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Census and religious trends

Friday, March 08, 2013    

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Dear Editor,

The 2011 population and housing census report included trends on religious affiliation. Of the 20 categories, several denominations showed declines between 2001 and now (Anglican, Baptist, Roman Catholic, Moravian, Methodist and the minority Baha'l). All other religious groups including the minorities (Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Rastafarian) showed an increase.

Of note are the statistics on "no religion/denomination" which increased from 543,902 in 2001 to 572,005 in 2011. By far the largest percentage increase in the last decade occurred among people who categorised themselves as having no religion or who did not state any affiliation. The former represent a whopping 20 per cent. This is in line with global trends. In our Caricom sister state of Trinidad and Tobago, nearly 13 per cent of the people describe themselves as non-religious, while in the UK about two-thirds do so.

Of note are the statistics on "no religion/denomination" which increased from 543,902 in 2001 to 572,005 in 2011. By far the largest percentage increase in the last decade occurred among people who categorised themselves as having no religion or who did not state any affiliation. The former represent a whopping 20 per cent. This is in line with global trends. In our Caricom sister state of Trinidad and Tobago, nearly 13 per cent of the people describe themselves as non-religious, while in the UK about two-thirds do so.

It must be emphasised that, contrary to the propaganda preached by religious and some educational leaders, progress has marched in step with this decline in religious affiliation (more human rights, stable democracy, education and exposure).

In Jamaica, there is no contradiction between the apparent rise in non-traditional Christianity and a simultaneous movement away from religious belief. Studies of non-believers in other societies show that the self promotion, intolerance and bigotry by religious fundamentalists are key factors which make people turn from religion.

More importantly, Christian groups in Jamaica have generally enjoyed disproportionate benefits and political influence in our society. Non-religious people and minorities are, by definition, silent on national and even religious issues, but they would tend to share the same values and concerns as every other Jamaican.

This silence would imply that, when it comes to public policy such as human rights or abortion or the death penalty, politicians would undoubtedly consider what would persuade voters to support them at election time.

Andrew King

abking020@gmail.com

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