Survey reveals low level of religious knowledge in young

Only 5 per cent, or one in 20, of 15 to 24-year-olds could quote the first of the 10 Commandments when interviewed for a new …

Only 5 per cent, or one in 20, of 15 to 24-year-olds could quote the first of the 10 Commandments when interviewed for a new survey in Ireland.

Almost one-third (32 per cent) could not say where Jesus was born and more than one-third (35 per cent) did not know what is celebrated at Easter.

These are among the findings, published today, of an opinion poll conducted last December and January by Lansdowne Market Research for the (Catholic) Iona Institute and the (Protestant) Evangelical Alliance Ireland group. The survey involved a representative sample of 950 people nationwide.

The poll on Christian teachings found that such knowledge was highest among those over 65 and lowest in the 15-24 age group.


The survey found that only 52 per cent of young people could name Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as the authors of the gospels, while only 38 per cent knew that there were four gospels.

Fewer than half of the 15 to 24-year-olds surveyed (47 per cent) could name "Father, Son and Holy Spirit/Ghost" as the three persons of the Trinity, while only 48 per cent were able to name Genesis as the first book of the Bible. Thirty-eight per cent were aware that there were seven Sacraments, but just 15 per cent knew that "transubstantiation" (whereby bread and wine is transformed into the body and blood of Christ) was the term used to describe what takes place at the Eucharist during Mass.

Only one in 10 of the young people surveyed was able to say that the Immaculate Conception referred to Mary, the mother of Jesus, being free of original sin. In fairness, less than one-third - 32 per cent - of the over-65s got that one right, compared to an average of 19 per cent for the survey as a whole.

David Quinn, director of the Iona Institute, said the findings of the survey indicated that the level of Christian knowledge among young Irish people was "alarmingly low".

This seemed especially so for those who were either still at school or had only recently left school, which was "probably the opposite of what you would expect", he said.

He called for an examination of the reasons why knowledge of the faith was "in such sharp decline".

(The first of the 10 Commandments is "I am the Lord thy God. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me". Jesus was born in Bethlehem and Easter celebrates his Resurrection).

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times