Icelanders Becoming More Secular - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Icelanders Becoming More Secular

Published January 14, 2016

Icelanders’ beliefs on a number of religious topics show a country growing more secular and less supportive of the national church, according to a Maskína poll on religion and Icelanders conducted for the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association (Siðmennt).

The results of the poll, revealed at a conference hosted by Siðmennt yesterday, show that the majority of Icelanders do not consider themselves religious. Only 46% said they believed in some kind of religion, which is the lowest percentage since polling on the subject began. 30% said they were not religious, and 23.7% said they could not say if they were religious or not.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most Icelanders also support separation of church and state, as opposed to the current arrangement where the National Church is a government office under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior. 72% of those who had an opinion on the subject favoured separation of church and state, and 46% said they did not believe the government should provide financial support to any religious institutions – the highest percentage of those who responded to the question. Only 29% said the government should give priority funding to the National Church, while 25% said the state should fund all religious institutions equally.

Interestingly, despite these results, most Icelanders – 73.8% – are registered in the National Church. However, this is down from 85.4% just ten years ago, and indicates that a significant portion of Icelanders are members of the church without being religious themselves.

On the subject of schools taking children to church, especially during the December holiday season, 69% said they believed schools should take a neutral stance on religion.

The average Icelander’s position on a number of religious subjects also depends greatly on their age and political affiliation. The younger an Icelander is, the more likely they are to believe in the Big Bang and support separation of church and state, and are least likely to consider themselves religious or believe they can relate to the National Church.

At the same time, Icelanders hailing from left-wing parties showed opinions on religion more in harmony with younger Icelanders, while conservative Icelanders held religious beliefs more in keeping with the older generation.

In all, 61% support removing the article on the National Church from the Constitution, reflecting a significant change from 2012 results on the subject, when 57% held this position.

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