and now comprise around 50% of the population - according to the Census data this year.
Almost as soon as the figure was announced someone tried to place the blame for this on the former Prime Minister (a church going "fundamentalist"). They also place blame on one of his predecessors (a devout Catholic who once began training for the priesthood), and a Cardinal (eventually acquitted of sexual abuse by a seven-nil decision in the High Court).
That they themselves might have anything to do with the drop in the numbers of people going to church was something this person, and many others, were apparently not even prepared to contemplate. My own reasoning suggests that they have more to do with it than the three people they mentioned.
When it is a choice between your child playing sport for their school on Sunday morning or going to church then sport is going to win. It will win because the child will be told by the school and their peers that this is what is expected of them. This is the right thing to do. Going to church is not right. It isn't what you do on Sundays. Sundays are for school sport.
It used to be that Saturdays were for school sport, before that it was even played between Monday and Friday. Now it has crept into Sundays as well.
There are other reasons for not going to church as well of course but the range of activities which have become available on Sundays have made an impact. With that have come the very vocal non-believers who are determined to "convert" anyone with such beliefs into non-believers.
It is also some of these non-believers who insist that Christmas cannot be celebrated but Eid (and like events) must be observed in order not to appear "prejudiced".
The Senior Cat was a church goer. He went not because he believed in what he considered to be "myths and fairy stories" but because he believed in the other things a church community offered. These were things like friendship, community support, care for others, living your life in accordance with Christian principles, and more. It is perhaps as good a reason as any for going to church. From the time he started teaching he was called on, like so many other young male teachers of the time, to provide a local rural community with the Sunday service. That Sunday service was a very important event each week. It brought people together, people who often saw very little - if anything - of their neighbours during the week. It also allowed people to share their worries and help one another.
We had "RI" in school too - "religious instruction". It was just one lesson each week. In the city it was taken by volunteers - who often had discipline problems - but in rural areas it was usually a lesson provided by the teacher. I don't remember being told to believe anything in those lessons. I do remember being taught about the fundamental principle - "love one another". We were taught about "do unto others..." too. We were given examples in Bible stories and in other stories.
All that seems to have gone in schools but the children across the road are well up on Ramadan. They know about other such events too, even if they have no idea what is meant by "disciple".
I wonder what would happen if we stopped all school sport on Sundays, closed the shops which are now open, and the internet ceased functioning for a few hours. Would people go back to church? Would they go to find companionship and support?
The Senior Cat was very interested in why people didn't go to church. He was also interested in what might cause them to choose to go to church. We both agreed that school sport should be returned to Saturdays - even if people didn't use Sunday to go to church. Those who want to should not be prevented from doing so because Sunday is convenient for those who choose not to go to church. Those who might find some sort of comfort or companionship there should be able to go if they wish. Or should we simply accept that non-believers have more rights than believers?