Losing our religion..?

A NEW survey suggests people in Northern Ireland are less religious than those in the Republic. David Quinn of the Iona Institute said it was “likely that many people will find the Northern Ireland results surprising in that the general impression is that the north is more religious than the south”. Some key findings included: Only 42% know that there are four Gospels and just over half (54%) could name the Holy Trinity. Protestant churches might be concerned that only 2% more Prods could name Martin Luther as the religious figure who started the Protestant Reformation (Catholics 30%, Protestants 32%). You can see the whole survey here.

  • Ahem

    Um, small, if fundamental theological point: ‘protestants’ don’t say ‘the reformation’ ‘started’ with Luther. The Reformation’s much like the equally nebulous ‘industrial revolution’ – a tide of events, not one single, foundational moment, still less individual. Off the top of my head, Zwingli, Calvin, and even, one could argue, Wycliffe were all ‘reforming’ before, or at the same time, but entirely independent of Luther.

    Brought to you by Posters for Historical Pedantry.

  • I bet more people assign themselves a religious affiliation though. Knowing nothing about religion but retaining a residual attachment to its conservative ethos is perhaps the saddest position of all.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Ahem

    The question asked was: Name the first Protestant reformer?

    Maybe that’s no more accurate than wrote though!

  • Name the first Protestant reformer?

    Easy, Jan Hus.

    Basically, this is a secular country with a small and noisy fundamentalist minority who have power grossly disproportionate to their numbers.

    But only because the rest of us let them.

  • Dev

    83% of people knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, so discounting non-european migrants, roughly a quarter of the NI population do not know where Jesus was born?! That doesn’t show a lack fo religious knowledge so much as a lack of a brain.

  • Ahem

    “Basically, this is a secular country with a small and noisy fundamentalist minority who have power grossly disproportionate to their numbers” – no, this is just silly, and presumes for the author a window into others souls he just doesn’t have. Plainly, on any comparative basis, Northern Ireland is still exceptionally religious, specifically Christian.

  • barneyben

    That doesn’t show a lack of religious knowledge so much as a lack of a brain.

    Maybe they just don’t buy into the whole Jesus thingy, thereby demonstrating the presence of an active and independently funtioning brain.

  • Ahem

    Signing up to the Western world’s normative tendency hardly shows stellar amounts of free thinking.

  • Ulster McNulty

    “..people will find the Northern Ireland results surprising in that the general impression is that the north is more religious than the south”

    Maybe people in the south are increasingly putting their cafe mocha lattes and cocaine to one side and getting out their rosary beads in order to stave off a property market meltdown.

  • barneyben

    As opposed to the stellar free thinking of faith based “intellegent design” nutters?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Na, maybe people in the south have a much wider knowledge of Christianity depite becoming more affluent and secularized than those in the north.

  • Dev

    Maybe they just don’t buy into the whole Jesus thingy, thereby demonstrating the presence of an active and independently funtioning brain.

    Posted by barneyben on Dec 10, 2007 @ 01:31 PM

    I’m an atheist but I still know where Jesus is popularly believed to have been born. An active and functioning brain wouldn’t block out all information which didn’t fit it’s views and opinions.

  • Ahem

    Yeah Barn, you’ve clearly got “open minded” stamped all over you.

  • Craigavoner

    It’s a well known fact that the more prosperous the country the less interest in religion.

  • If judgement day arrives, I’m quite optimistic of my chances of not getting flayed alive because I’m shit hot at answering quiz questions.

    On the questions. Does anyone truly believe that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem? What is the point of making people trudge back to their hometown for a census? I sense that the Bethlehem thing is a piece of shameless editorialising to lend Jesus a whiff of royal glamour.

  • topdeckomnibus

    Craigavoner

    And the more money they spend at Christmas.

  • topdeckomnibus

    And, with millions (apparently) still paying for last Christmas you can see how the wondrous closed loop systems of the universe play out.

    By next Christmas they will be that poor, burdened down by credit debt, they will turn back to religion.

  • Craigavoner

    What good will they be then? the priest will have some bake on him when he peeks into the collection basket.

  • manichaeism

    Craigavoner,

    “It’s a well known fact that the more prosperous the country the less interest in religion.”

    The USA. The most prosperous country in the world for some time I believe and still quite religious too!

    In God They Trust!

    God Save America!

  • topdeckomnibus

    Craigavoner

    The Priest could employ them on God’s work as self employed (making the low unemployed figures look really impressive) and every parishioner can declare a loss (as Zero Income) in order to score more money from Tax Credit than they were getting on benefits.

    The Priest collects half the profit difference (to keep them religious by Ian Gilmour’s principle of relative poverty)

    It’s all in the Parable of the Talents. (An instructional text I am told)

  • [i]#

    Craigavoner,

    “It’s a well known fact that the more prosperous the country the less interest in religion.”

    The USA. The most prosperous country in the world for some time I believe and still quite religious too!

    In God They Trust!

    God Save America!
    Posted by manichaeism on Dec 10, 2007 @ 06:34 PM[/i]

    And I’m sure you have actual numbers to back this claim up.

  • “Basically, this is a secular country with a small and noisy fundamentalist minority who have power grossly disproportionate to their numbers.

    But only because the rest of us let them.”

    Well said Sammy Morse.

    Big Ian and Marty were recently visiting the only developed country where the religious outnumber the non-religious.
    That religiosity is one reason for the decline of the USA as a world power.
    March on secular Europe!

  • slug

    “83% of people knew that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, so discounting non-european migrants, roughly a quarter of the NI population do not know where Jesus was born?!”

    I get about 1/6th.

    (Perhaps we should also be worried about basic math skills?)

  • Tierney

    What the poll results would actually seem to show – assuming a large majority of respondents in the RoI were raised as Catholics – is that Catholic knowledge on both sides of the border is very similar, and a little better than that of those raised as Protestants in regard to these particular questions. It seems surprisng though that a higher percentage of people can name the authors of the four approved Gospels than the percentage who know how many Gospels there are…

  • barneyben

    The question was “where was Jesus born?”. Non-believers would be perfectly entitled to sabotage the survey on the grounds that it used leading questions. If the question had been “according to the bible, where was Jesus born?” then the result might have been different.

    Ahem – do you think there’s something inherently narrow minded about suggesting alternative explanations to the surveys “findings”?

  • T.Ruth

    T.Ruth
    Jesus was born in Bethlehem-we have it on good historical authority.
    St.Matthew CH 2 V1
    St.Luke Ch 2 vv4-6
    Micah Ch 5 v 2
    It is a sad thing to read many of the comments and to realise that many people have no faith and no hope that there is life beyond our mortal death-beyond the grave.

    It must be awful to live without hope and even worse to die without it.A lot of the anti God discussion fails to recognise that God is super natural but he has revealed something of himself to us in the Old and New Testaments and offers us the chance of a restored relationship with him.He promises that we will live with him forever if we believe in Jesus and His resurrection.

    -Jesus is the only answer to all the problems mankind faces.The Way,the Truth and the Life.

    It amazes me the time many people spend denying Jesus and attempting to prove that there is no God.
    T.Ruth

  • What i surprising about this is the flat (apparent) contradiction with the CBBC survey showing 95% of children in NI believed in god and 65% prayed daily. It seems the god they pray too is some vague notion of a sky fairy, granting wishes. That so few have any scriptural knowledge, however, points to a celebrity obsessed culture where knowledge (whether the seeking of scientific truth or the fables of religion) is left bleeding at the roadside of yet more ‘reality tv’ and the general dumbing down of society. While I reject any literal truth in religion I do respect the values as pieces of literature despite their historical and scientific transgressions.

  • Martin

    T.Ruth
    Jesus was born in Bethlehem-we have it on good historical authority.
    St.Matthew CH 2 V1
    St.Luke Ch 2 vv4-6
    Micah Ch 5 v 2
    It is a sad thing to read many of the comments and to realise that many people have no faith and no hope that there is life beyond our mortal death-beyond the grave.

    It must be awful to live without hope and even worse to die without it.A lot of the anti God discussion fails to recognise that God is super natural but he has revealed something of himself to us in the Old and New Testaments and offers us the chance of a restored relationship with him.He promises that we will live with him forever if we believe in Jesus and His resurrection.

    -Jesus is the only answer to all the problems mankind faces.The Way,the Truth and the Life.

    It amazes me the time many people spend denying Jesus and attempting to prove that there is no God.
    T.Ruth’

    The Bible is good historical authority? About as accurate as ‘Lord of the Rings’!

    It’s not a big deal that there’s no life after death, because we didn’t have life before birth and there was no problem with that.

    ‘Attempting to prove there is no God’? Why don’t you attempt to prove there is one. Only you can’t, as you haven’t the foggiest idea what he looks like.

  • fionn

    “On the questions. Does anyone truly believe that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem? What is the point of making people trudge back to their hometown for a census? I sense that the Bethlehem thing is a piece of shameless editorialising to lend Jesus a whiff of royal glamour.
    Posted by Hugh Green on Dec 10, 2007 @ 05:33 PM”

    Not that I disagree with you Hugh (regarding the birthplace of Jesus that is), but as a matter of interest China still have that policy to this day. Excellent means of controlling the population. In fact citizens must do all government paperwork in their hometowns, unless they have received express premission to do otherwise.

  • Turgon

    These surveys are always relatively interesting but I am never entirely sure how much we should read into them. Pronouncements of the end of religion and the attendant celebration / wailing which accompany them are probably a little simplistic.

    Whilst there does seem to be a secularising trend with people loosing all interest in religion there is also the danger of people having a form of religion but that not impacting their lives in any constructive fashion:-

    “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” II Timothy 3:5.

    In terms of “Does anyone truly believe that Jesus was actually born in Bethlehem”. Yes that would be me, admittedly He was almost certainly not born on 25th December.

    As an aside which may interest some. I have heard that this famous verse:
    “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2:7

    May explain that Mary gave birth to our Lord in the stable not because there was no space for them in the inn but because there was no private spare space / room and as such the stable was somewhere away from everyone else for the birth to occur. It has absolutely no relevance to faith but I thought it an intersting suggestion.

    In terms of what Christians believe. Although I am not a member of the CoI this is not too bad a statement:

    We believe in God the Father Almighty,
    Maker of heaven and earth :
    And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord:
    Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
    Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
    Was crucified, dead, and buried:
    He descended into hell;
    The third day he rose again from the dead:
    He ascended into heaven,
    And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
    From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

    I believe in the Holy Ghost:
    The holy Catholick Church;
    The Communion of Saints:
    The Forgiveness of sins:
    The Resurrection of the body,
    And the Life everlasting. Amen.

  • nuttal

    T.Ruth,

    “It is a sad thing to read many of the comments and to realise …”

    “It must be awful to live without hope and even worse to die without it…..”

    It saddens me that grown men and women have to rely on hope and promise of another life to get through this life. Is your life so empty that you need the promise of another life to keep you sane?

    I’m pretty sure, no matter what your bible says, that, on the off-chance that there is a God, he’ll be happy if i live a full and decent life, using reason and belief in myself to get by; rather than relying on a hope in the existence of a mysterious spirit to hold my hand.

    If i had children i’d be pretty disappointed if they had to come back to me for guidance, belief and hope of all things. I’d be much happier if they could live their own lives and stand on their own two feet.

  • Turgon

    nuttal,

    You seem to be describing a God who will accept whatever you do playing by your own rules. Unfortunately the bible does not proclaim that. Your analysis seems to be that “I am good enough”. I am afraid that I for one do not believe that I am good enough.

    All your beliefs or non beliefs are of course entirely your own business. The one part of your post I object to is this:
    “If i had children i’d be pretty disappointed if they had to come back to me for guidance, belief and hope of all things. I’d be much happier if they could live their own lives and stand on their own two feet.”

    My children are very young and of course they look to me. I still (at the age of 36) quite often ask my parents (and indeed others) for guidance, yes, and even hope. I do not pretend to have all the answers.

    I guess that is weakness on my part?

  • Fionn: that’s very interesting re China.

    Might I say, given the accounts of Jesus in the gospels, I cannot imagine him insisting on

    -knowledge of his birthplace;
    -knowledge of the authors of the Gospels, or their number;
    -knowledge of which of the ten commandments comes first;
    -knowledge of the name of the first book of the Bible

    and so on, as conditions for entering his Kingdom of God. I would also note that many priests and Christian Brothers -to name two groups- knew all these things, but this did not stop them abusing the weak and vulnerable.

  • eranu

    sad to see so many totally reject God and the bible. what process do we use to decide whether what a book says is true or false? usually i would expect people to actually read it and perhaps google a few details they weren’t sure about. you can do your own checking on the people, places and events. you will find evidence from non Christian writers and sources of the time to back up the accounts in the bible.
    if you’re a logical person then the more you find out the more you will believe the bible to be true.
    sadly as any Christian will tell you, people just ‘reject’ God without giving him a chance to make himself known to them.

    as regards the survey. i think alot of catholics tend to go to church (occasionally) as a ritual thing even though they dont really have much of a faith. i think protestants only go to church if they are actually Christians. i think this might explain the higher bible knowledge for catholics as probably a higher percentage of them have been to a church. nothing scientific, just a gut feeling based on the catholics i know in dublin.

  • spelling bee

    Of the 17% who didn’t answer that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, I wonder how many of them answered “in a manger”?, which is still a correct answer given that the question did not ask “In which city was Jesus born?”…..

  • eranu
    Most people reject God because ,round about puberty, they work out that jesus and santa Claus are the same guy.
    Although I am lucky to have Mithras as my personal saviour ;0)

    Oh and I know that I have a friend in Tammuz…….

    Once there was alchemy now we have chemistry.
    Once there was astrology now we have anstronomy.
    Religion should go the same way.
    Even the Bronze age cargo cult that both Big Ian and Marty find solace in……

  • eranu

    phil, how have you come to the conclusion that jesus and santa are the same guy? are you just messing? please describe your evaluation process, i bet you cant.
    i’ll bet none of the anti God people have actually taken the time to read and understand the bible? seems a bit irrational to me…
    you’d think the possibility of spending eternity in hell would register as important with people, just to put your mind at rest. if it all proves to be nonsense then phewee. if not then best to find out how to avoid hell i would have thought? 🙂
    not going to get into a big debate. just wanted to highlight the irrationality of dismissing something so important without very detailed research.

  • Plainly, on any comparative basis, Northern Ireland is still exceptionally religious, specifically Christian.

    Compared with where? The USA? Poland? Nigeria? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Don’t be silly.

    As a churchgoing Christian, I am well aware that I am part of a minority (in Belfast, really quite a small minority). At least if you define Christian in meaningful terms: “I believe Jesus Christ was the son of God and himself God (and am to some degree an active part of a Christian community)”, as opposed to, “I ticked a box on a census form to say whether I was a Taig or a Prod”.

    I am also well aware that Conservative Evangelical lobby groups like Christian Research and the apalling Christian Institute will seize on figures like the fact that 71% of people in England ticked the ‘Christian’ box in the 2001 Census to push gibberish like “a majority of people in Britain are Christians and oppose anti-Christian measures like civil partnerships for hommmosexuals”. Ignoring the fact that every other test of opinion shows a majority in favour and that plenty of Christians are in favour of them; or in them.

    Jesus was born in Bethlehem-we have it on good historical authority.

    […]

    Micah Ch 5 v 2

    Er, Micah was writen several hundred years before the birth of Christ. You have an interesting definition of the word ‘historical’.

    People like you do the Christian faith a disservice by switching your brains off when you read the Bible. All you do is discredit it. The Bible is not the Koran. Not every word of it was dictated personally by God. Deal with it.

  • Wilde Rover

    “Protestant churches might be concerned that only 2% more Prods could name Martin Luther as the religious figure who started the Protestant Reformation (Catholics 30%, Protestants 32%).”

    I am sure the same group of people on both sides would be the ones answering a variety of questions on a range of subjects the other seventy percent couldn’t.

    And yet the other seventy percent on both sides could probably make a fair stab at naming the bra size of Britney Spears or the latest pointless sports gossip.

    It would be amusing, if the thirty percent grouping willing to reflect on more important matters were not trapped in the dialectic.

    Ulster McNulty

    “Maybe people in the south are increasingly putting their cafe mocha lattes and cocaine to one side and getting out their rosary beads in order to stave off a property market meltdown.”

    Pithily amusing.

  • Craigavoner

    This movie pretty much sums up religion for me

    http://zeitgeistmovie.com/index.html

    That it’s a fake/lie.

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    ”It is a sad thing to read many of the comments and to realise that many people have no faith and no hope that there is life beyond our mortal death-beyond the grave. ”

    Why believe in something that there is no proof of Martin?

    ”sad to see so many totally reject God and the bible.”

    Why is it sad Eranu?

    Why is there a need to believe. May as well believe in Santa, if that’s the case. I have a reasonably good knowledge of religions, but I’m an atheist and a very happy one at that! I don’t have a need to believe in a god.

  • Wilde Rover

    Craigavoner,

    True, Zeitgeist does open the proverbial can of worms.

    But it makes the contribution of Luther (theologically misinformed though he was) even more relevant, considering his arguments for free will and a free press.

  • Niall

    Not so much losing our religion as becoming dumber. Even atheists should know the basic facts about such a historically important movement as Christianisty, even if it wasn’t drilled into people at school.

  • eranu

    “Why is it sad Eranu?”

    Gréagóir, its sad because those of us that have learned that the bible is true, know that when we all die we are judged by God. since everyone has sinned, the price to be payed for sin is eternity in hell or the ‘lake of fire’. not too nice. but Christians have Jesus who died to pay for their sin. he has payed the price, shouldered our sin, so that we may enter heaven. its that simple.
    its that payment for sin that non Christians cant make. thats why its sad to know that the people we know and love that have rejected God are destined to pay for their sin themselves.

    i can honestly say that once you start to learn about God and what the bible has to say it is the most mind blowing stuff. if you thought The DaVinci Code was an epic story, when you learn the bible from a good bible study teacher its amazing. the most interesting stuff, and unlike The DaVinci Code the bible is true.

  • eranu

    earlier this year three major religious festivals fell on the same day.
    One Islamic,one jewish and the other Christian.

    Logically they can’t all be correct.

    However,logically, they can all be wrong.

    Some people nred comforting myths about their impending non-existence as their drug of choice.
    I do not.
    Moreover most people’s religious beliefs were battered into their heads as kids.
    At a time in their development when they hadnt developed a critical facility.

    You mioght need an imaginary friend called jesus, but I have plently of real ones.
    Including one called Jesus. He supports Barca AND Celtic;0)

  • Ahem

    Sammy, if you really want to insist that NI isn’t exceptionally religious, go right ahead. Of course it is, and by singling out the half dozen or so places possibly comparable to it, in terms of religiosity, all you’ve done is hammer into the ground just how many places you couldn’t compare the Province to. But the really ‘silly’ thing you wrote was as regards what makes someone a ‘Christian’. Here’s a hint: a deep meaningful relationship with the Chadwick twins isn’t it. Your way isn’t the only way. Seriously, once in a decade, *every* APNIer ought to try humility – just for a day, but do have a go.

  • eranu
    The Bible-Hmmmmm-been subject to a few re-writes hasnt it?
    A few problems with translation I believe;0)

    Nicean creed anyone?

  • of course it is, and by singling out the half dozen or so places possibly comparable to it, in terms of religiosity

    Afghanistan is comparable with Northern Ireland in terms of religiosity? Wise the fuck up. What, I’m going to go and flog my sister half to death for flirting because the Koran told me so, am I? I know a major point of your purpose on this blog is to use chop-logic to try and make me look stupid. The problem is, if you take it to extremes, you end up making you look stupid.

    To whit: categorically much more religious than Northern Ireland – all of Africa, the Middle East, the sub-continent, the United States, Indonesia. I’m not even going to bother debating marginal cases like Poland or Mexico or Malaysia or the Andean countries. Or Australia frankly. Because my little shortlist has just under half the world’s population and your argument is demonstrably falsified.

    By the way, what proportion of Northern Ireland’s population go to church of any given Sunday?

  • Ahem

    Goodness, look who’s gotten hysterical. Sweep, sweep, sweep you go – and virtually not one square mile of it to do with what I actually said. Namely, “on any comparative basis, Northern Ireland is still exceptionally religious, specifically Christian”, which it is. Really, the level of patronising racism inherent in just asserting that, somehow, ‘Africa’ is meaninfully more ‘religious’ than here is painfully embarrassing. Personally I’m glad you don’t want to debate your ‘mraginal cases’ if that’s the irrefutable aspect of your argument.

  • K man

    Ahem, just what are you banging on about?

  • Gréagóir O’ Frainclín

    Eranu, you believe as fact everything written in the bible? You believe it is the word of god, despite the historical and geographical inaccuracies, inconsistencies, etc….

    That’s were it all falls apart really!

    http://www.bandoli.no/

  • Oh what a friend we have in Mithras………..