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Religion on the up amongst young islanders

Religion on the up amongst young islanders

Friday 29 December 2023

Religion on the up amongst young islanders

Friday 29 December 2023

The number of young islanders who say they "have a religion" has grown since 2018 – but numbers have been steadily declining in every age group over 35 since 2015.

Just 39% of all islanders now say they have a religion – a decline of 8% since 2018 – according to figures from the latest Jersey Opinions and Lifestyle survey.

And although that proportion increases progressively with age, numbers have been steadily declining in every age group over 35 since 2015.

Only among islanders aged 16 to 34 – the group with the lowest proportion holding religious beliefs – was the trend reversed in the latest survey, with 28% responding positively, compared with 22% in 2018.

However, this still represents a significant fall from the 37% recorded in 2015.

In all other age ranges – 35 to 44, 44 to 54, 55 to 64 and above 65 – there has been a progressive decline, with the largest fall among the 45 to 54 age group where this year's figure of 35% compares with 58% in 2015.

The next largest fall was among those of 65 and above. Although this remains the largest group who hold religious beliefs – and the only one in which there remains a majority who do – the proportion fell from 78% in 2015 to 57% this year.


Pictured: The Dean of Jersey, the Very Rev Mike Keirle.

Jersey's Dean, the Very Rev Mike Keirle said that he did not read too much figures about people's religion. "Firstly, because I have never found religion to be a particularly helpful word to use to talk about faith. Religion speaks of institution, faith speaks of relationship.

"Secondly, the survey sample numbers are a very small proportion of Jersey's population (just under 1.5% I believe) and, whilst I recognise that statistical weighting has been used, it is impossible to predict statistically who is or isn't a believer in God.

"However, whilst there has been a decrease in numbers associated with 'organised religion', many church leaders, including myself, have actually experienced church growth in the last year and that people are hungry to know more about faith," the Dean said.

Analysing responses to the survey by place of birth, the data indicates that the largest proportion claiming religious beliefs were those born outside Europe at 73%, an increase of 3% on the 2015 figures.

Within Europe, the largest proportion holding a religious belief were those born on the Portuguese mainland or in Madeira at 68%. This compared with 37% among those both elsewhere in Europe and 38% in the British Isles. Only 30% of those born in Jersey responded positively.

Religious belief is slightly higher among women than men, 41% compared with 37%. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority (93%) of those with religious beliefs were Christian.

Deputy Louise Doublet, a committee member of Channel Islands Humanists, told Humanists UK that the increasing number of non-religious people in Jersey, especially amongst the younger generation, demonstrated a clear need for policy and legislation that is inclusive of all, regardless of religion or belief.

"Although there has been progress in Jersey that I am proud of, such as the legal recognition of humanist marriages on the island and the passing of an opt-out organ donation law, there is still much work to do, including progressing with work to introduce assisted dying legislation. We will continue campaigning to ensure that public settings and services are inclusive to all, including the non-religious, and these most recent statistics only strengthen that case," she said.


Pictured: Deputy Louise Doublet, a committee member of Channel Islands Humanists.

The Dean said he shared Deputy Doublet's view that legislation should be inclusive of all wherever possible but he added: "I would like to make it clear that the issue of assisted dying is not an issue that should be conflated with faith or the lack thereof.

"Whilst many Christians stand against assisted dying, there are others who support it and, indeed, there are many humanists and people of no faith who are passionately against assisted dying. In the forthcoming debate, we will need to make this very clear.

"From my conversations, what concerns people the most are the lack of safeguards so far in any documentation that has been produced, to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable in our community. That, to my mind, should be at the forefront of everyone's mind, whether they believe in God or not."

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