Secular Scotland: Atheism Up by Nearly 10 Per Cent in Six Years

christian church
AP Photo/David Goldman

A new poll has shown that atheism is on the rise in Scotland, as nearly half of Scots now say they are of no religion, up from 40 per cent in 2009. On current trends, Christianity will become a minority belief in Scotland within the next few years.

The latest Scottish Household survey, which collates results from 2014 shows that, overall, 49.9 per cent of people still consider themselves to belong to a Christian denomination: 27.8 per cent identified as Church of Scotland, 14.4 per cent Roman Catholic, and 7.7 per cent as ‘other Christian’.

However, 47.3 per cent responded “none” when asked about their faith, STV has reported.

Of the remainder, 1.4 per cent identified as Muslim, 0.3 per cent Buddhist, 0.3 per cent Hindu, 0.1 per cent Sikh, 0.1 per cent Jewish, 0.1 per cent Pagan, and 0.5 per cent another religion.

The results of the survey, which began in 1999, is based on a sample of Scottish residents.

According to the authors of the report: “Since the harmonised religion question was introduced to the SHS in 2009, there has been an upward trend in the proportion of adults reporting not having a religion, from 40% in 2009 to 47% in 2014.

“There has also been a corresponding decrease in the proportion reporting ‘Church of Scotland’, from 34% to 28%.”

The survey is the latest in a body of evidence pointing to the rapid secularisation of the UK, and indeed of the western world. Research by the Pew Centre suggested that Christians will be a minority group in the UK by 2050, as atheism and Islam rise.

It also showed that, globally, Islam is expected to surge by 73 per cent. However the rise of atheism is primarily a western phenomenon, as Christian adherence grows in the East.

Other research suggests that Pew’s figures do not give a true picture of the secularisation of the UK. The 2014 British Social Attitudes survey found that non-adherence had already relegated Christianity to a minority belief, with just 41.7 per cent of those surveyed identifying as Christians, against 50.6 per cent of the population saying that they have no religion, up from 47.7 per cent the year before.

Commenting on the Pew Group’s findings, Prof Linda Woodhead, an expert in the sociology of religion based at Lancaster University, told the Telegraph: “I think the interesting thing is to compare Britain with comparator countries, other northern European countries with similar national churches.

“The same rate of de-Christianisation is not projected for Norway, Denmark, Sweden for example. So the national Church of England and Church of Scotland, seem to have been particularly effective in generating ‘no religion’.”

That trend is of particular concern in Scotland as the Scottish Assembly wages its war on the family. In August 2016 the Assembly will roll out the Named Person scheme which removes some parental rights from parents and hands them to the state. Under the scheme, every child will be assigned a ‘named person’; a state official tasked with looking after a child’s “well being” – that is, their “happiness”. The scheme is already being piloted across the country, and parents seeing their authority undermined.

Dr Gordon Macdonald, parliamentary officer for Christian Action Research and Education told campaign group No2NP: “Where the named person feels that the child’s well being – and the term ‘well being is a very nebulous concept, it can mean anything essentially – is not being fully developed, they have the authority from the state to ensure that the child has access to services.

His organisation is particularly concerned, he said, that the legislation will lead to conflict between Christian parents who, “coming from a faith perspective, will have strong views on issues of sexual ethics,” and state officials who “may come under pressure” to “ensure that the child has access to a different perspective on these issues, contrary to the parents’ wishes”.

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