More than two thirds of This is Exeter readers believe religion is dying out, an opinion poll has revealed.
According to a poll taken last month, which asked ‘Do you think religion in Exeter is dying out?’, some 69 per cent of the 216 who responded said ‘yes’.
Some 50 per cent answered ‘yes, dramatically’, while a further 19 per cent said ‘yes, slightly’.
Some 18 per cent answered ‘no’, while three per cent said ‘no, but it may do in the near future’. Eleven per cent answered ‘don’t know’.
The poll was taken after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled a Christian nurse from Exeter did not suffer religious discrimination at work after being told she could no longer wear a cross.
Shirley Chaplin took her case to the Strasbourg court in September last year after being told in 2009, after a 30-year career on the wards at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, she could no longer wear a crucifix around her neck.
Ms Chaplin was one of four Christians who claimed they lost their jobs as a result of discrimination against their beliefs, and subsequently took their cases to the ECHR.
The Court last month ruled only one of the four Christians - Nadia Eweida, a Pentecostal Christian from Twickenham who was sent home by her employer British Airways in 2006 after refusing to remove a necklace with a cross - “suffered discrimination at work over religious beliefs”.
Reflecting on the poll results, Dr Kevin Dixon of the Devon Humanists maintained while religion in the traditional sense may be changing, faith is still strong: “I don’t believe religion is dying out, there are people losing faith in organised religion,” he said.
“Exeter is right at the forefront in Devon in terms of lowering numbers of Christians. I think in the future there will be more faiths and more beliefs.
“Christianity will still be the biggest one but you will get more other ones. I think there will be a large number of faiths competing for influence and members.
“The main stream will become less religious – i.e. being identified with a particular religion. I don’t think they will become atheist, however.
“What’s interesting is that people seem to be creating their own faiths – you don’t need to go to a priest when you can research via the internet or buy a book. People are starting to find their own answers.
“The number of people calling themselves spiritualists in the Census increased.”
Reflecting on the changing landscape, Dr Dixon said: “It’s happening much more quickly than I had expected. Some 1,000 people a year in Torbay are redefining themselves.
“Religion is transforming and it’s transforming very rapidly”.
Speaking to This is Exeter last month the Very Rev'd Dr Jonathan Draper, the Dean of Exeter, maintained religion was still going strong in Exeter, although the church was exploring other ways to reach people: “There’s a lot of pressure on Sundays and often people are not going to church,” he said.
“We need to do much more about it and offer people other ways in. It’s about thinking differently – meeting at other times and going out to where people are, such as café churches. You’ll see different expressions of faith, that’s what’s interesting”.