Belonging without believing: religion and attitudes towards gay marriage and abortion rights in Northern Ireland

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Same-sex marriage has become a divisive issue in established western democracies. As in earlier research on abortion, there is now a growing body of studies which suggests that religious factors, such as identity, belief and practice, are the most frequent predictors of opposition towards gay marriage. Yet, what we know about the combined influence of these religious factors remains unexamined. Mindful of this omission, this study examines the relationship between regular church attendance and a belief in God on attitudes towards same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Using recent survey data from Northern Ireland, the results suggest that not only are those who belong but do not believe distinctive in terms of their demographic makeup, but they are also significantly more likely to adopt a liberal stance in relation to both these issues – gay marriage and abortion rights – than the most religiously devout, or those who both belong and believe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-366
Number of pages17
JournalReligion, State and Society
Issue number4
Early online date21 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018



  • abortion
  • believing
  • belonging
  • gay rights
  • Northern Ireland
  • religion

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