Survey finds Ireland second only to Vietnam in loss of religious sentiment


IN A survey of more than 50 countries, Ireland has experienced the second-greatest drop in recent years in the percentage of the population that claims to be religious.

The survey, which measured changes since 2005, found that those in Ireland who consider themselves religious had fallen by 22 per cent in 2011, from 69 per cent in 2005. In 2011 they stood at 47 per cent.

The survey was of 57 countries comprising 73 per cent of the world’s population.

Only Vietnam experienced a greater drop, of 23 per cent, over the same period.

Ireland was also found to be joint seventh among the most atheistic of the 57 countries.

The survey was conducted by a network of opinion pollsters affiliated to WIN-Gallup International. The findings were published in Ireland by Red C yesterday. The survey was conducted between November 2011 and January 2012.

Where its findings in Ireland are concerned it may be significant that the first of four statutory reports on clerical child sex abuse, the Ferns report, was published in October 2005. The Ryan report was published in May 2009, the Murphy report in November 2009 and the Cloyne report in July 2011.

The survey also found that between 2005 and 2011 those Irish who considered themselves “not a religious person” increased from 25 per cent to 44 per cent.

Intriguingly, the number of Irish who described themselves as “a convinced atheist” fell over the six-year period, from 13 per cent in 2005 to 10 per cent in 2011.

Still, this placed Ireland alongside Australia, Iceland and Austria as seventh of the 10 most atheistic among the 57 countries, with China on top at 47 per cent, followed by Japan at 31 per cent, the Czech Republic at 30 per cent, France at 29 per cent, South Korea and Germany at 15 per cent and the Netherlands at 14 per cent.

The drop among those who consider themselves religious in other countries was 21 per cent in France and Switzerland, 19 per cent in South Africa, 17 per cent in Iceland, 15 per cent in Ecuador, 13 per cent in the US, 12 per cent in Canada and 10 per cent in Austria.

Of the countries surveyed, 59 per cent of their population think of themselves as religious, 23 per cent think of themselves as not religious and 13 per cent think of themselves as convinced atheists.

Ireland is 43rd of the 57 countries in terms of the population considering itself religious.

Overall, those claiming to be religious dropped by 9 per cent while atheism rose by 3 per cent between 2005 and 2011.

The survey asked the same question in the 57 countries: “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person or a convinced atheist?”

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