 census allows us to see how this trend has continued and grown, with 74,000 people identifying as pagan.

Read the full ONS statistical bulletin

However, as all good sociologists will understand - this requires balanced discussion! In order to demonstrate evaluation in our essays, when discussing the growth of Paganism, we must remember that this is still a relatively small number of individuals in England & Wales. The entire group choosing ‘any other religion’ in 2021 consisted of only 405,000 individuals, which is only 0.7% of the population in England and Wales), making those who identify as Pagan a minority within a small minority.

Look out for Part 2 next week, where will be taking a deep dive into Humanism!

Sarah Butler

Sarah is an experienced Head of Social Sciences, EPQ Coordinator and Sociology examiner.

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