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 (%)
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:
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.”
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.