Check out our interactive map of attitudes of people of religion and belief in Scotland
Check out our interactive map of attitudes of people of religion and belief in Scotland

Religion & belief in Scotland today

The nature of Scottish society is changing. Scotland is becoming more ethnically and religiously diverse.  The 2011 Scotland Census results on religion revealed 54% of people to self-identify with Christianity and 37% to self-identify with no religion.  Those self-identifying with no religion were also the group that saw the largest growth from the 2001 to 2011 Census – an increase of 9%.  In the same period, by contrast, those self-identifying with Christianity saw a decrease of 11% and most other minority religions either remained the same, or showed small percentage increases.  The short and long term impact of such demographic changes remain to be seen.  Will these trends continue? Is Scotland becoming less religious?  Do people no longer believe in God?  Is spirituality dead?  What impact do these changes have on social attitudes?

The project Faith and Belief Scotland sought to gauge these changing demographics by exploring various attitudes and opinions on a range of issues throughout Scotland.  Its results demonstrate the diversity of perspective and opinion that not only exists between people, religion and belief, but also within religion and belief groups. [Please note: by ‘belief’ we primarily refer to ‘humanism’ and ‘secularism’ (to understand why, please see Definitions and FAQs)].  For example, in our survey, more people identified as having a combined religion and belief identity (27%) than having a belief identity only (20%) (Chart 1).  This means that 27% of respondents identified with one of our religious categories and a humanist or secularist identification.  This seems to lend support to another survey finding in which 51% of respondents ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that it is possible to be both religious and secular.

Chart 1: Total sample by religion/belief group (%)

Large - Total sample by religious:belief group

A majority of respondents (53%) characterised Scotland as being a nation of many religions and beliefs but that some were more favoured than others.  By contrast, only 7.4% considered Scotland to be a Christian nation and 4.7% considered Scotland to be a secular nation.  65% of respondents felt that where they live is accepting of diverse religions and beliefs and 72% feel comfortable manifesting their religion or belief where they live.

The survey results also demonstrated a wide range of diversity in relation to the personal beliefs of respondents for both the religion and belief groups.  So, for example, while 31% of respondents believed humans to simply be material beings, 75% also thought that it is important to take account of a person’s spiritual care in healthcare.  Some other interesting findings from the survey revealed that:


42% of people disagreed with the statement that religiously affiliated schools have a negative effect on contemporary Scottish society.  By contrast, 41% of people agreed.”

60% of people agreed that a Muslim should have the right to pray at their place of work, during working hours.

59% of people ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that same-sex couples should have the right to adopt while 51% of people ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that religiously affiliated same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in a religious place of worship.

61% of people believe in the soul whereas 31% believe that humans are simply material beings.

41% of people believe in God as universal life force in contrast to 39% who believe in God as personal being.”

More people believe in angels (42%) than believe in God as universal life force (41%) or God as personal being (39%).

66% ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that there are things in life that we simply cannot explain through science or any other means.

More people believe in heaven (45%) than hell (37%).

49% of people believe that people’s thoughts can be influenced by spiritual forces.


The survey asked 38 questions that specifically concerned attitudes of people to religion and belief.  It is possible to explore responses nationally or by council region, and also by specific religion or belief – please do explore our religion and belief map.  We would appreciate any feedback you might have to improve this site.