Tuesday 19 July 2011

Plastic Catholics

In a previous post I reckoned that roughly 39% of Irish Catholics attended mass weekly, a key part of being a Catholic. Looks like I wasn't too far off the mark. The Irish Catholic Bishops Conference produced in 2010 a document summarising the 2008 European Values Study as it related to the practice of Catholicism in Ireland. It is a fascinating document both for its content and its deadpan tone and the following graphs and tables are taken from it. According to the report 82% of respondents identirfied as Catholic and the stats are based on their responses.

 Some of the other stuff is very interesting. Only half of Irish Catholics believe in Hell and a quarter don't believe in Heaven! A tenth don't even believe in God. I don't remember re-incarnation being part of Catholicism but for a third of Irish Catholics it is...

So what about God? Well in the Republic of Ireland 58% believe in 'Personal God', which skewers the New Religionist claim that God is the 'ground of being' etc.

So how important is God to Irish Catholics on a scale of 1 to 10? While it is definitely skewed to the high end, you have to ask yourself, if you were a good believing Catholic, would you not go all the way to eleven on this question?
Finally, what about prayer? In the Republic, 40% pray every day while about 25% pray less than 'several times a year' or never.

So, in the Republic of Ireland, of those that self-identify as Catholic:
  • Only half believe in Hell
  • Only three-quarters believe in Heaven
  • 10% don't even believe in God (sure that makes them atheists?)
  • A quarter believe in an impersonal God (and 17% either are atheists or don't know what they think)
  • Roughly half pray at least once a week, while about a third are doing well to pray once a year.
Someone with a stats background could do a proper analysis but it strikes me that about half of Irish Catholics perhaps deserve the name and the rest are Plastic Catholics, to borrow a phrase. This why it is important in any discussion on how religious Ireland is to distinguish between cultural Catholics and real Catholics.

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