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A majority of people in Scotland have no religion

A woman kneels at a statue of Jesus before Archbishop Philip Tartaglia's first service as administrator of the Archdiocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 28, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/David Moir *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SCOTLAND-RELIGION, originally transmitted on April 5, 2016.
qA woman kneels at a statue of Jesus before Archbishop Philip Tartaglia's first service as administrator of the Archdiocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland on February 28, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/David Moir *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SCOTLAND-RELIGION, originally transmitted on April 5, 2016.

A woman kneels at a statue of Jesus before Archbishop Philip Tartaglia’s first service as administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Feb. 28, 2013. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/David Moir
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-SCOTLAND-RELIGION, originally transmitted on April 5, 2016.

CANTERBURY, England (RNS) More than half of the 5.4 million people living in Scotland have no religion, according to a survey published by Scottish Social Attitudes.

The 52 percent of unaffiliated Scots represents a 12 percent jump from 16 years ago, when 40 percent of survey respondents said they had no religious affiliation.

The proportion of people who say they belong to the Church of Scotland — the Presbyterian Church that for so long dominated almost every aspect of life in that country — has fallen dramatically, to just 20 percent, down from 39 percent of the population in 1999.

“The survey’s findings show that Scottish commitment to religion, both in terms of our willingness to say we belong to a religion and to attend religious services, is in decline,” said Ian Montagu, a researcher at ScotCen Social research in Edinburgh, which runs the annual surveys.


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“This change doesn’t appear to be affecting all religions equally,” he added. “Affiliation with the Church of Scotland is in decline while levels of identification with other religions remains relatively unchanged.”

After the Church of Scotland, the largest Christian group is the Roman Catholic Church. Its numbers have recently been boosted by an influx of people from the European Union, particularly Poland.

The 2015 survey interviewed 1,288 people between July 2015 and January 2016.

John Sinclair poses for a portrait during the General Assembly of The Church of Scotland in 2015. Photo courtesy of courtesy of the Church of Scotland

Colin Sinclair poses for a portrait during the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Church of Scotland

“We are developing fresh expressions of church alongside traditional forms in order to engage with people,” said Colin Sinclair, convener of the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council.

“We have contacted those who have stopped attending church but want to hang on to their Christian faith,” he added. “We want to hear their stories and understand the lessons we can learn from them.”

(Trevor Grundy is a correspondent based in Canterbury, England)

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Trevor Grundy

17 Comments

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  • The country that once thundered with the preaching of John Knox. It may be time to look to Scotland (Europe for that matter) as a fresh mission field.

  • Missionarying really only works on people that are already enslaved by religion. They just replace the old one with a new one.

    Your idea is very much like going to a country of peoplewhose diet is high fiber, and convincing them to buy pReparation H.

  • Everett,
    You may have a revelation, or a speculation, or a speculation about a revelation, but you do not have knowledge (about God(s). I would argue that my guess is a good as yours. Apparently most Scotsmen agree.

  • samuel johnson,
    My observation is merely based on what the Bible has to say regarding God’s election of sinners. Believers are called to proclaim the gospel, it is God who calls His own.

  • You are right, Everett. Jesus gave His church this authoritative revelation called the Great Commission: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [in Scotland, as elsewhere], even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

  • Everett, if the Church of Scotland had the same commitment to the authority of Scripture and the content of the Gospel that John Knox had, Scotland would know the difference. Weakening the Christian message amounts to a compromise of the Gospel. Would Knox turn over in his grave if he could see the church in Scotland today?

  • Most of the “Religious West” lost their connection to State churches long ago.
    This is not “new” and I would expect “it” to continue. The churches fought to
    control what could not be stopped. Luther and the “printing press” opened the
    “flood gates.” Most of the world “has no religion” and until priorities change I
    would not count on a “great renewing of faith.” It is far easier to bury oneself in
    an “i-phone” and depersonalize your life then to make ANY (excuse the pun)
    for God sake, an actual commitment to anyone else. When you shut out the
    real world and it’s pain and conflict and replace it with an “apt” you have no
    connection with others.

  • Even now God is saving numerous Chinese nationals who were raised as Atheists under the Communist state. Christianity is being accepted by people of prior religion.

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