Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Religions of my country: Scotland

The 2001 census showed that 65% of Scots identified themselves as Christian and 28% had no religion.

The two main religious groups in Scotland are Protestant (the majority) and Roman Catholic (a significant minority). The Protestant faith has many branches - chiefly Church of Scotland but there is also the Free Church of Scotland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Methodist Church.

Islam makes up the other biggest religious group with an estimated 50,000 followers. These are chiefly made up of people of Indian and Pakistani origin who make up the biggest immigrant group in Scotland mostly resident in the West of Scotland. Glasgow has its own mosque.

There are also significant Jewish, Seikh, Hindu and Buddhist communities.

Unfortunately I cannot say that Scotland is a tolerant society. Particularly in the west of Scotland there is a great deal of religious bigotry mostly between Protestants and Catholics. The two main football teams Rangers (traditionally Protestant) and Celtic (traditionally Catholic) encapsulate this. For years Rangers would never sign a Catholic player and vice versa. Though players of all demominations are now signed, bigotry remains among the fans and singing of sectarian (or anti-catholic) songs still happens at matches but is frowned upon officially. It makes me sad writing this to have to admit this happens in my country.

In schools we still have separate state-funded Catholic schools where children receive a certain amount of religious instruction (in Catholicism) at school. In other “non denominational" schools children are taught religious education – ie to understand and appreciate other religions – and hopefully to make them more tolerant and aware of others' beliefs.

Less and less people follow any sort of organised religion with church attendance dropping steeply in recent years. Many churches have been converted to flats, warehouses, a climbing wall (!) or even demolished completely.

We still respect several Christian festivals like Christmas and Easter though the meaning of these seems to be getting lost over time.

Religion is becoming a more personal thing and I think that many people would admit to being spiritual but not to following any type of organised religion. I have a couple of friends who are Buddhists but don’t really talk about their beliefs. From a personal viewpoint I was born a Protestant, went to Sunday school and church when I was a child but don’t follow any organised religion now. I do, however, have personal spiritual beliefs and believe in many of the concepts of Christianity (and other religions) like loving and forgiving my fellow human beings.

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