The Irish consider religion to be the least important part of their lives, according to the results of a new survey.
As IrishCentral notes, the VitalSigns study, conducted by the Community Foundation for Ireland, revealed that of 119 possible options, the people of Ireland ranked religion and spirituality the "least important aspect of their lives."
Conversely, education was ranked the most important, with environmental concerns and the well-being of children also highlighted as critical issues.
The poll, which was carried out in September and October of 2012 and involved more than 600 respondents, looked at public perception of Ireland's strengths and weaknesses. In addition to asking respondents to indicate what issues are most important to them, the survey also looked at how satisfied people are with various aspects of the country.
"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 leaders wrote in a summary of the survey's results.
The summary continues:
It tells us that notwithstanding the harsh recession which is biting in so many ways in terms of the availability of services and supports, people in Ireland are still passionate about learning and investing in the next generation. 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.
Tina Roche, CEO of the Community Foundation for Ireland, said that religion, in contrast, did not fare quite so well in the VitalSigns poll.
"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," she said in a Streamabout video posted to YouTube. "2012…was a tough year for religion. I think with time, that is going to change. Religion is still very important, but less so."
This is not the first time that Ireland's relationship with religion has been cast into question.
Last August, a 2012 WIN-Gallup International poll on faith and atheism revealed that Ireland -- traditionally known for its large Catholic populace -- had seen "one of the steepest drops worldwide in religiosity."
According to the global index, only 47 percent of those surveyed in Ireland said they considered themselves religious -- a 22-point drop from the 69 percent recorded in a similar 2005 poll. Moreover, 10 percent identified themselves as atheist.
Ireland isn't alone in this spiritual slide, however. The WIN-Gallup poll also pointed out that there had been a significant decline in religiosity worldwide.
At the time, the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, said the survey had called attention to the challenges facing Ireland's Catholic Church, which in recent years has been undermined by sex-abuse scandals and crises in leadership.
"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," he told the Belfast Telegraph.