Atheists feel left out, finds faith surveys


IRELAND’S ATHEISTS feel discriminated against and left out of conversations with religious people, as well from the public sphere, according to new all-island faith surveys.

They have also found that 67 per cent of lay Irish people view ecumenism positively, but some complained it was too “politically correct” or was something they thought of only in the context of Father Ted.

Launched last April, the surveys of faith leaders and laypeople about issues such as immigration and diversity, reconciliation, and ecumenism were conducted by the Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE) and are the first of their kind in Ireland. More than 700 faith leaders and some 900 laypeople have taken part.

In the lay survey, 12 per cent of respondents identified themselves as atheist or of no religion, which is disproportionate to their number in the general population. They felt that while they were talking “no one is listening”.

Almost 75 per cent of lay people reported that their faith communities included some immigrants or ethnic minorities, but it was found that 44 per cent of faith leaders had not done anything to accommodate immigrants or ethnic minorities or to address their unique needs. On the other hand, 54 per cent of faith leaders said they had preached or taught on immigration topics in the previous 12 months.

The surveys are part of a three-year research project funded by the Government through the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Principal investigator for the project is Prof Linda Hogan, head of the ISE, with lecturer Dr Gladys Ganiel overseeing research.

Reports on the surveys will be launched at the ISE’s Belfast campus on the Antrim Road today and are available at www.