Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Losing And Finding Their Religion

Should it come as any great surprise that the youth in the Balearics are less religious than their parents or grandparents? It would surely be a surprise if they were more religious. How much can one read into the fact that a Gadeso survey has revealed that half of those aged between 16 and 29 say they don't believe in any religion and that almost 80% of Catholics between these ages admit they don't practise the religion? This compares with 70% of 30 to 44 year-olds who reckon that they are believers or 91% of the over-65s.

The Gadeso survey discovers, again no surprise, that 90% of the youthful sector favour abortion and that the percentages are lower among the older groups. There is almost unanimous agreement among the young that the system of financing of the Catholic Church, one that the last Zapatero government was going to get tough on but backed down on, is wrong. The oldsters think it is ok, though only by a small majority.

Youthful rebellion and all that, but is there more to this apparent irreligiousness than simply refusing to go to church or to the fact, as was shown in 2010, that the numbers who take religious education in secondary schools has declined significantly - a mere 15%?

Doubtless there will be hand wringing and head shaking by church supporters at what will be perceived as a moral and religious decline among the youth. It will be interpreted as a manifestation of the corrupting influence of secularism, and there will probably be some fundamentalists who try and twist the government's arm into introducing laws to herd the young into church on a Sunday morning. But they would of course be totally wrong to try and do so. I have no disagreement with those who are religious and no desire to cause any offence, but a personal conviction of deep irreligiousness places me firmly on the side of the Balearics youth.

This religious rejection comes against the background of the election of the new pope, coverage of which seemed to be just as obligatory in non-Catholic Britain as it was in Spain. Quite why an ancient Argentinian who has landed himself a decent sinecure in his old age should command so many column inches or so many TV images is beyond me. Incidentally, does anyone know how much the pope earns? Again, no disrespect meant, but why was the coverage so important other than for highlighting the various issues that Pope Francis should be tackling, like making the church rather more in tune with the twenty-first century, or the twentieth, come to that?

You may construe from all this that I don't have a great deal of time for the church. In fact, I do. For some of it what it does, notably its charity work. Caritas is a noble and honourable organisation. It, along with the Spanish Red Cross, does vastly more than the government does to help the disadvantaged. I have all the time in the world for it. And it no doubt is of help to the disadvantaged young that are being tossed onto the economic rubbish dump. If Caritas benefits from the church's state funding or from the very small percentage of tax on incomes (0.7%) that taxpayers have opted to divert directly to the church's charitable works, then so be it.

I am also not totally against the favourable tax arrangements that the church has, as in it tends not to pay any property taxes when the earthly do. But so long as it is clear that this is a tax advantage that goes towards the upkeep of wonderful churches that demand being preserved as part of cultural heritage. That the church has proved to be obstructive in entering into discussions with the government over its paying at least some more tax does it no great favours. As Spain's second largest landowner, it's not exactly short of a bob or two.

But to come back to the youth and their religious beliefs or lack of them, the latest survey shows little change to one that was conducted in 2010. When there is another one in 2016, the result will probably be roughly the same again. It is a natural youth thing, one that is subject to changing; there are no doubt some potential career-advancement opportunities by being associated with the church as they get older. What the survey shows, in all likelihood, is a pretty much normal situation. The youth can lose their religion when they are young, but when it becomes useful, they can just as easily find it again.

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

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