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Survey finds a ‘major disconnect’ between Irish students and organised religion

A SURVEY in Ireland of 1,146 third level students across the country over the last two weeks gives a clear indication of how religion, and its place in society, has undergone dramatic changes recent years – with 78.7 percent expressing a negative view of the Catholic Church.

Young people are in the vanguard of a move towards a far less religious Ireland

Young people are in the vanguard of a move towards a far less religious Ireland. This picture was taken during a recent pro-choice rally.

“Shockingly” – to quote this report – while fewer than 60 percent of respondents considered themselves Catholic, ATHEISTS emerged as the second largest group  at 20 percent.

Abortion is an extremely sensitive and current topic, and the survey shows that 83.5 percent of the Irish students believe that abortion should be allowed in Ireland while 76.8 percent think that the Catholic Church has too much power in the country.

When asked “Do you attend communal religious ceremonies and functions?” the highest response was “no” at 61 percent, and those who responded “yes” mainly attend only 1-3 times a year.

While 61.5 percent of  the Catholic students who were asked if they take communion said “yes”, only 32.2 percent believe that it’s the body and blood of Christ.

When offered a number of choices for why students don’t follow a religion, the response to top the scale was that they “don’t believe in the teachings” (77.8 percent).

45.2 percent of students only follow a religion because of their parents influence, yet 40 percent of the students who took the survey wouldn’t want their children to follow the same religion they were brought up with. Only 13.7 percent follow a religion due to a strong faith.

According to the survey, students regard “looking good” (in 5th place) as being more important than “religious beliefs” (6th), with friends and family topping the list of importance.

When asked how they would characterise their belief in God, only 37.5 percent state that they believe in God with the top response at 41.5 percent being that students are unsure if there is a God.

When the students were asked, “Do religious beliefs have a place in society?” 54 percent stated that they do not believe society needs the influence of religion and 65.6 percent said they did not believe that religion makes the world a better place.

Colman Byrne, Managing Director of Student Marketing Network and Oxygen.ie and former two-term president of Union of Students Ireland, said:

The survey brought up a lot of interesting information that people may have different views on but it certainly shows that there is a major disconnect between organised religion and young people in Ireland.

24 Responses to “Survey finds a ‘major disconnect’ between Irish students and organised religion”

  1. Irreverend Bastard says:

    Cue the Catholic Church doubling down on everything that drives the students away in 3 … 2 … 1 …

  2. Brummie says:

    As a product of Irish Catholic parents, with all the usual brainwashing throughout childhood, I am delighted to see Eire finally emerge from religious tyranny. Some way to go yet however.

  3. Daz says:

    I love the way nearly every other statistic quoted on the linked article is “surprising,” yet the fact that some people don’t believe in gods is “shocking.” No bias there, then…

  4. Broga says:

    Education (and the internet) is corrosive to religion. The RC Church must look back with a bitter nostalgia to the days when, whatever anyone thought, they had to pay lip service to the Church. No more. While the poorly educated cling to their superstitions, having been given nothing else, a new force has arisen. “The God Delusion” (or a similar book) should be an essential on every school library shelf.

  5. Mark O'Leary says:

    I am concerned that too many of those identifying as atheists are simply angry at the church. Of course, we are all born atheists, but once we are indoctrinated, there needs to be a positive intellectual basis for non-theism/atheism. Habits die hard, and religion rejected out of anger is in danger of being supplanted by some other form of irrationality.

  6. barriejohn says:

    Mark O’Leary: I was ensnared by the Plymouth Brethren at a very young age, and pumped full of their fundamentalist nonsense, for which I fell hook, line and sinker. It was many years before I was able to break away from them, and this was as a result of listening to the voice of reason inside my head, which had been telling me over and over again that the beliefs to which I clung were irrational and ridiculous. Am I angry at what happened to me? You bet! These people, with their primitive superstitions, wilfully took advantage of me and completely fucked up my life, and I can’t get the wasted opportunities back again, no matter what I do now (nor can I undo the damage that I did myself to others, for that matter). I don’t really know what you mean by “a positive intellectual basis for non-theism/atheism”, as most of the regular contributors to this site seem to express rational and reasoned views, and I certainly don’t consider my own brand of what has been termed by some “evangelical atheism” to be in the same class as, say, Ian Paisley’s anti-Catholicism (though I am aware that he considers himself a pefectly rational and reasonable man!).

  7. barriejohn says:

    PS Apologies for posting again a link that I posted very recently, but I hope you’re not saying, like this berk, that we unbelievers need to provide “empirical evidence” that God doesn’t exist if we are to be taken seriously!

    http://www.near-death.com/experiences/skeptic09.html

  8. barriejohn says:

    Shock! Horror! People consider religious education to be the least useful subject that they took at school:

    http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/2013/08/survey-reveals-re-as-least-useful-subject-on-the-curriculum

  9. DeeM says:

    Way to go youth of Ireland! There is hope for humanity to break free of the bonds of ignorance yet :)

  10. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: The empiracle evidence nonsense has, of course, been exposed many times by Richard Dawkins amongst others. You might as well argue for empiracle evidence for Bertrand Russell’s china teapot circling a distant start.

    As for religion damaging lives, my late brother was prevented marrying the girl who loved him by an RC priest and her father who demanded that she marry an RC. I know that the emptiness and regret they felt for the rest of their lives was never stilled.

  11. JohnMWhite says:

    @Mark O’Leary: When over 3/4s of Irish students who reject religion say they do so because they simply “don’t believe in the teachings”, that hardly sounds like an angry and unthinking reaction to the crimes of the Catholic Church. I find it encouraging that so many young people are comfortable calling a spade a spade and saying that religious teachings aren’t for them. For a long time I’ve seen a lot of people appear reluctant to reject religion outright because “there must be something in it” or “there are good messages in the bible”, while in reality religious faith is useless as a moral compass.

  12. barriejohn says:

    Broga: Lots of things don’t exist, but it’s impossible to prove that. The Lesser-Spotted Oofle-Doofle Fly doesn’t exist, because I’ve just made it up, but you’d be hard pressed to find emipirical evidence of the fact if I claimed to have seen one!

  13. barriejohn says:

    JMW: Well said. The Catholic Church in particular keeps trotting out this excuse that people are disenchanted with it because of all the “adverse publicity” that they’ve had recently, but that they’ll return to their “spiritual home” eventually. It’s like an obsessed lover claiming: “You still love me really; you’re just angry with me, that’s all.” And “religion does a lot of good”!

  14. Matt+Westwood says:

    I’d always considered Eire an intelligent, humane and liberal nation, depite the stereotypes and despite the RCC. It is heartwarming that it’s going in the direction it is. Boy am I ever so tempted to emigrate there.

  15. 1859 says:

    @barriejohn: I saw an Oofle-Doofle Fly last night. I also dreamt I was pregnant – which for a man is a bit odd. But when I asked the rather attractive nurse why I was pregnant, she said it was because I’d been eating the stalks of broccoli and not the flowers. She asked me why I was so put out, ‘because it’s my second pregnancy’ I replied.I too battled with RC as a child. I was sent to church but a deep, ‘irrational’ suspicion made me hide in the bushes outside. Now I listen to my dreams – which are far more rational. Sorry to be a bit off thread but your story of the Plymouth Bretheren touched me heart so it did!

  16. 1859 says:

    (more on tpoic) I would be somewhat cautious before rejoicing at these statistics – because the sample has been taken from students in Tertiary education which may not be very representative of the whole of Irish Society – a bit like trying to find out if society is becoming more vegetarian by asking only people who work in butchers’ shops.

  17. JohnMWhite says:

    @1859 – We’re quite aware the survey was of students, but in the UK and Ireland, around half of all young people go on to higher education. We’re not looking at a tiny portion of the next generation here. I don’t think anybody was under the impression this is a representation of all of Ireland, we are simply encouraged that the future looks bright.

  18. barriejohn says:

    1859: I really envy the other young guys of my age group who also attended Bible Class but had the guts to say, when they reached their teens: “This is bollocks”, and walked out. The irony is that I did everything that I could to persuade them that they were wrong, though looking back now I can see that those efforts were largely prompted by the need to bolster my own faith. I devoured Christian literature that “proved” that the Bible was right about history, archaeology and science, and was sure that they, too, would be persuaded if they just read the same stuff. But the people whom I pity most are those who grew up in Christian homes – some of whom I am still in contact with – and whom I deeply suspect have no Christian faith whatsoever. Almost to a man, they have married a “nice Christian girl” and attend a “nice Baptist church”, so that their parents can join in the pretence that they are “going on with The Lord”. It’s all a sham, and we all know that the same thing happens in Muslim families, too, all around the world. The statistics that we are fed for adherence to religion are pure make-believe.

  19. […] is already on the rise as are godless funerals, a new study — being touted on multiple websites and by Richard Dawkins — seems to show that the percentage of young Irish atheists is pretty […]

  20. 1859 says:

    @ JMW: It is encouraging, I agree, but a sample size of 1,146 students out of how many millions(?) is very small. Nonetheless, I too hope the younger generation will spread the concept of a secular society further and wider than mine did.

    @barriejohn:you seem to have gone through a lot more hell and high water to reach enlightenment than I did – you poor guy. With me it was catholic relatives putting pressure on my workaholic mother to get me baptised when I was 11. I hated it – I knocked the jar of water out of the priest’s hands and ran out of the church. Although I didn’t understand what was happening, it was just more of an intangible feeling that something was trying to control me, to take over how I was supposed to see the world. I guess I had the advantage of being 11 years old with some smattering of independent thought – most kids at the baptism ceremony were between 4 and 7 years old and they swallowed the holy shit as though it had all come from Santa and his toy factory at the north pole. When I think back at what these catholic bastards were doing – indoctrinating young kids with the most obscene, dumb-arsed fantasies – it makes me spit blood. OK time for my rant to stop.Sleep is my freedom. Maybe I’ll give birth tonight! Take care barriejohn – love your posts.

  21. Broga says:

    @1859: Religious upbringing really is a chancy business and some people really do draw the short straw. I grew up in the Church of Scotland, went to Sunday School, went to Church and said my prayers every night: “If I should die before I sleep/ I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” That was it. Nobody tried to indoctrinate me and I believed in what I now see was a very superficial way. I accepted the bible stories without thinking about them.

    I have come to realise from other people’s experiences – barriejohn for example and reading Dan Barker’s biography – that I have little concept of what others were enduring. Not only that, I can’t even pretend to get into their indoctrinated mindset. I just don’t know what it would feel like or how I would think to be there. I can try to imagine but never sense the reality.

    One of the virtues of this site is that it brings different experiences together including from those who have flung off the fetters of religion. The experiences of others who come here and who have not just exposes the bizarre nature of their thinking and the miserably restricted brains with which they have to live.

  22. JohnMWhite says:

    @1859: Actually, 1100 or so students is an ample population size to glean pretty reliable demographic information from. They don’t ask 100 million people who they will vote for in US elections, they ask carefully selected, small groups of about 1000 and good polling is highly accurate at that level. Also, you’re kind of changing the goalposts there, going from saying that asking students doesn’t reflect what the rest of Ireland thinks (which, as I said, nobody ever claimed anyway) to now arguing that the sample size of students was still too small to reflect what students think. I can see why you’d think that, but if you go and look up how these polls tend to work, you might be surprised to find that it is actually possible to get quite reliable data from that many people.

    I sympathise with your experience of an attempted Catholic baptism and the pressure of relatives. I was raised Catholic myself, and grew up under the abject fear of eternal torment for even being heterosexual, since pretty much everything my mind and body did turned out to be a damn sin somehow. It is no way for an imaginative child to live, it is a miserable and terrifying existence and that adults continue to inflict it on the young is a crime. Like yourself, I had a thimbleful of independent thought in my head, and daring to use it tended to result in punishment by neglect as the staff at my Catholic school saw bullying as a corrective measure for those who asked awkward questions or hung out with the gays and the goths.

  23. Robster says:

    The RCC have to send in troops to save the Irish. The commando’s should be led by that groovy Pope frank and a crack team of fully trained battle ready bishops. Rather than the usual robes and silly hats, they could dress like normal people to infiltrate the enemy. Catering wouldn’t be a problem, rations could include sealed packs of jesus wafers and wee cans of jesus juice will take care of that need. They could be called “Mother Mary’s Marauders” or perhaps “The J Team” with a logo that includes an ancient torture device spearing a secular heart, with a dead jew nailed on top for effect.

  24. The Church imagines it makes babies Catholics when it sprinkles water on them at baptism. If I make my baby a member of the local golf club or the Nazi Party is he a real member or am I kidding myself? Child initiation into a religion is not just wrong. It’s impossible. A lot of those who think they reject Catholicism don’t realise that their membership was only a gimmick inflicted on them. I am glad that more people are seeing how their Catholic baptism degraded them. A church that has to take advantage of babies to get an excuse for indoctrinating them is hardly going to be taken seriously by very many of these babies when they grow up.