Thursday, 20 March 2008

Religion in Ireland

Todays Irish Examiner has a study of Religion in Ireland, they contrast the latest poll results with the results in previous years;

the proportion in Ireland who said they believed in God
  • In 1981 it stood at 97%
  • In 1990 it was 98%
  • In 1999 it was 96%
  • In 2008 it is now 84%

Numbers attending mass or other religious service on a weekly basis.
  • In 1981 the figure was 82%
  • In 1990 it was 81%
  • In 1999 it was 59%
  • In 2008 it is now 45%

Numbers who say they pray, be it regularly or just on occasions.
  • In 1981 the figure was 81.5%
  • In 1990 it was 84%
  • In 1999 it was 82%
  • In 2008 it is now 84%
I was pleasantly surprised by the drop in the number of believers and not at all surprised by the drop in religious observation. However that fact that so many people still pray shows that a lot of people still have 'faith'.

Praying has been described (by Dawkins I think) as "the temporary suspension of the laws of the universe to benefit an individual" which, when you put it like that, shows just how ridiculous it is and yet it's as popular as ever. Why?

I suppose you could say something about the stress of modern living but my guess would be two fold.

First, these people are hedging. They understand the religious institutions are corrupt and out of date but they want to believe in "something" as, after all, faith is continuously portrayed a necessary trait of any happy, well rounded individual. Plus, if you don't think about it too much, the god you where raised to believe might just exist and it's better to be safe than sorry. And finally there is also all that brainwashing to deal with which is way to much hassle especially when you don't realise you've been brain washed.

Secondly (and worryingly) I think many people don't realise they have the option of giving up faith. I'm coming around to Sam Harris' point of view that we don't need the word "Atheism" as it has so many negative connotations many people back away from it on instinct alone. If I'm right about this then the enlightenment message isn't penetrating very deeply into our society which means the creepy old virgins and their minions have a firm a grip as ever on the levers of power in this country.