Religion in Europe

Religion in Europe

thumb|250px|Predominant religious heritages in EuropeReligion in Europe history, and its various faiths have been a major influence on European art, culture, philosophy and law. The majority religion in Europe is Christianity. Many countries in the Southeast, however, have Muslim majorities. Other religions including Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism exist but in much smaller numbers. Europe being largely a secular region also has the largest number and proportion of irreligious, agnostic and atheistic people in the Western world, with a particularly high number of self-described non-religious people in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, and Sweden.


Little is known about the prehistoric religion of Neolithic Europe. Bronze and Iron Age religion in Europe as elsewhere was predominantly polytheistic (Ancient Greek religion, Ancient Roman religion, Celtic polytheism, Germanic paganism etc.). The Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity in AD 380. During the Early Middle Ages, most of Europe underwent Christianization, a process essentially complete with the Christianization of Scandinavia in the High Middle Ages. The emergence of the notion of "Europe" or "Western World" is intimately connected with the idea of "Christendom", especially since Christianity in the Middle East was marginalized by the rise of Islam from the 8th century, a constellation that led to the Crusades, which although unsuccessful militarily were an important step in the emergence of a religious identity of Europe. At all times, traditions of folk religion existed largely independent from official denomination or dogmatic theology.

The Great Schism of the 11th and Reformation of the 16th century were to tear apart "Christendom" into hostile factions, and following the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, atheism and agnosticism became widespread in Western Europe. 19th century Orientalism contributed to a certain popularity of Buddhism, and the 20th century brought increasing syncretism, New Age and various new religious movements divorcing spirituality from inherited traditions for many Europeans. The latest history brought increased secularisation, and religious pluralism. [Henkel, Reinhard and Hans Knippenberg "The Changing Religious Landscape of Europe" edited by Knippenberg published by Het Spinhuis, Amsterdam 2005 ISBN 9055892483, pages 7-9 ]


Today, theism is losing prevalence in Europe in favour of atheism, and religion losing prevalence in favor of secularism. European countries have experienced a decline in church attendance, as well as a decline in the number of people professing a belief in a God. The [ Eurobarometer Poll 2005] found that, on average, 52% of the citizens of EU member states state that they believe in a God, 27% believe there is some sort of spirit or life Force while 18% do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or Life Force. 3% declined to answer. According to a recent study (Dogan, Mattei, Religious Beliefs in Europe: Factors of Accelerated Decline), 47% of Frenchmen declared themselves as agnostic in 2003.This situation is often called "Post-Christian Europe". A decrease in religiousness and church attendance in western Europe (especially Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) has been noted, but there is an increase in Eastern Europe, especially in Greece and Romania (2% in 1 year). The Eurobarometer poll must be taken with caution, however, as there are discrepancies between it and national census results. For example in the United Kingdom, the 2001 census revealed over 70% of the population regarded themselves as "Christian" with only 15% professing to have "no religion". It should be noted that the majority of those that purported to be "Christian" did so nominally. This does not indicate any belief or non-belief in a deity.

The following is a list of European countries ranked by religiosity, based on belief in a god, according to the [ Eurobarometer Poll 2005] . The 2005 Eurobarometer Poll asked whether the person believed "there is a god", believed "there is some sort of spirit of life force", "didn't believe there is any sort of spirit, god or life force".

[ Eurobarometer Poll 2005]
Country Belief in a god Belief in a spirit
or life force
Belief in neither a spirit,
god or life force
Vatican City 100% 0% 0%
Turkey 95% 2% 1%
Malta 95% 3% 1%
Cyprus 90% 7% 2%
Romania 90% 8% 1%
Greece 81% 16% 3%
Portugal 81% 12% 6%
Poland 80% 15% 1%
Italy 74% 16% 6%
Ireland 73% 22% 4%
Croatia 67% 25% 7%
Slovakia 61% 26% 11%
Spain 59% 21% 18%
Austria 54% 34% 8%
Lithuania 49% 36% 12%
Switzerland 48% 39% 9%
Germany 47% 25% 25%
Luxembourg 44% 28% 22%
Hungary 44% 31% 19%
Belgium 43% 29% 27%
Finland 41% 41% 16%
Bulgaria 40% 40% 13%
Iceland 38% 48% 11%
United Kingdom 38% 40% 20%
Latvia 37% 49% 10%
Slovenia 37% 46% 16%
France 34% 27% 33%
Netherlands 34% 37% 27%
Norway 32% 47% 17%
Denmark 31% 49% 19%
Sweden 23% 53% 23%
Czech Republic 19% 50% 30%
Estonia 16% 54% 26%

The decrease in theism is illustrated in the 1981 and 1999 according to the World Values Survey. [World Values Survey, [ Religion and morale: Believe in God] . Accessed 2007-07-25] , both for traditionally strongly theist countries (Spain: 86.8%:81.1%; Ireland 94.8%:93.7%) and for traditionally secular countries (Sweden: 51.9%:46.6%, France 61.8%:56.1%, Netherlands 65.3%:58.0%). Some countries nevertheless show slight increase of theism over the period, Italy 84.1%:87.8%, Denmark 57.8%:62.1%. For a comprehensive study on Europe, see Mattei Dogan's "Religious Beliefs in Europe: Factors of Accelerated Decline" in "Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion". Turkey and Malta are the most religious countries and Czech Republic and Estonia are the least religious countries in Europe.

Modern religions


The vast majority of religious Europeans are Christians, divided into a large number of denominations. Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination with adherents mostly existing in Latin Europe, Ireland and the Visegrád Group, but also the southern parts of Germanic Europe. Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy are organized into many churches, the largest of which are:

*Eastern Orthodoxy (the churches are in full communion, i.e. they see each other as local churches, members of a single religious body)
**Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople
**Albanian Orthodox Church
**Bulgarian Orthodox Church
**Church of Greece
**Cypriot Orthodox Church
**Romanian Orthodox Church
**Russian Orthodox Church
**Serbian Orthodox Church
*Protestantism (see list of Reformed churches, Porvoo Communion)
***Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church
***Danish National Church
***Evangelical Lutheran Church—Synod of France and Belgium
***Evangelical Church in Germany
***Reformed Church in Hungary
***Church of Sweden
***Swiss Reformed Church
***Church of England
***Church of Ireland
***Scottish Episcopal Church
***Church in Wales
***Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church
***Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church
***United Reformed Church
***Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales
***Church of Scotland
***Presbyterian Church in Ireland
***Methodist Church of Great Britain
***Protestant Church in the Netherlands (Neo-Calvinism)
***Baptist Union of Great Britain
***Baptist Union of Sweden
***Bruderhof Communities
***Seventh-day Adventist Church

There are numerous minor Protestant movements, including various Evangelical congregations, Jehovah's Witnesses and others.


Except for the Iberian Peninsula where various Muslim states existed before the Reconquista, Western Europe has no Islamic tradition. The Muslim population in Western Europe today is mostly a result of migration accounting for between 7% and 8% of the population in France, 5.8% in the Netherlands, 5% in Denmark, just over 4% in Switzerland and Austria, and almost 3 per cent in the United Kingdom. [ [ Muslims in Europe: Country guide] , BBC News, 23 December 2005, accessed 3 May 2007] In Eastern Europe/Russia, Muslims make up 70% [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Albania - People] ] of the population of Albania, 40% [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Bosnia and Herzegovina - People] ] in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 33,3% [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Macedonia ] ] in Macedonia, 92% in Kosovo, about 20% [ [ Muslims in Europe: Country guide - Serbia and Montenegro] ] in Montenegro and 12% [ [ CIA - The World Factbook - Bulgaria ] ] in Bulgaria and between 15-20% of the population of Russia. Islam has been a factor in the cultural development of Eastern Europe/Russia.


The Jews were dispersed within the Roman Empire from the 2nd century. At one time Judaism was practiced widely throughout the European continent; Throughout the Middle Ages, Jews were frequently accused of ritual murder and faced pogroms and legal discrimination. The Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany decimated Jewish population, and today, France (1%Fact|date=October 2007 of the French population, or 4%Fact|date=October 2007 of the worldwide Jewish population) is the one and only European country with a Jewish population in excess of 0.5%Fact|date=October 2007 of the total population. Other European European countries with notable Jewish populations include Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and Italy.

Other Religions

* Roma People spread through out Europe, roughly 8,840,000 - 13,540,000 people.
* Buddhism thinly spread throughout Europe and growing rapidly in recent years, about 3 million. [cite web|url=|title=Vipassana Foundation - Buddhists around the world] [cite web|url=|title=BuddhaNet - Buddhism in the West] In Kalmykia, Tibetan Buddhism is prevalent.
* Hinduism mainly among Indian immigrants in the United Kingdom. In 1998 there were an estimated 1.4 million Hindu adherents in Europe. [cite web|url=|title=Hinduism>]
* Sikhism, nearly 1 million adherents of Sikhism in Europe. Most of the community live in United Kingdom (750,000) & Italy (70,000). Around 10,000 in Belgium & France. Netherlands and Germany have a Sikh population of 12,000. All other countries have less than or 5,000 Sikhs.

below one million adherents:
* Neopagan movements in some countries, notably in Germanic Europe and the Baltic states (the UK, German-speaking Europe and Scandinavia).
* Rastafari, communities in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and elsewhere.
*Jainism, small membership rolls, mainly among Indian immigrants in the United Kingdom.
*The Bahá'í Faith, upwards of 60, 000, with populations of several thousand in Russia, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Albania, et al.
* Voodoo, mainly among black Caribbean and West African immigrants in the United Kingdom and France.
* Traditional African Religions (including Muti), mainly in the United Kingdom and France.
* Other: Animism, Christian Scientists, Gnosticism, Paganism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, Moravian Church, Mormonism or Latter-day Saints, Pantheism, Polytheism, theological relativism, Scientology, Seventh-day Adventists, Universal Life Church, Unitarians, Hare Krishna, Wiccan, and Zoroastrianism.Fact|date=July 2008

No religion

Europe has a large and growingFact|date=January 2008 atheist and agnostic Irreligous population with 18% on average answering the question I do not believe in a spirit, God or life force in [ The Eurobarometer Poll 2005] . The largest non-confessional populations (as a percentage) are found in the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the former Soviet countries of Belarus, Estonia, Russia and Ukraine, although most former communist countries have significant non-confessional populations.

Official religions

A number of countries in Europe have official religions, including Liechtenstein, Malta, Monaco, the Vatican City (Catholic), Greece (Eastern Orthodox), Denmark, Iceland, Norway (Lutheran), and Britain(Anglican). In Switzerland, some cantons are officially Catholic, others Reformed Protestant. Some Swiss villages even have their religion as well as the village name written on the signs at their entrances.

Georgia has no established church, but the Georgian Orthodox Church enjoys "de facto" privileged status. Much the same applies in Germany with the Evangelical Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In Finland, both the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church are official. England, a part of the UK, has Anglicanism as its official religion. Scotland, another part of the UK, has Presbyterianism as its national church, but it is no longer "official". In Sweden, the national church is Lutheranism, but it is also no longer "official". Azerbaijan, France, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and Turkey are officially "secular".


ee also

* Religion in the European Union
* List of religious populations
* Islam by country
* Buddhism by country
* Hinduism by country
* Judaism by country
* Protestantism by country
* Roman Catholicism by country
* No Faith by Country
* Major world religions
* African religions
* Religion in Asia
* Religion in North America

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