(Photo: Reuters/ Toby Melville)
The Republic of Ireland, which has long been held up as one of the most traditional Roman Catholic Church nations, has ranked religion dead last out of 119 options in a new poll seeking to determine what people consider important in their lives.
"The least important to us -- so it's not that it's unimportant, but it's the least important to us -- is religion and spirituality," said Tina Roche, CEO of the Community Foundation for Ireland. "2012 … was a tough year for religion. I think with time, that is going to change. Religion is still very important, but less so."
The poll, conducted by VitalSigns, asked over 600 respondents between September and October 2012 to rank 119 aspects affecting their lives in terms of importance, and to give a letter grade to different areas, such as education, health care, environment, services for the elderly, and others.
Irish Central noted that religion and spirituality ranked at the very bottom of the 119 options. Two files from the Community Foundation for Ireland offer the survey in question, as well as a report on the grading results, but the full list of 119 ranked options was not available. The Huffington Post also reported that religion apparently came in last place.
The areas deemed most important to people's lives were education, followed by environmental concerns and the well-being of children.
"VitalSigns tell us that in terms of overall satisfaction with life in Ireland we score a C+ -- not a bad score, but clearly no room for complacency," Community Foundation commented on the results in a summary.
"Education indicators (ranging from the overall quality of the education system and literacy levels through to libraries and reading and universities and third level education) accounted for 8 out of the top 10 most important issues overall. The home life of children and young people and air quality were the other 2 issues which featured in the top 10 issues," the summary adds.
The results are consistent with a 2012 WIN-Gallup International poll on faith and atheism which showed that Ireland experienced one of the steepest drops in religiosity in the world in the past several years. Less than half of Irish citizens, or only 47 percent, said they considered themselves religious, while 10 percent identified as atheist.
"The Catholic Church, on its part, cannot simply presume that the faith will automatically be passed from one generation to the next or be lived to the full by its own members," Diarmuid Martin, Archbishop of Dublin, said at the time.