London's a shallow Christian sea with islands of other faiths​

Although London is predominantly Christian, this map shows an archipelago of different faiths throughout the city.

Religions are universal and transcendent, but they're also local and personal. This map shows where in London religious people live—quite often, very close to other people of the same faith.


Each dot on the map represents a single religious person. The different colors correspond to that person's faith. Blue is for Christian, turquoise for Muslim, and yellow for Jewish. A purple dot represents a Hindu, an orange one a Sikh, and a green one a Buddhist (red is for "other").

This map was created by cartographer Ben Flanagan, who chose the dot density method to illuminate the clustering of certain faiths in certain areas: "Dot density maps are really effective at normalising data by geographic area. This is because places with fewer people fade away, while densely populated areas become more prominent."

As the map suggests, Christianity is still the biggest faith in London. But Greater London is the least Christian region in the UK: less than half (48.71%) of all Londoners are Christian. London does have the country's highest percentage of Buddhists (1.01%), Hindus (5.05%), Jews (1.84%), and Muslims (12.56%). However, the Midlands has more Sikhs (2.39%) than any other region.

So, if London still looks like a Christian sea, it's a fairly shallow one—and dotted with large islands and archipelagos peopled by other faiths.

Map of London, color-coded by religion (Ben Flanagan).
  • Greenwich has the highest share of Buddhists (1.66%), while Havering has the lowest (0.32%). The most Buddhists live in Barnet (4,521)—a relatively small number, so it's pretty hard to observe those green spots.
  • London's most Jewish boroughs are Barnet (15.18%), Hackney (6.28%), and Camden (5.10%)—the three yellow centers in the north. The least Jewish borough is Bexley (0.10%). Barnet also has the highest number of Jews (54,084), and Bexley the lowest (234).
  • Hounslow is the Sikh capital of London in relative terms (8.96%), while neighboring Ealing has the most in absolute terms (26,778); both are clearly visible on the map.
  • In Harrow—the pink spot in the northwest—just over 1 in 4 is Hindu (25.27%). Harrow also has the highest number of Hindus in absolute terms (60,407, followed by neighboring Brent, with 55,449). Hackney is the least Hindu borough of London (0.64%).
  • Tower Hamlets is London's most Muslim borough (37.84%), followed by Newham (31.97%), Redbridge (23.30%), and Waltham Forest (21.89%)—together forming the turquoise area in the northeast. In absolute figures, Newham (98,456) is ahead of Tower Hamlets (96,157), Redbridge (64,999), and Brent (58,036). Islam is an inner-city faith in London. The least Muslim boroughs are all on the outskirts: Havering (2.04%), Bexley (2.43%), Bromley (2.53%), and Richmond (3.28%).
  • Blue may be everywhere, but it is deepest in Havering, the borough furthest east in London, and with the city's greatest concentration of Christians: 66%. Croydon, on the other hand, has the highest number of Christians (205,022). Tower Hamlets has London's lowest percentage of Christians (29.55%).
  • Not shown on this map are the third of Londoners who indicated in the 2011 Census that they had no religion. The tiny City of London, a.k.a. the Square Mile, is London's central business district. It is almost entirely dedicated to the business of making money, with no more than 7,375 permanent residents. Those also happen to be the most godless bunch of Londoners (34.20%)—although Islington (32.98%) and Camden (29.08%) come a close second and third. Overall, 12 of London's 32 boroughs have more than a quarter of irreligious inhabitants. Just two have unbelievers in the single digits, and then only just: Newham (9.54%) and Harrow (9.57%).

Mr. Flanagan repeated the method for other areas of the UK, including Manchester, Yorkshire, and Tyne and Wear. See more of his work here.

Strange Maps #938

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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