Archive for the ‘religion’ category

The non-religious Swiss increases in size

April 20, 2011

25% of the Swiss are non-religious

A March 31st report by Swissinfo.ch (31st March, 2011) carried news of a survey indicating that one in four Swiss citizens chose to describe themselves as ‘non-religious’. This was significantly up from the 1% who claimed to be non-religous in 1970 and the 11% who did so in the year 2000.

The Natural Science Foundation funded survey was carried out by Lausanne University professor Jörg Stolz and Münster University professor Judith Könemann, who suggested caution in interpreting the data. They pointed out that these unaffiliated individuals ‘might believe in God or be alternatively spiritual.’

The survey polled 1,229 people and a further 73 in-depth interviews produced a categorisation of people as one of four types: distanced (64%), institutional (17%), secular (10%), and alternative (9%). Institutionals represent the active churchgoers whilst the majority ‘distanced’ group attended occasional church services but did not consider religion to be very important in their lives. Most ‘alternatives’ were women and interested in’meditation, reincarnation and herbal remedies’.

Commenting on the findings, Markus Ries, a theologian at Lucerne University, predicted that in 25 years time there would be much more plurality regarding religious and non-religious practice, mirroring the increasing plurality in society at large.

In 2000, 161,075 people or 2.2% of the population belonged to so-called free churches (non-state recognised Christian denominations). For the moment Switzerland remains a Protestant country with 32% of the population claiming allegiance, a slim 1% ahead of the Roman Catholic population.

Further information about the changing face of religion in Switzerland and a number of useful links to the websites of various Swiss Churches is available by following this link.

Non-religious young people in Britain

April 15, 2011

Dr. Rebecca Catto (Lancaster University) has published her initial reflections on a small-sale survey of non-religious young people on the guardian online. ‘Beyond Grayling, Dawkins and Hitchens, a new kind of British atheism‘  reports on a one year project that explores the worldviews of young people who self-identify as atheists, free thinkers, humanists, secularists, and/or sceptics.

Catto reports that these ‘new atheists’ may be ‘more flexible and open to different perspectives than older non-religionists (some report attending events with actively Christian friends), and prefer to engage with online communitiesthan belong to official organisations. They are strongly influenced by family and education. Some have reacted against Christian upbringings; have been influenced by writers like Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris; one man is looking to challenge the influence of the Christian Union on his university campus; and another would like to break the association between Britishness and Christianity. For one woman, the important thing is being pro-human rather than anti-religious.’

This greater flexibility on the part of the new atheists compared to older non-religionists is supported by our own analysis of data from the European Values Survey in which we examined generational differences and secularisation.

The challenge to Christian witness is not necessarily that the new atheist perspective is a ‘faith-free’ zone. For some it would appear to be a search for truth and morality and for whom ‘the secular can be just as moral, emotional and sacred as the religious.’  Lesslie Newbigin serves as an important reminder that our task in Christian mission is to demonstrate the truth that Christian versions of morality, the sacred, and human nature are more adequate, beautiful, and compelling than its rivals.

Europe for Brazilians

April 7, 2011

I’m here in Brazil for the 6th meeting of the Lausanne International Researchers’ Conference. My paper today looks at secularisation in Europe, drawing on data that my colleague, Jim Memory, and I have been collating and analysing from the 2008 data series of the European Values Survey.

For those of you who want a preview of the presentation I’ll be using, you can download a pdf copy of the slides by clicking this link.

The British public on Benedict’s social teaching

September 10, 2010

Theos reports today on the findings of a ComRes poll of 2,003 British adults in connection with the visit of the Pope.

Strikingly, despite popular disapproval about paying for his visit, a majority of the British public was in favour of eleven out of twelve of his ethical statements from the encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Theos notes that “a majority of the public even agree with some Catholic teaching about sexuality, with 63% agreeing that ‘It is irresponsible to view sexuality merely as a source of pleasure’.“

The full Theos news item can be viewed by clicking here and the data tables are accessible from that page.

How important is religion to you?

September 9, 2010

At the end of August, Gallup released news of a 2009 survey examining the importance of religion for the population of 114 countries, based on telephone and face-to-face interviews. The global average for those who said that religion was important in their daily lives was 84% but this number dipped as low as Estonia (16%) and as high as Italy (72%) in Europe. Other European countries in the survey polled as follows: United Kingdom (27%) and 109th in the list of 114 countries. Denmark and Sweden were lower than the UK whilst France (30%), Germany (40%) and Spain (49%) were higher.

Further statistical  information and the Gallup press release are available by clicking here.