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City's residents are the least likely to follow a major religion
People in Brighton are less likely to follow a major religion than nearly anywhere else in the country, according to new analysis of the 2001 census.
Ethnic and religious data released by the Office for National Statistics shows 40 per cent of people in central areas of Brighton say they have no religion at all.
Across the whole city 66,955 people, or 27 per cent of the population, have no faith - much higher than the national average of 15 per cent.
Meanwhile, 2,106 people define their beliefs as "other religion" which does not fall under Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Sikhism.
The figures are taken from the 2001 census in which Brighton and Hove recorded the highest number of people claiming to be Jedi Knights, a reference to Star Wars.
There are also thought to be thousands of people in Sussex following creeds such as Wicca, Paganism and Druidism.
One is Marina Pepper, chairwoman of Lewes District Council, a "white witch" who has published books of spells and defines herself as a Pagan.
She said: "Brighton has been a destination for independent thinkers for many years.
"A lot of the environment movement is centred in the Lewes district and Brighton and Hove."
Coun Pepper said rather than worshipping in a formal way she brings her beliefs into everyday life by respecting nature.
She thought the 6,500 Brighton and Hove residents who put "Jedi" on the census - the result of an internet campaign - were undermining minority faiths.
She added: "It is a great shame if people don't have a spiritual dimension to their lives. Apart from agnostics and humanists - the idea that people have no religion at all - what do they care about? Shopping and eating?"
John Mitchell, a Mac operator and graphic designer who is also a Wiccan high priest, said the Wicca faith was growing across the region.
The 33-year-old is high priest of a coven in Seaford, where he lives. Recently he and his wife, a high priestess, "married" a couple in a handfasting ceremony in which the happy pair tied the knot by jumping over a broomstick.
Mr Mitchell said: "It is reverence for nature as opposed to money.
"I don't believe in black or white magic as such.
Part of my beliefs is a thing called the threefold rule, where if you do good or bad, it comes back threefold."
Ian Chisnall, of Churches Together in Sussex, was not convinced there were more atheists in Brighton and Hove than in other parts of the country and thought instead the city's residents might be more honest about their beliefs.
He said: "There are on average ten times as many people who call themselves Christians as far as the census is concerned compared to those who attend church."
He believed the census demonstrated a pleasing religious tolerance in Brighton and Hove as there were, unusually, similar numbers of Jews and Muslims living side-by-side - about 3,500 each.
There are thought to be higher numbers of non- Christians than those counted by the census because of a reluctance for people to declare their faiths to the authorities.