Bristol councillors elect the city’s first humanist Lord Mayor

9 May, 2023

Pictured: Lord Mayor of Bristol, Councillor Paul Goggin

Today, Councillor Paul Goggin begins his term as Lord Mayor of Bristol. Humanists UK and Bristol Humanists welcome his election and believe he is the first Lord Mayor of Bristol to publicly declare at the time of taking office that he is a humanist.

Cllr Goggin joins other humanists in public life, such as Tommy Sheppard MP and Baroness Joan Bakewell, co-Chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group (APPHG), APPHG Treasurer Lord Dubs, Senedd member Julie Morgan MS, and London Assembly member Siân Berry. Other high profile Bristol figures include science broadcaster and Humanist UK Vice President, Alice Roberts.

According to the 2021 Census, Bristol has one of the highest non-religious populations in the UK with 51% ticking the ‘no religion’ box.  However, even this number is likely to be underestimated. Cllr Goggin’s appointment is in step with the growing non-religious population and builds on recent recognition of the importance of humanism in Bristol. In February this year, a blue plaque was unveiled for local humanist hero Emma Martin, which is one stop along the Humanist Bristol Tour, a self-led walking tour on the Go Jauntily app, that tells the stories of humanists who shaped and were shaped by Bristol.

Chair of Bristol Humanists, Chrissie Hackett, said:

‘Bristol Humanists are delighted to welcome the new ‘first citizen’ of Bristol, Cllr Paul Goggin, as a declared humanist. Bristol has one of the highest ‘non-religious’ adult populations in the country, and the fact that Cllr Goggin is a humanist means that all those who do not follow a faith can see themselves reflected in the most important civic office in the city. Humanists are very inclusive in our approach to life and we work with all those with religious and non-religious beliefs to improve life in our city.

‘We celebrate having a publicly declared humanist Lord Mayor, and will do all we can to support Cllr Goggin in his year in office.’

Chief Executive of Humanists UK, Andrew Copson said:

‘We congratulate Cllr Paul Goggin on becoming the Lord Mayor of Bristol. It is wonderful to see a humanist become a prominent and influential figure in public life. We wish him well throughout his tenure.’


For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Public Affairs Manager Karen Wright at or phone 020 3675 0959, or Bristol Humanists Secretary Nick Hooper on 07593 642147

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

Bristol Humanists is the local partner group of Humanists UK. It exists to campaign locally and to provide a voice and forum for non-religious people in the Bristol area. We hold monthly events, contribute to civic ceremonies such as Remembrance Day and provide speakers to local schools on the humanist ‘world view’. We hold an annual Darwin Day lecture, and as of 2022 also an annual lecture to celebrate the life of eminent campaigning Bristolian atheist and feminist Emma Martin.

Why the census data likely underestimates the number of non-religious people

The Census asks the leading question, ‘What is your religion?’, and does so after it asks about ethnicity. The result is that it prompts many people to tick the religion they were brought up in, or what type of school they went to, rather than the answer that reflects their beliefs or practises today. The British Social Attitudes Survey, by contrast, asks ‘Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion? If yes, which?’ That more neutral question produces results that more closely reflects the public’s view. The latest British Social Attitudes Survey has shown that the share of the adult population belonging to no religion now stands at 53%. More than that, it also shows that the share of non-religious people will continue to rise over the coming decades, with some 68% of 18-24 year olds saying they belong to no religion.