Religions of Cambridge

Today marks the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year in Cambridge and the rest of the northern hemisphere. It is of course a day of special celebration for Druids, so I was led to wonder just how many adherents of Druidic religion we have here in Cambridge. The answer, according to the 2011 census, is just eight, which perhaps explains why we don’t see crowds of white-robed figures greeting the sunrise atop Castle Hill at this time of year. However, there were a further 127 Cambridge residents who described themselves as Pagan, and 37 followers of Wicca. I hope they’re all having an enjoyable Yule.

The 2011 census revealed that Cambridge is one of the least religious places in the UK, with 41.6% of residents who answered the religion question stating that they had no religion. However, they were still outnumbered by the 49.3% who were Christian, with Muslims in a distant third place with 4.3%. Here’s the graph:

In addition, there were 11,200 people who did not state their religion. The “Other religion” category covers a diverse “long tail” of alternative belief systems:

There were a further 54 people belonging to other Other religions that the census did not have categories for. Also, 582 Cambridge residents described themselves as Jedi, and 19 as adherents of Heavy Metal, but the census authorities decided to group these under “No religion”.

Since the census results were published, some great mapping tools have been built that allow us to look at the distribution of religious belief, as well as many other factors. One of the best of these is DataShine, which can map a huge variety of census results in great local detail across the country. Here’s a map showing where Christians live in Cambridge:

The darker the shade of red, the higher the proportion of Christian residents – with the darkest shade of red for areas that are 63% Christian or more. As you can see, broadly speaking Cambridge gets more religious the further you go from the centre, with Cherry Hinton being a particular hotbed of Christian belief. Unsurprisingly, the picture for those of no religion is pretty much the reverse:

Essentially the city centre is the atheist jam in a largely Christian doughnut, though with a few other outposts of unbelief scattered here and there.

The city’s Muslim residents, on the whole, are more evenly spread:

There are a few areas where Muslim residents are concentrated – in the Darwin Drive area of Arbury 31% of residents are Muslim, as are 18% in the Cam Causeway area in East Chesterton, but in most of the city they are around the 5% mark.

Buddhists only form 1.4% of the city’s population, but there are a couple of notable concentrations of Buddhist residents:

The largest is in the area around the Cambridge Buddhist Centre on Newmarket Road, where up to 11% of the population in the local area is Buddhist. There’s also a second area around the railway station.

Finally, where is the Force strongest in Cambridge? This map shows the distribution of people reporting themselves as Jedi:

It seems that if you want to hear the hum of lightsabers, the Sturton Street area is the place to go.

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