The Common Good

In Scotland, Nonreligious Surpass the Church of Scotland

For the first time on record, the number of Scots with no religion outstrips those who belong to the Church of Scotland.

Flag of Scotland, painted on barcode surface. Via Shutterstock, by Micha Klootwijk

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Figures from the 2011 census released Monday show that 37 percent of Scottish people regard themselves as nonreligious, while 32 percent said they identified with the Church of Scotland, known as the Kirk. Some 16 percent said they were Roman Catholic.

The number of people saying they had no religion rose to 1.9 million people, up from 1.4 million in 2001. The total population of Scotland is 5.2 million.

The Herald, a Scottish newspaper, said the rise of the nonreligious represents a significant shift in social attitudes in what was once one of the world’s strongest Calvinist societies.

“Just as their numbers rise, so the moral alignment of the people has changed in respect of assisted suicide, gay marriage, and an array of liberal positions on heterosexual behavior,” the newspaper said.

Scotland is the first country in the U.K. to accept same-sex marriage and the first religious ceremony will take place in early 2015.

Reacting to the census statistics, the Rev. Colin Sinclair of the Church of Scotland’s Mission and Discipleship Council said that despite the swing away from the national church, the Kirk was still “a vibrant and important force in society.”

Trevor Grundy writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

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