The percentage of people not identifying under any religion has been growing in Northern Ireland. According to the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey 2020, on question "Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?", about 27% of the population identified as non-religious, which is a 7% increase compared to the percentage of non-religious people in 2019.
There are more people identifying as non-religious in Northern Ireland than ever before, yet schools are required to conduct collective worship by law – we are delighted that the High Court has granted permission for this legal challenge to go ahead.https://t.co/dgVZV7DpOi
— Northern Ireland Humanists (@NIhumanists) June 11, 2021
According to past data, the number of non-religious people has doubled through the last decade, as it was 12% in 2009. Humanists of Northern Ireland welcomed the survey result mentioning that they anticipate that the surge in the number of non-religious identifying people is the consequence of changing beliefs and attitudes of the society as a whole. They are hopeful that these changing numbers will have a positive impact on the law and policy in Northern Ireland.
The coordinator of Northern Ireland Humanists, Boyd Sleator, commented on the result that "We're delighted to see such rapid growth of the non-religious in Northern Ireland. To us, this suggests more and more people who have long been non-religious are finding the confidence to identify that way publicly." He added, "The non-religious community in Northern Ireland is now reaching parity with the Catholic and Protestant communities. This is a huge change. And it provides a stark contrast to the divisions that defined Northern Ireland in years gone by."
Sleator also discussed how the latest survey result could affect the upcoming single education system stating, "With so many in Northern Ireland not belonging to any religious camp, our divided education system simply can't be justified today. We want to see integration across Northern Ireland's schools, and an end to religious segregation and compulsory collective worship. We'll be making the case for that as part of the upcoming education review later this year."
Over the last few years, Northern Ireland has been experiencing a surge in non-religious people through various humanist ceremonies. After humanist marriages being legally recognized in 2018, hundreds of Northern Ireland couples have been opting for humanist weddings every year. From 2016, since the Northern Ireland Humanists was founded, its membership has grown to over 2,500 people across Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland Humanists group is also part of Humanists UK, the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. The Humanist Association of Ireland is another group working with the Humanists UK in this region. The 100 thousand members strong organization and its supporters promote free and rational thinking to achieve a kinder, tolerant, and ethical society. The organization provides ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and many other support services. It also actively advocates for human rights, equality, and other social and ethical issues.