Study: Christianity as a Default is Gone in Contemporary Europe

Spiritual Suicide

A report called Europe's Young Adults and Religion — which was a collaboration between St Mary's University in London and the Catholic University of Paris — shows a majority of young adults in 12 countries have no faith, with Czechs least religious. Stephen Bullivant, Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion at St Mary’s University, has published nine books in theology and social sciences and he leads this report. In the report he was exploring religious affiliation and practice among young adults, aged 16-29, in contemporary Europe.

The secularization of European countries leads to a significant change in religious trends. Religion was “moribund”, Bullivant said. “With some notable exceptions, young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practicing religion.” According to Bullivant, many young Europeans “will have been baptized and then never darken the door of a church again. Cultural religious identities just aren’t being passed on from parents to children. It just washes straight off them.”

In the UK, for instance, only 7% of young adults identify as Anglican, fewer than the 10% who categorize themselves as Catholic. Young Muslims, at 6%, are on the brink of overtaking those who consider themselves part of the country’s established church.

One of the key finding of the research shows that the proportion of young adults (16-29) with no religious affiliation (‘nones’) is as high as 91% in the Czech Republic, 80% in Estonia, and 75% in Sweden. These compare to only 1% in Israel, 17% in Poland, and 25% in Lithuania. In the UK and France, the proportions are 70% and 64% respectively.

It is notable, especially given the overarching purpose of this report, that the six ‘most Christian’ nations are all historically Catholic-majority countries, and include representatives from both western (Ireland, Portugal, and Austria) and central Europe (Poland, Lithuania, and Slovenia). The report compares countries of a similar social background. For example, it is interesting to note that both the two highest (Czech Republic and Estonia) and two lowest (Lithuania and Poland) are post-communist countries.

The trend of religious affiliation was repeated when young people were asked about religious practice. In only four countries do more than one-in-ten 16-29 year-olds claim to attend religious services on at least a weekly basis: Poland, Israel, Portugal, and Ireland. Our other eighteen countries are distinctive, despite significant variability in their numbers of religious affiliates, by their relative uniformity of (non) practice.

“Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good – or at least for the next 100 years,” Bullivant said. “The new default setting is ‘no religion’, and the few who are religious see themselves as swimming against the tide,” he said. Professor Bullivant predicts even fewer young people will be religious in the future, but says those who do practice will be even more devout. “In 20 or 30 years’ time, mainstream churches will be smaller, but the few people left will be highly committed.”

We can conclude that the number of believers in Europe is decreasing and that young generations ARE CHANGING the trend in religion by turning to common sense.

Photo Credits: Atheist Republic

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