Wexford People

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The changing face of religion

IS FAITH relevant today? I don't believe so.

There are many reasons for this, one of them being the fact that we live in a very different Ireland than our ancestors did. Times have changed.

For example, in 1975 85% of Irish people attended Mass regularly. By 2004 that number had dropped down to 60%.

This may not seem like much of a drop, but a 25% decrease is significant as it shows that a quarter of the population that once attended church is not anymore.

These results come from the religion in Western Europe section of the World Values Survey, and indeed Ireland is not alone in this trend.

All across Europe, church attendance is dropping. Also keep in mind that as Ireland is a first world country in which the older population outnumbers the young, which helps to explain why church attendance rates are still relatively high at 60%.

Interviews with younger generations show a growing apathy towards religion, and church attendance amongst young people is far less common.

Brian Kenny, a 39-year-old, when asked about religion said: 'I don't go to church, and I don't know one person who does. Fifteen years ago, I didn't know one person who didn't.'

Christianity is also no longer the only option in Ireland. Today people have the freedom to believe what they feel is right for them, rather than what they are told they should believe.

For a long time the Church had a significant amount of control over how people lived their lives. However, that has begun to change.

Remember the Committee of Evil Literature? A group of over zealous extremists who banned any book which went against the teachings of Catholicism, which turned out to be nearly all of them.

The question must be asked – does the world need religion?

Many believers are good people, but is it their religion that makes them good?

I have noticed that many of the world's most religious people, the ones who go above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to their faith, are also bigots.

Take for example the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. They are known throughout the world for being the most homophobic of people and are also known for their hateful campaigns.

This is not the first time religion has been hijacked to justify hatred. The Crusades, the Thirty Years War, the Troubles – over and over again the same pattern of people using religion as an excuse to kill their neighbour rather than love him.

Humanity finds countless other reasons to hate and to kill, there is really no need for one more reason.

If we are to ever progress beyond all this violence driven by religion, then we may have to leave religion behind.

It is clear that we need something new. What that something new is, well no one is quite sure yet.

But as church attendance continues to drop, it is clear the people of Ireland are looking for something else.