While millions of Christians celebrated Easter this year, new statistics have revealed bleak prospects for Christianity across Europe, even more so because of the challenges stemming from declining population, rising numbers of Muslims as well as individuals who do not associate themselves with any particular religion. As Europe continues to boast of ostentatious ceremonies at religious sites to draw thousands of believers round the year, more and more people in different European countries claim not to belong to any faith, so much so that small-sized local churches have been resorting to desperate measures to bring back their flock.
RT News Berlin Correspondent Peter Oliver has discovered outright evidence for the waning of Christianity across Europe, with more and more churches being surreally transformed into museums, or even, in one peculiar case, a skate park. This particular church, located in the Netherlands, sometimes witnessed days when only a couple of worshippers visited before it was finally reconstructed as a skate park so more people could find it of use. While state records substantiate this lack of attendance, over 40 percent of the Netherlands’ population does not identify with any particular religious denomination.
Germans are comparatively more conservative, with a little less than under a quarter of non-believers comprising part of the country’s population. Yet, certain churches in the country’s rural areas are left unvisited for over 24 hours, sometimes managing to draw only a visitor or two over the course of a week. These churches thus attempt to draw their flocks during Christmas, with unusual installations of Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. The most recent attempt saw these Biblical characters being carved out of tree trunks. In the past, there have been similar installations depicting the Last Supper.
“All the churches have a guest book. I saw in there a suicide note, someone who had decided they were going to take their own life,” said Sonja Hahn, chairwoman of the Determined Churches Foundation. “Then a while later, in the same handwriting, that person was saying that being able to come to this place had convinced them otherwise. I think that says just why they should remain as places of prayer.”
It is difficult for statisticians to show optimism in such a situation, especially after recent findings revealed a growing trend of religiosity in other parts of the world despite Europe and the United States witnessing a growing trend of atheism. According to the new study by Pew Research Center, the number of agnostics, atheists and individuals who do not affiliate with any religion in Europe is expected to increase by at least 16 percent by the year 2050.
Europe is the only continent that will apparently witness a fall in its total population by mid-21st century, which would understandably reflect in its number of Christian churchgoers. The number of Christians in Europe is projected to fall by at least 100 million, which is an 18 percent decline from 553 million in 2010 to 454 million in 2050. The Jewish population in Europe, too, is expected to shrink from 1.4 million in 2010 to 1.2 million in 2050.
However, the remaining religious denominations in Europe are expected to grow in numbers due to factors such as younger populations, religious switching, net gains via migration and higher fertility rates. Yet, globally, the ranks of all major religions are expected to expand, with Muslims not only matching up to Christians but also surpassing them by 2070. This growth however will not hold true in the case of Buddhists.
“If current demographic trends continue, Islam will nearly catch up by the middle of the 21st century,” the Washington-based think tank said in the study. “Between 2010 and 2050, the world’s total population is expected to rise to 9.3 billion, a 35 percent increase. Over that same period, Muslims – a comparatively youthful population with high fertility rates – are projected to increase by 73 percent. The number of Christians also is projected to rise, but more slowly, at about the same rate as the global population overall.”
Photo Credits: Finding Justice