'Looking good' more important for Irish students than religion: survey

(Photo: REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton)Director of Ceremonies Brian Whiteside (C) conducts a humanist wedding ceremony for groom Brendan Hastings and bride Suzy Addis at the Millhouse in the village of Slane, County Meath July 17, 2013. Traditionally Catholic Ireland has allowed atheist wedding ceremonies this year for the first time, but the few people certified to celebrate them are overwhelmed by the hundreds of couples seeking their services. Photograph taken on July 17, 2013.

 Looking good is more important than religion to Irish college students, a recent survey has found.

The Student Marketing Network poll was conducted among 1,146 third-level students across the Republic of Ireland over two weeks in August the company revealed on Thursday.

The survey shows that the prospects of Ireland sustaining its reputation of being a country of devoted Catholics.

The survey chose 1,146 third level students at random across the Republic of Ireland.

It showed that while less than 60 percent of respondents considered themselves Catholic, the second largest group were atheists at 20 percent.

Colman Byrne, Managing Director of Student Marketing Network and oxygen.ie, said: "The survey brought up a lot of interesting information that people may have different views on but it certainly shows that there is a major disconnect between organized religion and young people in Ireland."

The poll found that just 37.5 percent of students who responded "state that they believe in God," while 66 percent "don't believe that religion makes the world a better place."

Asked whether abortion should be allowed in Ireland, 83.5 percent responded that it should.

In the survey students said that they regard "looking good" (fifth) as being more important than "religious beliefs" (sixth), with "friends and family" topping the list of importance.

It also found that 57.8 percent claim to be Catholic, compared to 84.16 percent of the general population (Census 2011).

The survey found that 2.2 percent of students are Church of Ireland/Protestant, compared to 2011 census figures of 2.81 percent in the general population.

Of the Catholic students surveyed, 61.5 percent said 'Yes' when asked if they take communion, only 32.2 percent believe that it is the body and blood of Christ.

When asked "Do you attend communal religious ceremonies and functions?" the highest response was "No" at 61 percent, and those who responded "Yes" mainly attend only 1-3 times a year.

When offered a number of choices for why students don't follow a religion, the most popular response was that they "Don't believe in the teachings" (77.8 percent).

About 45.2 percent of students only follow a religion because of their parents influence, yet 40 percent of the students who took our survey wouldn't want their children to follow the same religion they were brought up with.

Only 13.7 percent follow a religion due to a strong faith.

Only 11.7 percent said that they follow religious teachings in everyday life.

When asked how they would characterise their belief in God, only 37.5 percent state that they believe in God with the top response at 41.5 percent being that students are unsure if there is a God.

The survey showed that 78.7 per cent of students have been negatively affected with regard to how they perceive the Catholic Church after recent scandals.

Meanwhile, 76.8 per cent of students said they think that the Catholic Church has too much power in Ireland.

When asked "Do religious beliefs have a place in society?" 54 per cent of students stated that they do not believe society needs the influence of religion.

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