The majority of Scots believe prayer can change the world, that there is life after death, and that not everything can be explained by science.
A report of attitudes towards faith and belief in
Scotland also warns of a potential “new sectarianism” with a gap
appearing to be opening between religious and non-religious people.
recommend setting up a national advisory board to address areas of
concern, such as people with no religious belief feeling excluded from
The Faith and Belief in Scotland
report by the University of Edinburgh was commissioned by the Scottish
Government to help councils provide services for people of religion and
belief. Those described as “people of belief” in the report are those
who do not belong to an organised religion.
More than 1,400 people were asked 38 questions relating to current ethical issues.
The major faith groups and the philosophical belief systems of secularism and humanism were represented.
Of the respondents, 66 per cent said there were things in life that science cannot explain.
58 per cent said prayer can have a real effect on the world. Fifty-four
per cent believed in life after death, with more people believing in
heaven (45 per cent) than hell (37 per cent).
Siddiqui, from the university’s school of divinity, and Dr Anthony
Allison, the project’s lead researcher, said the results demonstrated
the diversity of perspective and opinion that exists. An example of the
diversity was revealed over the issue of same-sex couples with opinion
strongly divided within both religious and belief groups.
half said that same-sex couples with no religious affiliations should
not be allowed to marry in a religious place of worship. Less than a
quarter believed they should.
However, if same-sex couples had a
religious belief, half thought they should be allowed to marry in a
place of worship. Only 29 per cent objected.
Most Scots (59 per
cent) felt that their own beliefs were misunderstood by the wider
community, with three-quarters saying it was important people learn more
about their world view. The report’s authors said Scottish society was
becoming more ethnically and religiously diverse.
Scottish census results on religion revealed 54 per cent of people
identify with Christianity and 37 per cent with no religion. Those
identifying with no religion were also the group seeing the largest
growth from the 2001 to 2011 census – an increase of 9 per cent.
the same period, by contrast, those identifying with Christianity saw a
decrease of 11 per cent and most other minority religions either
remained the same or showed small percentage increases. However, the
report said the short and long-term impact of such demographic changes
remained to be seen and it was not known if the trends would continue.
Prof Siddiqui said action needed to be taken to make Scottish society less divisive.
added: “The issues around religion in public life are creating a new
tension and dynamic in Scotland, and it is important that we minimise
unnecessary division for the sake of a more inclusive Scotland.”
Allison said the next challenge was getting people to understand each
other and talk “to” one another rather than “at” each other.
added: “I think the findings confirm what a number of people suspect.
Spirituality is alive and well in Scotland and takes various forms
cutting across the religious and not religious divide.”