Young people in UK and Netherlands among Europe's least religious continental research shows

(Photo: © Peter Kenny)Offices of the European Commission on June 12, 2013.

New research shows the decline of Christianity in Europe and it points to claims young people are turning their backs on faith.

The research is published by Stephen Bullivant, a theology professor from St. Mary's University in London and gives further credence to the claim Christianity is on the decline in Europe.

It reveals that a majority of young people in a dozen European countries say they are not affiliated to a religion.

They include countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, who experts say have traditionally had strong religious cultures.

The statistics come from the joint study by the Catholic Institute of Paris along with St. Mary's Catholic University at Twickenham in Greater London.

It is on the religious affiliation of young people aged 16-29 in Europe.

In 12 out of the 21 European countries studied, plus Israel, most young people say they have no religion. This figure rises to 91 percent in the Czech Republic.

In 12 out of the 21 European countries studied, plus Israel, most young people say they have no religion. This figure rises to 91 percent in the Czech Republic.


This decline in religious affiliation, which should not be confused with belief in God, which can be distinguished from belonging to a religion, forms one of the main conclusions, a report in La Croix International highlights.

The authors base their findings on sub-samples of several hundred young people aged 16-29 in each country, analyzing their beliefs and religious practices.

Nevertheless, these samples were sometimes quite limited in size, meaning that caution is necessary in drawing conclusions, says La Croix.

Thus, in France, 64 percent declared themselves to be without a religion compared with 23 percent who said they were Catholic and 10 percent who were Muslims.

However, another survey carried out by OpinionWay for La Croix in July 2016, which was based on a much larger and more representative sample, found that 42 percent of young people aged 18-30 described themselves as Catholic while 47 percent said they had no religion.

Euronews reported that a study by the Pew Research Center in 2015 said Europe's Christian population is expected to shrink by around 100 million people in the coming decades.

It said while Christians will remain the largest religious group in Europe, Muslims will make up 10 percent of the continent's population by 2050, up from 5.9 percent in 2010.

Key conclusions of Bullivant's report include:

The Czech Republic, with 91 percent has the largest proportion of young adults (16-29) with no religion.

Poland is at the other end of the scale and just 17 percent don't have a faith.

A majority of this young adults in Estonia, Sweden, Netherlands, UK, Hungary, Belgium, France, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Spain don't associate with a religion.

The biggest concentration of young adults identifying as Christians can be found in Poland (83 percent), Lithuania (74 percent) and Ireland (59 percent), while the smallest proportions are in Czech Republic (9 percent), Sweden (18 percent) and the Netherlands (19 pecent)

The largest proportions of young Muslims (16-29), of the European countries studied, can be found in France (10 percent), Belgium (10 percent) and Austria (10 percent).

Bullivant said: "The differences in the religiousness – or, as dominates in many countries, non-religiousness – of 16-29 year-olds in our sample of European countries is genuinely remarkable. There are, moreover, some genuine surprises in the data.

"For example, Ireland's young adults are – contrary to recent reports – still remarkably religious, at least by the standards of other highly developed European nations.

"Meanwhile, countries that had, until quite recently, traditionally strong religious cultures – Lithuania, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria – look to be in serious trouble, in terms of the coming generations."

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