Nearly half the UK population has no religion, according to a new survey by researchers at Lancaster University for YouGov.
The survey found that 46 per cent of adults of all backgrounds have no religion, while just 42 per cent say they are Christian. Those with no religion have been dubbed the "nones".
A similar survey just three years ago found 37 per cent had no religion, indicating a significant increase in people with no religion in a short space of time.
The poll of 1,500 people also found that younger generations are far less religious than their elders. Most of those aged over 60 said they were Christian but nearly six in ten of those aged under 40 said they had no religion. Just three in ten of those aged under 40 said they were Christian.
The findings will be unveiled in full by Linda Woodhead, professor of the sociology of religion at Lancaster University, in a lecture tomorrow night titled "Why no religion is the new religion."
On Facebook she wrote: "Religious sexism and homophobia is one part of the reason why we are now a 'no religion' majority country – overwhelmingly so amongst younger generations."
Speaking in advance of the lecture, Woodhead said: "No religion is the new norm, and there is every indication that its majority share will continue to grow. In terms of upbringing, no religion is particularly stick. We can see that 95 per cent of people with a 'no religion' upbringing retain that identity, whilst 40 per cent of those with a Christian upbringing lose a Christian identity."
Although those with no religion did not necessarily embrace the outright atheism of people such as Richard Dawkins, she said people had become less religious while the Church had become more so.
"It used to be quite common for people to identify as Church of England simply because they were English, but now they're more to think of themselves as having no religion."