The number of self-described Christians is now at 48 per cent, and has fallen dramatically from the last census in 2001, when 60 per cent of the city’s residents said that they were Christian.
This result was emphasised by the fact that the city, which has a total population of 151,906, has the third highest percentage of atheists in the country.
Reflecting on these figures, Timothy Bateman, President of the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (OICCU) commented: “The falling percentage of non-believers in the general population of Oxford and the UK contrasts with the unrelenting growth of evangelical Christianity in the Middle East and China.”
He also went on to speculate on the cause behind the falling number of Christians nationwide: “An increasing percentage of Western Europeans have had an experience of Christianity that makes the best news about God seem irrelevant.”
This view was supported by David Johnson, the Keble CU Rep, who said: ”I think that the decrease has probably been influenced by increasing numbers of people in the public eye stating that they are atheists or agnostics and a number of high profile academics criticising the belief in God.”
He continued: “Possibly people feel less obliged now to call themselves Christians in order to conform to the cultural norm and, in a city like Oxford where academia is seen as a central part of the culture, maybe they fear they will appear unintelligent if they call themselves Christians.
“That there still are a substantial amount of people identifying themselves as Christians, including many academics, suggests that it’s not because they want to conform to the pattern of this city but because they have examined the evidence and they genuinely believe they have a personal relationship with the King of the universe and our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”
The OICCU has released data stating that it knows of 29 Oxford undergraduates who became Christian in 2012.
The drop in Christian believers is in contrast to the growth in the city’s Muslim population, which has almost doubled since 2001, rising from 5,309 to 10,320 believers, and is to become the second most popular religion.