tt.humanist :: forum :: commentary :: 2013 :: religion
Religion: "Non-religious" fastest growing group in T&T
22 February 2013 • 376 words
The recently published 2011 Demographic Report included trends on religious affiliation in Trinidad and Tobago. Of the thirteen categories, five denominations showed declines between 2000 and now (Anglican, Presbyterian, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, and Methodist). All other religious groups showed an increase, with the largest ratio being the born-again Christians (Pentecostal/Evangelical/Full Gospel), who doubled in size. It must be noted, however, that affiliation may be a cultural marker rather than any indicator of active religiosity Catholics, for example, constituted the largest denomination at 285,671 persons, but the church’s own figures show that only 17 percent of Catholics attend church regularly.
Additionally, by far the largest percentage increase in the last decade occurred among persons who categorised themselves as having no religion or who did not state any affiliation. The former rose by 33 percent, while the latter increased by a whopping 868 percent. Put together, this group now constitutes 13 percent of the population, outnumbering even the born-again Christians (175,640 non-religious persons to 159,033 born-agains). This is in line with global trends. In the United States, nearly 20 percent of the people describe themselves as non-religious, while in the United Kingdom about two-thirds do so. It must be emphasised that, contrary to the propaganda preached by religious believers, progress has marched in step with this decline in religious affiliation (as defined by less violence, more human rights, deeper democracy) and that the societies with the worse indicators in these respects are, almost invariably, societies with high levels of religiosity.
In T&T, there is no contradiction between the apparent rise in fundamentalist Christianity and a simultaneous movement away from religious belief. Studies of non-believers in other societies show that the intolerance, bigotry and self-promotion by religious fundamentalists are key factors which make people turn from religion. Such attitudes may also facilitate societal violence and official corruption.
More importantly, religious groups have generally enjoyed disproportionate benefits and political influence in our society. Non-religious persons are, almost by definition, not organised, but they would tend to share the same values and concerns. This would imply that, when it comes to public policy on matters such as the death penalty or abortion or gay rights, politicians may want to consider what would persuade such voters to support them at election time.
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