The Registrar General for Scotland, George MacKenzie, just released a fascinating report on births, deaths, and marriages in 2011 (PDF).
It turns out civil ceremonies — conducted by local government officials — made up 52% of all ceremonies last year, up from 31% in 1971. Humanist celebrants conducted 2,486 marriages last year compared to 5,557 conducted by the Church of Scotland. (For the purposes of this report, Humanist ceremonies fall into the “Other” category, not the “Civil” category.)
The overall trend, though, is away from religious ceremonies:
There are now more couples choosing humanist ceremonies than Catholic weddings in Scotland, according to official figures published yesterday. If the trend continues, there will be more humanist wedding celebrations than Church of Scotland marriages in three years’ time.…
Humanism is a belief system grounded in the doctrine that humans can live ethical and fulfilling lives based on reason, without reliance on religion or superstition.
Mr MacKenzie said: “We would normally authorise clergy of churches but Humanists also come into that category because they have a belief system, albeit it’s not a religious belief system, and it seems to be very popular indeed.”
This is good news — atheists generally have a hard time replicating the ceremonies that churches hold on important occasions. It’s one of the big reasons there aren’t a ton of non-religious families — how do you throw a wedding, celebrate a birth, or die with dignity, without the help of religion? That’s a question we need to answer if we want people to stay firm in their non-theistic convictions and not go back into a church as they grow older.
In Scotland, it looks like the 110 religious celebrants there are doing their part to take religion out of these important moments in life and more people are taking advantage of that.
(Image via Shutterstock)