Scotland has reached a new high when it comes to the percentage of the population with no religious faith.
The new findings from Scotland’s most authoritative survey of public attitudes show that nearly six in ten (58%) now say that they have no religion, up 18 points on 1999 when the figure stood at four in ten (40%).
Young people are least likely to be religious; three quarters of young people (74% of 18-34s) say they have no religion compared with 34% of those over 65.
Most of the decline in religious affiliation over this 17 year period has been felt by the Church of Scotland. Around half as many people (18%) now say they belong to the Church of Scotland as did in 1999 (35%).
The proportion of Roman Catholics (10%), other Christian affiliations (11%) and non-Christian religious people (2%) in the Scottish population has remained relatively stable over the same period.
This isn’t surprising to anyone who’s been following the trends. Scotland legalized gay marriage in 2012 despite opposition from the Catholic Church and the Church of Scotland. There’s also been an uptick in percentage of Humanist wedding ceremonies — more people than ever before want the Church to have no role at all in that celebration.
And when the 2011 census figures were released in 2013 and found that 36.7% of the population had no religion — higher than any other subgroup — the Humanist Society Scotland pointed out that their demographic was highly underrepresented because of the way the question was asked: “What religion, religious denomination or body do you belong to?” That implied you were supposed to have a religion. It’s possible many people put down the religion they were brought up in, which may not necessarily be an accurate reflection of what they believe now.
The question in this survey was much more open-ended: “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?” It’s much easier to say “No” when it’s phrased like that.
The trends show that power is shifting away from the Church, just as it should be.
Stop it, Scotland. You’re making me jealous.
(Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)