Never mind the non-believers, feel Scotland’s ‘spirituality’

Never mind the non-believers, feel Scotland’s ‘spirituality’

The number of Scots who say they are not religious has risen to almost three quarters, according to new research, but ‘the role of spirituality in people’s lives remains important,’ says Rev Norman Smith, above, convener of the Church of Scotland’s grandly-named Mission and Discipleship Council.

Reacting to figures that show that just under a quarter (23.6 percent) said they were religious, while 72.4 percent said they were not, Smith tried, and signally failed to put a positive spin on the results.

The Church of Scotland is well aware that formal church membership has declined, yet as our own research, detailed in Steve Aisthorpe’s book The Invisible Church shows, the role of spirituality in people’s lives remains important.

As a Church we are not driven by numbers, although we are committed to sharing our faith through our words and our deeds.

It is no accident that people of faith across the country are over-represented in volunteer activities from supporting youth groups and operating dementia cafes to running food banks.

He added:

We are also exploring new, fresh ways to express our faith and planting new churches, such as Dunfermline East, St Columba’s Inverness, and through our pioneer ministries.

The primary task of the church has not changed throughout the ages but the way we tackle that task continues to evolve. In the midst of decline you can find growth and in the midst of growth you can find decline. That is how it has always been.

A similar poll in 2011 showed that 56 percent of Scots said they were not religious while 35 percent said they were.

The Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) said the findings raised concerns about official statistics on religion in Scotland.

It suggested that the way in which census data and other studies of religion were being carried out gave higher figures of religiosity due to the way the question was framed.
In the latest Social Attitudes Survey in 2016 people were asked whether they:

Regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion.

Almost six in ten (58 percent) said they didn’t belong to a religion while just over four in ten (41 percent) said they did.

Gordon MacRae, above, Chief Executive of HSS, said:

These new findings raise concerns about the official statistics on the adherence to religion in Scotland.

We know that many people identify with a particular religious community, usually due to family ties, but are not themselves practising that religion.

These latest findings would suggest there could be as much as a 15 percent difference between ‘official statistics’ and the reality of religion’s place in the Scottish public daily lives.

This raises major questions about key policy decisions made by government regarding special rights given to religious bodies under law. For example, the right of Scotland’s churches to hold the balance of power on local education committees.

We need a new consensus in Scottish politics that respects and protects individuals’ right to freedom of religion and belief and separating this from policy making. Scotland’s democracy needs to get to a place where we stop blurring the lines of church and state.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church described HSS’s response to the latest poll as:

Confused, yet not surprising.

And it unconfusingly added:

The question ‘are you religious’ does not lend itself to a binary ‘Yes/No’ answer since religiosity tends to exist on a sliding scale rather than at either end of a stark spectrum.

That 72 percent of Scots describe themselves as ‘not religious’ should not be read as implying, they have ‘no religion’.

Last year it was reported here that if people weren’t coming to church, the church ought to go to the people “in their natural environments”. Chillingly, the Fresh Expressions initiative included targeting school kids and even police officers.

Phil Potter, Archbishops’ Missioner and Fresh Expressions team leader said:

I realised we had 10,000 people on our doorstep who were not coming into the church. In fact, there is a statistic that says 50 percent of the population are completely unchurched – not just the children or even their parents, it was the grandparents who were completely unchurched.

Hat tip: Jim Haught

• See ‘Spirituality’: A word that makes my hackles rise.

66 responses to “Never mind the non-believers, feel Scotland’s ‘spirituality’”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    Perhaps this should be no big surprise. 53% of those questioned in a recent UK-wide survey described themselves as having ‘no religion’. It would seem we are winning.

  2. CoastalMaineBird says:

    This explains the rise in murder, rape, child abuse, teen pregnancy, theft, cannibalism, and bad golf in Scotland in recent years.

    wait, what?


    Never mind.

  3. Lucy says:

    That 72 percent of Scots describe themselves as ‘not religious’ should not be read as implying, they have ‘no religion’.

    Why not? Seems pretty clear to me.

  4. RussellW says:

    WTF does ‘spirituality’ mean anyway, absolutely nothing.

    Agreed, the religiots are clutching at straws.

  5. cnocspeireag says:

    I seem to remember Scots catholics being happy to accept the ‘binary yes/no answer’ when the result was in their favour.

  6. 1859 says:

    @RussellW: In Scotland ‘spirit – uality’ means Whisky – always has. This is one straw I would definitely clutch at!

  7. barriejohn says:

    It is no accident that people of faith across the country are over-represented in volunteer activities from supporting youth groups and operating dementia cafes to running food banks.

    And we all know why that would be, don’t we? Preying on the vulnerable again, and “bringing them to Jesus”!

  8. RussellW says:


    I’d really need to consume large quantities of ‘the water of life’ to believe in any sky fairy.

  9. barriejohn says:

    Many have posited that Biblical writers were “under the influence”, the ergot fungus being a popular candidate, but who’s to say that they didn’t like their little tipple as well?

  10. RussellW says:


    Perhaps. However I’m not convinced since the ergot fungus requires very wet conditions, not common in the ME. I favor the “barking mad”or the “mind control” explanations.

  11. Jobrag says:

    RusselW, spirituality means “I’ve not come to terms with the finality of death, but can’t be assed to go to church on Sunday” (other days and places of worship are available).

  12. Broga says:

    Spirituality is that vague aura that the clergy impute to non religious people even when those people have no awareness of it and don’t know what it is. It is a useful tactic as it implies that the non religious are really, in an indefinable way, religious. Just like my religious relative insisting that I am religious but have not yet discovered Jesus.

  13. barriejohn says:

    RussellW: I don’t doubt those possibilities for one moment. For some strange reason I am having difficulty editing posts now, and wanted to amend mine to point out that the “mind-bending substance” explanation has also been applied to the Ancient Greeks and others (and we all know of modern tribes that use such substances on a regular basis). It was raised in a documentary just recently – I think about the myth of Atlantis (Thera). Kykeon may have been contaminated with ergot accidentally or purposely. The following is interesting in this regard:

    Some of the “visions” (Ezekiel and Revelation, for example) are certainly very vivid, and one gets the impression that the writer was seeing much more than he could possibly convey in words.

  14. RussellW says:

    Jobrag, Broga.

    Agreed. It seems that many religiots simply cannot accept the proposition that some people reject the supernatural entirely, not just institutionalised religion. The average bible-basher won’t accept a naturalistic explanation of the universe.


    I certainly agree that many religious ceremonies required mind- altering substances.Research by archaeologists and anthropologists has confirmed that worshippers were ‘on something’. I’m also convinced that some prominent religious people were and are mentally ill.

    As to the 17th century BC eruption on Thera, it’s a plausible explanation for the Atlantis legend. Plato probably re-worked a folk memory of the catastrophe. Of course ‘proving’ the historical basis for legends/myths is impossible.

  15. barriejohn says:

    RussellW: My father was a great fan of Greek legends, and it interests me that much of the story of Jason and the Argonauts, on which I was virtually brought up, has been shown to have possible historical roots. Everyone now knows about sieving water through a sheep’s coat to extract the gold deposits, and it certainly helps explain what was a great mystery to me as a child – why a “golden fleece”, of all things?

  16. Stephen Mynett says:

    “The question ‘are you religious’ does not lend itself to a binary ‘Yes/No’ answer since religiosity tends to exist on a sliding scale rather than at either end of a stark spectrum.”

    A very poor but unsurprising and dishonest quote from an organisation of hypocrites and crooks. The sliding scale referred to is part of an answer to a second but unasked question, ie “If yes, how religious are you? Which would probably be followed the usual one to five scale, starting at slightly and ending with complete bampot.

  17. RussellW says:


    I’m also a fan of Greek myths and the Germanic stories as well. They are certainly more relevant than the nonsense from the ME that was imposed on our ancestors.
    There are Aboriginal legends from the NE of Australia that seem to record the flooding of the coastal land after the end of the Ice Age, that’s 8 to 10,000. years ago.So I don’t have any problem with accepting that there’s history in the Greek myths.

  18. barriejohn says:

    RussellW: My father was very interested in literature of all kinds, and used to impress upon me that the Bible contained the greatest stories ever told. It perplexed me that (a) he never read that book himself; and (b) my own experience was that the stupid stories that I found there, with their silly moral teachings, didn’t come close to other myths and legends that I read!

    PS I do still love the language of the KJV, and think that parts of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are superb, though I wouldn’t have seen that as a child.

  19. Stephen Mynett says:

    How many stories in the Bible, my guess is between nil and zero, had not already appeared in some form in another book, mythology etc?

  20. Lucy says:

    @jobrag…you nailed it

  21. RussellW says:


    Yes, there are probably psychological insights in the Greco-Roman , Germanic legends and the Mahabarata for example, that are the reasons for their appeal. I could never be inspired by Christianity, probably because I was educated at a Christian school.

  22. 1859 says:

    @barriejohn: I agree the language of the KJV can be quite ‘poetic’, but unfortunately the archaic complexity of the syntax etc., is blatantly used to bamboozle even the mildly literate person. This allows those officials of the organised religions to make the most idiotic claims about the words being from god’s own mouth and from the poetry they can extract any meaning they want to suit any circumstance. The Son of Solomon is one of my favourites but the priests etc., are told to interpret the ‘she’, the ‘her’ in this obvious passionate love poem, as the ‘church’. Though how a passage like ‘A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts…’ can be seen as anything but what it clearly is, is a testament to how much religious belief can turn a person’s reasoning self into jelly.

  23. 1859 says:

    ‘Song of Solomon’…no Freudian slip I promise!

  24. L.Long says:

    “not religious” is a null question. It basically means -I am not joining up with a bunch of like minded people.
    But ask -do you believe in any form of magical BS? Like gawd-spirituality-homeophathy-Rikki? The numbers will change back to their older values. Can’t prove that but I have faith in human stoopidity!

  25. Laura Roberts says:

    I think what he meant to say was, “The role of spirits in people’s lives remains an important one.” One of the things I love most about Scotland is the number of churches that have been converted to restaurants or pubs.

    There’s a really cool one called Oran Mor in Glasgow’s West End. Some pub purists won’t like that it’s posh, but I think we all agree it serves the public better now than in its previous incarnations.

  26. barriejohn says:

    Stephen Mynett: As I have said here before, when I “discovered” the Dead Sea Scrolls, and realized just how much of the so-called teachings of Jesus had been “borrowed” from elsewhere, their cover was blown.

    RussellW et al: I always preferred Aesop’s Fables, and even Brer Rabbit, to the Bible when I was a boy, and still do now! Parables like The Sower and The House Built Upon The Rock have very little to them, and even The Good Samaritan isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

  27. farouk dauda hamman says:

    its not surpring because the bible says that in the last days many would depart from the christian faith and give heed diverse teaching.And the bible states categorically that the gate of hell would never prevail against the church.So nevertheless the gospel must be preached to the whole world to save souls believe or not believe JESUS CHRIST is coming for the redeemtion of mankind and every soul must face CHRIST to be judge after death

  28. Johan says:

    How things change. No longer can the clerics tell us to do as they say. They have lost the power to do so. No longer can the clerics tell us what to do.Their threats of hellish punishment are dismissed without fear. No longer can the clerics tell us what to do. Lest we laugh in their face. Their time has passed. We have no need of them now. We have no want of them now except that they fade away into oblivion.

  29. Broga says:

    farouk dauda hamman : I don’t believe any of that. I suppose it would be too much trouble for you to provide any facts, or evidence, to support what is nonsense. And please don’t offer that ragbag of contradictions, cruelties and fictions known as the bible.

    I won’t hold my breath for a persuasive reply.

  30. andym says:

    Religion was over represented for years because the question used to be, “What religion are you?” and many thought that meant they “had” a religion whether they believed in the theology or not.Do you have a religion leaves things more open. As others have said, didn’t hear the churches complaining then.

    On the issue of volunteering,even if true the stats would have to be controlled for age. Older people are more likely to be religious, and also having more time, are more likely to volunteer.

  31. Johan says:

    And someone posted here some time ago how the act of singing induces mild anoxia with accompanying euphoria which in conjunction with repetitive hymnal verses full of godly references, wonder, awe, praise and adulation induces mental reinforcement of the divine claims of the power hungry clerics. The clerics knew exactly what they were doing … but now we do too and can now easily fuck them off.

  32. Robster says:

    Oh, I miss read it, it’s Scottish that are increasingly not spiritual, not scotch, which by nature, is.

  33. barriejohn says:

    Johan: Quite correct, as can prayer and meditation, and even the reading of religious texts, especially when certain phrases are repeated over and over again. Some people become addicted to meditation, and it takes over their lives.

  34. farouk dauda hamman says:

    @ broga i can offer u a lot and lots of evidence and fact about the authenticity of the bible prophery.But sorry if your heart had being harding by unbelieved as the bible says you can not comprehend the light of the gospel of JESUS CHRIST. John 3:16-19 says “for God so love the world that he gave his only begotten son,that whosoever believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life.For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world;but that the world through him might be saved.He that believeth in him is not condemned:but he that believeth not is condemned already,because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.And this is the condemnation,that light is come into the world,and men loved darkness rather than light,because their deeds were evil.

  35. farouk dauda hamman says:

    @ broga the Holy Bible is not a contradictory nor cruel and neither fictitious Text but it is the way through which you and i must be saved.I pray you would believed to save your soul from condemnation in hell

  36. farouk dauda hamman says:

    @ broga the Holy Bible is not a contradictory nor cruel and neither fictitious Text but it is the way through which you and i must be saved.I pray you would believed to save your soul from condemnation in hell before its too late, for your athiest believe would never save you but JESUS CHRIST.

  37. Barry Duke says:

    @ Farouk Dauda Hamman you are just parroting the same old bullshit that thousands of idiots who believe the crap of Christianity have been doing for centuries. Knock it off, or I will block you,

  38. Broga says:

    farouk dauda hamman : These comments you make are made without thought, without analysis and without the application of intelligence. Let me give another angle to you. If your God is what you say he is (and I am convinced he does not exist) you will never enter heaven.

    Why? Because you have rejected God. Your God gave humans his supreme and unique gift – intelligence. He set a few easy tests: a bible with obvious contradictions and cruelties which we must refject. You failed to use God’s gift to you. You spat in his face. Get very, very worried. You are going to hell.

    Myself, Barry Duke (whose patience has been sorely tried by you) and the other atheists here will be welcomed into heaven. We passed the test. In your shoes, I would not sleep at night. I would be terrified of the eternal flames. You have my sympathy.

  39. barriejohn says:

    @ broga i can offer u a lot and lots of evidence and fact about the authenticity of the bible prophery.

    Then quotes some verses from John’s Gospel!

  40. Broga says:

    farouk dauda hamman : ” i can offer u a lot and lots of evidence and fact about the authenticity of the bible prophery.”

    Really! Learning to spell prophecy would be a start before you get on to “lots and lots of evidence.”

  41. farouk dauda hamman says:

    @ barry duke the bible says “the fools says in their hearts there is no God ” you have being described by the bible as a fool who reject God salvation and grace.Christianity is not a crap neither an old bullshit that thousands of idiots parroting.REPENT FOR GOD JUDGEMENT IS PRONOUNCE AGAINST YOU AND ALL THE CONDEMNED ATHEIASTS.JESUS IS COMING SOON.REPENTS FOR YOUR SINS @ broga u too.

  42. barriejohn says:

    i can offer u a lot and lots of evidence and fact about the authenticity of the bible prophery.

    We’re still waiting.

  43. Barry Duke says:

    Are you deaf as well as stupid, Farouk? “The Bible says … blah, blah, blah.” The Bible was concocted by superstitious fools who hadn’t the scientific knowledge necessary to understand how the REAL world works. I warned you that if you persisted in posting your deranged comments on this site you would be banned. Now you are!

  44. barriejohn says:

    Barry: What a shame. Now we’ll never read all this evidence about the authenticity of the Bible prophery!

  45. Broga says:

    barriejohn: I have no doubt that farouk dauda hamman will now think that his evidence overwhelmed us and we could not bear the “truth” he was propagating. I remain puzzled about how supposedly sane people can be convinced of the truth of obvious (to me) nonsense.

  46. barriejohn says:

    Broga: Spot on! “Brilliant” Daz posted a comment on Bob Hutton’s miserable excuse for a blog, and the idiot said:

    I’m grateful to you for seeking to enter into meaningful dialogue. It is my desire to do so with the Freethinker website but Duke won’t allow it because he is frightened to have a reasoned debate.

    I don’t even try to engage with Stephen Green any more since someone asked him his explanation for whales having vestigial legs, and him replying: “They don’t”. I’m not lying. Shut your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears, and “inconvenient facts” just disappear. Magic!

  47. Barry Duke says:

    His posts are now being collected in my trash folder, BarrieJohn and I can assure you that, so far, he has not provided any evidence for the authenticity of the Bible “prophery”. However, I stand accused of being “an old fool” because I have “deceived many with your false prophercy”.

  48. barriejohn says:

    Barry: Keep us updated. Can’t wait to see the everdense!

  49. Broga says:

    “we have to accept a literal Genesis” writes Bob Hutton who seems detached from any kind of reality. However, he cannot enter into a discussion as Barry Duke is afraid of reasoned debate. I suppose Bob in his fantasies believes this.

    Whom did Cain find as a breeding partner? how did the snake manage to talk and in what language? How did Noah get the koalas and polar bears on board. The bible does have its entertainment value.

  50. Gui says:

    “People have the free will to choose how they take their lives”.

    “All the happenings and people’s actions were determinated and predicted long ago by the Bible.”

    Seriously, how religious people conciliate those two statements above?