An international survey has recorded a dramatic decline in religious faith among the Irish over the past six years.
Between 2005 and 2011, the proportion of Irish people declaring themselves to be religious dropped from 69 to 47 per cent — a percentage drop in religiosity exceeded only by the Vietnamese.
Over the same period, the proportion of Irish people describing themselves as either “a convinced atheist” or “not a religious person” increased from 36 to 54 per cent.
These results are contained in a WIN-Gallup International poll on religious beliefs, conducted in 57 countries (not including New Zealand).
Ghana (with 96 per cent of the population saying they are religious) was the most religious country and China (14 per cent) the least religious.
A spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office said faith was not a “numbers game”. He said the latest survey contrasted sharply with last year’s census in the Irish Republic, which found that 84 per cent described themselves as Catholic, and just 5 per cent said they had no religion.
Although Irish Mass attendances remain among the highest in Europe, a survey published last February by the Association of Catholic Priests showed that just 35 per cent of all Catholics now attend Mass at least once a week while 47 per cent go to Mass less than once a month.
David Quinn, a staunch defender of the faith who heads the Iona Institute, said the WIN-Gallup International findings indicated a significant amount of hostility towards institutional religion. He said this and other polls had found that a quarter of those surveyed “would be happy if the Church vanished from Ireland completely.”
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, who has previously warned that the Irish Church is in crisis, responded: “The Catholic Church cannot simply presume that the faith will automatically be passed from one generation to the next or be lived to the full by its own members.”
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News category: World.