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Neo-paganism in the Republic of Ireland

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Title: Neo-paganism in the Republic of Ireland  
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Subject: Religion in Ireland
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Neo-paganism in the Republic of Ireland

Life in Ireland

The predominant religion in Ireland is Christianity, with the largest church being the Roman Catholic Church. Ireland's constitution states that the state may not endorse any particular religion and guarantees freedom of religion.

In 2011, 84.2% of the population identified themselves as Roman Catholic, 2.6% less than 5 years earlier, although the number of Catholics increased by 179,889.[1] The second largest Christian denomination, the Church of Ireland (Anglican), declined in membership for most of the twentieth century, but has more recently experienced an increase, as have other small Christian denominations. Other significant Protestant denominations are the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, followed by the Methodist Church in Ireland.

Although the majority of the Irish population is Christian, the country is religiously pluralistic. The country's Hindu and Muslim populations have experienced significant growth in recent years, due chiefly to immigration.[2] In the 2011 census, 269,811 people (5.9%) had no religion, with 3,905 and 3,521 people describing themselves as "atheist" and "agnostic" respectively. Those who did not state a religion numbered 72,914 (1.6%).[1] Researchers debate the relative significance of secularisation as a general feature of Irish society,[3] the interpretation of census results [4] and the extent to which religious syncretism is becoming more widespread.[5]


Originally, the 1937 Constitution of Ireland gave the Catholic Church a "special position" as the church of the majority, but also recognised other Christian denominations and Judaism. As with other predominantly Catholic European states, the Irish state underwent a period of legal secularisation in the late twentieth century. In 1972, the article of the Constitution naming specific religious groups, including the Catholic Church, was deleted by the fifth amendment of the constitution in a referendum.

Article 44 remains in the Constitution. It begins:

The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.

The article also establishes freedom of religion (for belief, practice, and organisation without undue interference from the state), prohibits endowment of any particular religion, prohibits the state from religious discrimination, and requires the state to treat religious and non-religious schools in a non-prejudicial manner.


Despite a large number of schools in Ireland being run by religious organizations, a general trend of secularism is occurring within the Irish population, particularly in the younger generations.[6] Many efforts have been made by secular groups to eliminate the rigorous study in the second and sixth classes, to prepare for the sacraments of Holy Communion and confirmation in Catholic schools. Parents can ask for their children to be excluded from religious study if they wish. However, religious studies as a subject was introduced into the state administered Junior Certificate in 2001; it is not compulsory and deals with aspects of different religions, not focusing on one particular religion. Schools run by religious organisations, but receiving public money and recognition, cannot discriminate against pupils based upon religion or lack thereof. A sanctioned system of preference does exist, where students of a particular religion may be accepted before those who do not share the ethos of the school, in a case where a school's quota has already been reached.


Christianity is the largest religion in the Republic of Ireland based on baptisms. Irish Christianity is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church which has 84.2% of the population as followers. Most churches are organised on an all-Ireland basis which includes both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Irish travellers have traditionally adopted a very particular attitude to the Catholic Church, with a focus on figures such as "healing priests".[7] More generally a tradition of visions continues, often outside of Church sanction.[8]

Evangelical movements have recently spread both within the established churches and outside them.[9] Celtic Christianity has become increasingly popular, again both within and outside established churches.[10]

The patron saints of Ireland for Catholics and Anglicans are Saint Patrick, Saint Bridget and Saint Columba. Saint Patrick is the only one of the three who is commonly recognised as the patron saint. Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated in Ireland and abroad on 17 March.

Eastern Orthodoxy in Ireland is represented mainly by recent immigrants from Eastern European countries, such as Romania, Russia, or Ukraine, and accounts for 1% of the population.

Church attendance

Church attendance in the Republic of Ireland
Year % of weekly church attendance in Republic of Ireland[11][12][13]
Church attendance among Irish Roman Catholics
Year % of weekly church attendance among Irish Roman Catholics[14][15]

According to a Georgetown University study, the country also has one of the highest rates of regular Mass attendance in the Western World.[16] While daily Mass attendance was 13% in 2006 there had been a reduction in weekly attendance from 81% to 48% between 1990 and 2006, although the decline was reported as leveling off.[17] In the 1970s a survey had given figures at 91%.[18] In 2011, it was reported that weekly Mass attendance in Dublin was on average 18%, with it being lower among younger generations and in some areas less than 2%.[19][20] A 2012 survey of Irish Catholics undertaken by the Association of Catholic Priests found the weekly mass attendance rate to be 35% on an all-island basis, while daily mass attendance was reported at 3%.[21]

No religion

Main article: Irreligion in the Republic of Ireland

A 2006 Dentsu poll found that 7% of Ireland had no religion. According to Greeley (2003), 5% of those in Ireland do not believe in God, but only 2% accept the self-identification of “atheist.” According to Ingelhart et al. (2004) and Davie (1999), 4% of the Irish do not believe in God.[22]

In a 2007-2008 Gallup Poll, 42% of Ireland answered no to the question "Does religion occupy an important place in your life?" and in the 2011 Gallup, 53% of Ireland answered no.

A 2010 Bishops Conference survey found that 10.1% of Irish Roman Catholics did not believe in God.[23]

According to a 2012 WIN-Gallup International poll, Ireland had the 2nd highest decline in religiosity from 69% in 2005 to 47% in 2012, while those who considered themselves not a religious person increased 25% in 2005 to 44% in 2012. The poll also showed that 10% of Ireland now consider themselves convinced atheists, which is a vast increase from 2005.[24]

Other religions


The earliest recorded presence of Jews in Ireland was in 1079 in the Annals of Inisfallen.[25] As of 2011, the Jewish population is 1,984.[26]


Main article: Islam in Ireland

There are 49,204 adherents (1.07%) of Islam in Ireland as of 2011. Irish Islam has a long and complex organisational history.[27] Islamic new religious movements such as Fethullah Gulen are also represented in Ireland.[28]


The population of Buddhists in Ireland is 8,703 (0.19%). Irish Buddhists such as U Dhammaloka are recorded from the late nineteenth century on, with numbers growing particularly in the 21st century. Beyond formal membership in Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Western Buddhist groups, there is increasing syncretism, with self-identified Christians and others using Buddhist meditation techniques, Buddha images, texts by figures such as the 14th Dalai Lama and so on.[29] Reputed links between Buddhism and Celtic religion have long played a role in Irish literature.[30]


Main article: Hinduism in Ireland

The spread of Hinduism in Ireland is increasing. The 2011 Irish Census reports 10,688 Hindus resident in Ireland, more than triple the number in 2000 (when 3,099 Hindus were recorded).[26]


Various Neopagan movements are active in Ireland, especially Wicca, Neo-druidry and Celtic Polytheism.[31] Ireland is also a significant point of reference for various kinds of Celtic [32] and other neo-pagan spirituality and religious practice around the world, such as the Fellowship of Isis.[33]

New Age

The New Age is increasingly significant in Ireland,[34] often as a form of syncretism for members of established religions. Participation is strongly gendered, with a high proportion of women.[35] A typical example is A course in miracles.[36]


Census 2011

The results of the 2011 census were as follows:[1]

Religions in the Republic of Ireland, 2011
Religion Number Percent
Christianity 4,150,944 90.47
Roman Catholic 3,861,335 84.16
Church of Ireland 129,039 2.81
Orthodox 45,223 0.99
Presbyterian 24,600 0.54
Apostolic/Pentecostal 14,043 0.31
Methodist 6,842 0.15
Jehovah's Witness 6,149 0.13
Lutheran 5,683 0.12
Protestant 5,326 0.12
Evangelical 4,188 0.09
Baptist 3,531 0.08
Latter Day Saints (Mormon) 1,284 0.03
Lapsed Roman Catholic 1,279 0.03
Quaker (Society of Friends) 925 0.02
Plymouth Brethren 336 0.01
Other Christian religions 41,161 0.9
Non-Christian religions 87,157 1.9
Islam 49,204 1.07
Hindu 10,688 0.23
Buddhist 8,703 0.19
Jewish 1,984 0.04
Pantheist 1,940 0.04
Bahá'í 520 0.01
Other religions 14,118 0.31
Non-religious and unanswered 350,151 7.63
No Religion 269,811 5.88
Atheist 3,905 0.09
Agnostic 3,521 0.08
Not answered 72,914 1.59
Total 4,588,252 100

Census 2006

The 2006 census showed the following results:[37]

  • Roman Catholic 87.4%
  • Church of Ireland 2.9%
  • Christian 1.9%
  • Other 2.1%
  • Unspecified 1.5%
  • None 4.2

Eurobarometer Poll 2010

According to the most recent Eurobarometer Poll 2010,[38]

  • 70% of Irish citizens responded that "they believe there is a God"
  • 20% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force"
  • 7% answered that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force"

See also

External links

  • The Study of Religions (UCC)


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