Most people in Scotland ‘not religious’

Apr 3, 2016

More than half of people in Scotland now have no religion, according to research.

Findings from the Scottish Social Attitudes survey show 52% of people say they are not religious, compared with 40% in 1999 when the survey began.

The proportion who say they belong to the Church of Scotland has fallen from 35% in 1999 to just 20%.

Other religious groups, including Roman Catholic (15%) and other Christian (11%) have remained steady.

The number of non-Christians has remained at 2%.

The research, published by ScotCen Social Research, also reveals attendance at religious services is at the lowest level recorded since 1999.

Read full article on the BBC News website.

7 comments on “Most people in Scotland ‘not religious’

  • The proportion who say they belong to the Church of Scotland has fallen from 35% in 1999 to just 20%.

    This is very encouraging. Granted, just because someone doesn’t attend church services it doesn’t mean they are an atheist. What will really tip the numbers away from the church even more is when all of the children of former church members are brought up in a secular household with secular friends, then we will see those churchgoers numbers drop (even more) dramatically. The Bible will be relegated to the back of a dusty old bookshelf once and for all. The stories in that book will be reclassified as the ancient horrifying cruelty that used to be considered a source of morality ~wince~ and ~eye roll~

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  • From the article:

    Other religious groups, including Roman Catholic (15%) and other Christian (11%) have remained steady.

    So the RC attendance has remained steady even in the face of the child rape scandal? That seems odd. Or could this figure reflect the members who are left after a significant exodus?

    Other types of Christian attendance remains steady. A breakdown of this number would be interesting. Would that include various types of Protestants? Evangelicals? If this number is holding steady then I wonder if the unchurched might be opting instead for more “go with the flow” type congregations such as the UU church and also some might be opting for the Evangelical – PRAISE the LORD!!! type of congregations.

    If the unchurched choose to go over to a kinder gentler Sunday Jeezis show then I’m going to say that it’s a move in the right direction, this being said with eye roll, but if the numbers for the Evangelicals are on the rise there then all sympathies are extended to you all over on that side of the pond. The American Evangelicals are and have been a force for Reactionary movement here that is causing harm and grief to us daily. I see this movement as a great societal harm. A wolf in sheep’s clothing if there ever was one.

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  • 3
    bonnie2 says:


    Quick anecdote – my Catholic friend is devout to the “software”: mother church, Mary, rituals. “Hardware”: Vatican, Pope, sex abuse scandal, is separate.

    Head scratcher: she’s a ‘prayer partner’ to the second grade class of children. Requires taking a test which includes how to properly respond to suspected sex abuse.

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  • bonnie

    Definitely a head scratcher. Fascinating really. I also have a RC friend who waffles back and forth right before my very eyes. She claims that she has doubts about God because of the bad things that happen in this world but says she just can’t consider going against her (Italian American) family traditions.

    I replied that I went against my New England WASP Methodist traditions by making a nuisance of myself at Sunday school and stupid youth group and getting the adults to finally give up on me, in that way. Since I left I never went back and guess what?! They didn’t throw me out of the family. Nobody burned me at the stake yet!

    My friend just saw the movie Spotlight and has withdrawn her five year old daughter from CCD. I haven’t seen the movie yet but will soon. I’d love to see some stats on the effect of that movie on RC church attendance. Granted, devout RCs like your friend won’t even see it out of devotion to their favorite delusion but the fence sitters are sure to be completely grossed out and infuriated. Good thing.

    Denounce bad family traditions and withdraw from them. Have the guts for good leadership and create new better traditions that can be carried down through the generations. It’s what I’m doing and the young people are liking it!

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  • Looking at a slightly wider population:-

    British Social Attitudes survey finds most people have no religion, just 41.7% are Christian – June 17th, 2014

    The 31st annual British Social Attitudes survey (BSA), published yesterday, has found that 50.6% of the population saying they have no religion (up from 47.7% last year), with just 41.7% regarding themselves as Christian (the lowest ever figure). The survey was published on the same day as David Cameron reiterated his claim that Britain is ‘a Christian country’. The British Humanist Association (BHA) has pointed to the survey as showing this is not the case.

    In his foreword to the programme for yesterday’s all prayer breakfast, David Cameron wrote ‘I believe very deeply that we should be confident in Britain about our status as a Christian country… Greater confidence in our Christianity can also inspire a stronger belief in our work as politicians to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives – and it should inspire our support for churches and faith organisations in the vital work they do in our society and around the world. Whatever our political parties and whatever our disagreements these are values we share.’

    However, not only did the latest BSA survey show the lowest ever figure for Christianity, it also found 76% thinking that being Christian is not an important element of being British, up from 68% in 1995.

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  • Apart from some of the more remote Western Isles, Christianity is losing its grip over people’s minds in Scotland and England. I regularly go to the Isle of Arran in the Firth of Clyde. The local resistance to the “Sunday” boat was lost about 30 years ago. The Easter Parade celebrating the Resurrection is a pathetic sight, with about 20 people involved, and everyone else getting on with their business. OK anecdotal, but my observations concur with the research findings here.

    There used to be Christian poster here who called himself the “Wee Flea”. His real name was David Robertson who wrote one of the “Flea” books opposing Richard’s God Delusion. He was also a Minister for the Free Church of Scotland ( “Wee Free”), somewhere near Dundee. Let’s just say the Wee Free is more full of hellfire and brimstone than the Church of Scotland, without starting a theological argument ! On the Isle of Arran the Wee Free Church in Brodick had stood empty for some 30 years before someone built a house on the site in the 1960s. A far better use of the land IMO !

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  • It takes a community to create a religious monster. I don’t think the Church of Scotland was known for its radical views or hate, so this breakup is not all that important.

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