After the release of the UK’s 2011 Census data and the promising growth of the self-identified non-religious, I thought I’d see how our friends over the Irish Sea were getting on. Their census was published way back in March and isn’t quite as promising as the UK results. Christianity and Catholicism in particular is still the dominant religion in Ireland: A whopping 90.47% identify as Christian with 84.16% of the total population being Catholic. The second largest Christian group is the Church of Ireland, representing just 2.81% of the population. In spite of the countless instances of child abuse that have rocked Ireland more than any other European country, people still feel either obligated or proud to call themselves Catholic.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however. The numbers of people identifying themselves as non-religious grew by 44% to just under 270,000 people.
The downside is that, even when grouped with those who didn’t answer the question, the percentage of non-religious (and non-responding) people is still only 7.63%. Much like the UK’s data, one wonders how many of the people who instead chose any of the more popular answers still actually attend church. There is a growing belief that these numbers aren’t telling the whole story. It makes you wonder if a similar strategy to the one used by the FFRF to persuade people to abandon the Church would have much of an effect.
Ireland has always been seen as a Catholic country, a lot of people may feel some kind of obligation to check the Catholic box even though they do not attend church services simply out of the notion of being culturally Catholic. I, for one, struggle to see what could possibly weaken the Vatican’s grip on Ireland, if the huge sexual abuse scandal didn’t do it then I don’t even want to try and imagine what even worse scandal would be needed to force people to leave en masse. The 44% growth in the non-religious is encouraging, but Ireland has a long way to go.