The Malta Independent 29 February 2024, Thursday
View E-Paper

TMID Editorial - Malta and religion: a changing relationship?

Saturday, 11 June 2022, 09:31 Last update: about 3 years ago

One of Malta’s most significant claims to fame has always been its intense connection with the Catholic faith. 

The country has been known for its churches, for its religious feasts, for being the place where St Paul found refuge a couple thousand years ago and – further to that – being one of the bastions of conservative thought, largely prompted by the religious nature of society.

However, the State of the Nation survey reveals that this relationship between Maltese society and religion is changing – more so, that it is waning.

The survey, which saw the participation of around 1,000 respondents, sought to understand – amongst other things – society’s relationship with religion.

The survey found that while over 92% of all those over the age of 36 believe in God, that number drops to 79.7% for those aged between 16 and 25 and to 78% for those aged between 26 and 35.

Furthermore, while 90.3% of those over the age of 66 said that religion is very important in their lives, that number consistently drops as the ages get younger.  It comes to the point that only 26.6% of those aged between 16 and 25 consider religion to be very important in their lives.  The same percentage of that age demographic said that religion is not important at all to them.  41.8% said that it is somewhat important.

Only 8.9% of this demographic said that they took religion into heavy consideration when deciding what is right and wrong – compared to 76.5% in those over the age of 66.

All of this points to a society which is giving less and less importance to religion.

In truth this is not something which should come as a surprise.  Church attendances have been dropping, and after the Covid-19 pandemic, even the usually popular feast associations are struggling to find volunteers to keep things going.

The interesting, and obvious, question is how this quite obvious shift will affect the makeup of Maltese society, and, secondly, how the political parties will react to this slow shift in attitude.

We’ve seen a Labour Party in government which has veered ever increasingly to the progressive side with its reforms, perhaps having read the room – so to speak – and seen that the more conservative attitudes generally associated with increased emphasis on religion is waning.

The upshot has been sets of legal reforms which, while in part have riled certain elements of society, have always been measured to the point that they do not anger the greater part of the electorate.

The Nationalist Party meanwhile has maintained its traditional more conservative stance on the matter, perhaps to its detriment as it has consistently failed to attract any tangible support from younger demographics.

As society gets more progressive in its attitude we may see even more reforms centred around some thorny topics – such as euthanasia or even, dare it be said, abortion – come into the public discourse more.  We may also see a more tangible change in strategy and attitude on the Opposition benches when it comes to social matters.

These are all hypothetical scenarios, and there’s no guarantee or certainty that any such thing will come to pass.  For all we know, the opposite might happen.

But what’s clear is that change does appear to be afoot. What impact it will have remains to be seen.

  • don't miss