Monday, 4 April 2016

Religion Spiraling Downwards in Scotland

Most people in Scotland 'not religious' - BBC News

It's a measure of just how irrelevant religion is becoming in the UK that this little news item passed almost unnoticed and certainly without comment in mainstream media, but Scotland has become the latest part of Europe to become majority atheist.

These figures, which can only be regarded as catastrophic for the Church of Scotland, were revealed in the latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey which show that 52% of Scots now say they are not religious. This compares with 40% when the survey was first carried out in 1999. This latest survey was conducted between July 2015 and January 2016, hence this decline has taken place in just sixteen years.

It's not just these headline figures that make grim reading for the once powerful Church of Scotland; the details are even worse. The percentage of Scots who say they belong to the Church has fallen from 35% in 1999 to just 20% now. Two-thirds of those say they 'never or practically never' attend a church service. Church attendance was the lowest recorded since the survey began and in all probability was the lowest ever in terms of percentage of the population.

By contrast, those Scots identifying as Catholic or other Christian has remained static. Although the survey doesn't identify the ethnic origin of respondents it seem probable that any underlying decline in indigenous Catholic group has been offset by immigration from Eastern Europe, especially Poland. This phenomenon has also been seen in England. Non-Christian religious Scots accounted for just 2% of those surveyed.

It seems several things are probably going on here. As well as religion being in decline generally it is probable that the motive for self-identifying as a member of a religion, especially the 'national' religion, is lessening. Not only is public perception of atheism and atheists changing so that being non-religious is no longer regarded as a 'bad thing' but, as being religious becomes the minority it is becoming more and more associated with being odd, eccentric, extreme or frankly sinister. The behaviour of priests has raised an awareness in people's minds that religiosity may be a front; a cover to hide nefarious purposes. Overtly religious people are far less likely to be trusted now than formerly.

So what we seem to have now in Scotland, as in much of the rest of Western Europe is changing perceptions, so that atheism or at least non-affiliation is becoming the socially acceptable norm and religion is becoming the less acceptable alternative - the domain of the strange, the positively insane, the dishonest and the inadequate.

It is noticeable how this rapid change coincides with the increase in access to the Internet, exposing people as it does to not only information - the enemy of faith - but to the oddballs and frauds of the creation industry and fundamentalist religions.

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