Religion in the European Union

Religion in the European Union

Religion in the European Union is diverse, although primarily Christian. The European Union is secular, despite there being state churches (typically Protestant) in a number of the member countries, for example the Church of England. In recent times, there has been an increase in secularisation in many countries in EU, while others have not experienced such developments.


thumb|Predominant religious heritages in Europe

The most common religious belief in the EU is Christianity. European Christianity can be roughly divided into Roman Catholicism, a wide range of Protestant churches (especially in northern Europe) and Eastern Orthodoxy (in south eastern Europe).cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Chrisianity|work=|publisher=Encyclopaedia Britannica|date=|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21]

Judaism has had a long, and in the past frequently dark, history in Europe. In 2002 the EU had an estimated Jewish population of roughly over a million, including about 519,000 in France and about 273,500 in the United Kingdom (compare with about 5 million Jews living in Israel. [Jewish population figures may be unreliable. These estimates are taken from: cite web| url = | title = World Jewish Population (2002)| accessdate = 2007-05-03| author = Sergio DellaPergola| work = American Jewish Year Book| publisher = The Jewish Agency for Israel] ). In view of the history of persecution of Jews in Europe, antisemitism remains a matter of attention within the EU. [cite web| url = |format=PDF| title = Anti-Semitism Summary overview of the situation in the European Union|year = 2006 |month = December | accessdate = 2007-05-04| author = EUMC| publisher = EUMC]

Immigration has introduced other religions into European countries, most notably Islam. It was estimated that the Union's Muslim population in 2006 was 16 million people.cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=In Europa leben gegen­wärtig knapp 53 Millionen Muslime|work=||date=2006-02-25|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] The country with the largest percentage of Muslims in Western Europe is France with 8%-10%. Aside from Turkey, the only possible future member to have a majority of Muslims is Albania, although other Balkan states also have sizeable Muslim populations.cite web|last=|first=|coauthors=|title=Muslims in Europe: Country guide|work=|publisher=BBC News|date=2005-12-23|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-26]

Suspicions of Muslim populations have risen in some Western European countries such as the UK, where 38% see Muslims as a threat to national security. In France, on the other hand, only 21% see Muslims as a threat to their society and 52% say the Muslim community has been unfairly criticised. In both countries however less than a quarter approved of faith schools and a religious presence in schools and workplaces, while in Italy this is not considered to be a problem.cite web|last=Kuper|first=Simon|coauthors=Daniel Dombey|title=Religious fault line divides Europeans|work=|publisher=Financial Times|date=2007-08-19|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] cite web|last=Kuper|first=Simon|coauthors=Daniel Dombey|title=Britons 'more suspicious' of Muslims|work=|publisher=Financial Times|date=2007-08-19|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] In the Netherlands, there is a slim majority stating they have an unfavourable view of Muslims. Islamaphobia, including violent attacks upon Muslims, is seen to be rising in the EU, with a series of clashes and incidents connected to the religion occurring in recent years. This includes: the participation of European countries in the Iraq War, the murder of Theo van Gogh, the 2004 Madrid train bombings, the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy and numerous terrorist attacks in the UK such as the 7 July 2005 London bombings.cite web|last=|first=|coauthors=|title=Muslims in the European Union|work=|publisher=EU FRA|date=2006|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-26] In response to extremism, some figures, such as Justice Freedom & Security Commissioner Franco Frattini, have suggested creating a "European Islam" - a branch of the Islamic faith that is compatible with European values.cite web|last=Goldirova|first=Renata|coauthors=|title=Brussels questions EU capitals over approach to Islam|work=|publisher=EU Observer|date=2007-07-06|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-26]

Due to the rise of other religions, and some intolerance towards them, the Commission now regularly meets with different religious leaders.cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=José Manuel Barroso meets European religious leaders|work=|publisher=Europa (web portal)|date=2005-07-12|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-23] In November 2005, a delegation from the European Humanist Federation was invited to a meeting by President Barroso. This was the first time a humanist group had been consulted in this manner by the Commission. President Romano Prodi has refused such meetings, despite meeting various religious leaders, causing some resentment by humanists.cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=European Humanists Meet EU President|work=|publisher=International Humanist and Ethical Union|date=2006-03-13|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-23]

Other significant religions present in the EU territories are Buddhism, Hinduism and Neopaganism. [ [ BBC section on Neopaganism] ] Neopaganism is a fast-growing movement that revives and reinvents (in its reconstructionistic approach) the ancient pagan spiritualities of the European peoples. [Strmiska, Michael F. (2005). Modern Paganism in World Cultures: Comparative Perspectives. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.] Neopagan religions are legally recognised by the governments of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Sweden and Spain.

Church and State

The EU is a secular body, i.e., there is a separation of church and state. There are no formal ties to any religion and no mention of religion in any current or proposed treaty.cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Consolidated Treaties on European Union and establishing the European Community|work=|publisher=Eur-Lex|date=|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-06-25] Discussion over the draft texts of the European Constitution and later the Treaty of Lisbon have included proposals to mention Christianity and/or God in the preamble of the text. This call has been supported by Christian religious leaders, most notably the Pope.cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Vatican resists European secularism|work=|publisher=BBC News|date=2005-02-11|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-14] However explicit inclusion of a link to religion faced opposition from secularists and the final Constitution referred to Europe's "Religious and Humanist inheritance". A second attempt to include Christianity in the treaty was undertaken in 2007 with the drafting of the Treaty of Lisbon. Angela Merkel promised the Pope that she would use her influence during Germany's presidency to try to include a reference to Christianity and God in this replacement for the constitution. This has provoked opposition, not least in the German press,cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=European press review: God and the EU Constitution|work=|publisher=BBC News/Süddeutsche Zeitung|date=2006-09-12|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-14] and as this inclusion may have caused problems in reaching a final agreement, this attempt was given up.cite web|last=Rettman|first=Andrew|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Merkel gives up on God in EU treaty|work=|publisher=EU Observer|date=2006-09-12| |format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] Of the Union's 27 states, only five have an official state religion, these being Cyprus (Cypriot Orthodox Church), Denmark (Danish National Church), Greece (Church of Greece), Malta (Roman Catholic Church) and England in the UK (Church of England). (Some other churches have a close relationship with the state.cite web|last=Ferrari|first=Silvio|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Silvio Ferrari on “Church and State in Europe”|work=|publisher=Concordat Watch|date=|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-23] )

In the secularising EU, The Vatican has been vocal against a perceived "militant atheism". It based this on a number of events, for example; the rejection of religious references in the Constitution and Treaty of Lisbon, the rejection by Parliament of Rocco Buttiglione as Justice Commissioner in 2004, while at the same time Parliament approved Peter Mandelson (who is gaycite web|last=Shoffman|first=Marc|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Ian McKellen ranked most influential gay man|work=|publisher=Pink News|date=2006-06-03|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-23] ) as Trade Commissioner, and the legalisation of same-sex marriage in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and Spain. The European Parliament has also been calling for same-sex marriages to be recognised across the EU.cite web|last=Belien|first=Paul|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=European Parliament Backs Gay Marriage|work=|publisher=The Brussels Journal|date=2006-01-22|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-23] Meanwhile, states such as Latvia and Poland cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Poland urged to drop new law banning 'homosexual propaganda' in schools|work=|publisher=European Parliament|date=2007-04-23|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-11-14] have rejected legislation designed to stop discrimination against homosexuals. This has been stated to be on religious grounds, with homosexual behaviour described as "degenerate" and "unnatural", and the Catholic Church influencing public opinion. The difference of opinion between these countries and Brussels has been damaging relations.cite web|last=Sheeter|first=Laura|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Latvia defies EU over gay rights|work=|publisher=BBC News|date=2006-05-16|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-23] cite web|last=Easton|first=Adam|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Fears of Poland's gay community|work=|publisher=BBC News|date=2006-05-10|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-08-23]


Citizens in countries belonging to EU still have some form of belief system,cite web|last=|first=|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Eurobarometer 225: Social values, Science & Technology|work=|publisher=Eurostat|date=2005|url=|format=PDF|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] although only 21% see it as important.cite web|last=Cline|first=Austin|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Secularism in Europe|work=||date=2005-02-28|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] There is increasing atheism or agnosticism among the general population in Europe, with falling church attendance and membership in many countries.cite web|last=Zuckerman|first=Phil|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns|work=|publisher=Cambridge University Press|date=2005|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] In 2005, a survey of the EU's members at that time found that among EU citizens, 52% believe in "a" god, 27% in "some sort of spirit or life force" and 18% had no form of belief. The countries where the fewest people reported a religious belief were the Czech Republic (19%) and Estonia (16%). In such countries, even those who have a faith can be disdainful of organized religion.cite web|last=Cline|first=Austin|authorlink=|coauthors=|title=Czech Republic: Most Atheist Country in Europe?|work=||date=2006-02-25|url=|format=|doi=|accessdate=2007-07-21] The most religious societies are those in Malta with 95% (predominantly Roman Catholic), and Cyprus and Romania both with about 90% of their citizens believing in a god. Across the EU, belief was higher among women, increased with age, those with religious upbringing, those with the lowest levels of formal education, those leaning towards right-wing politics, and those reflecting more upon philosophical and ethical issues.


Today, theism is losing prevalence in most (but not all) countries within EU in favour of secularity. Some EU 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.The situation of religion varies between countries in European Union.A decrease in religiousness and church attendance in western Europe (especially France, Germany and Sweden) has been noted and called "Post-Christian Europe". Contrary to it, there is an increase in Eastern Europe, especially in Greece and Romania (2% in 1 year).

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
Estonia 16% 54% 26%
Czech Republic 19% 50% 30%
Sweden 23% 53% 23%
Denmark 31% 49% 19%
Norway 32% 47% 17%
Netherlands 34% 37% 27%
France 34% 27% 33%
Slovenia 37% 46% 16%
Latvia 37% 49% 10%
United Kingdom 38% 40% 20%
Iceland 38% 48% 11%
Bulgaria 40% 40% 13%
Finland 41% 41% 16%
Belgium 43% 29% 27%
Hungary 44% 31% 19%
Luxembourg 44% 28% 22%
Germany 47% 25% 25%
Switzerland 48% 39% 9%
Lithuania 49% 36% 12%
Austria 54% 34% 8%
Spain 59% 21% 18%
Slovakia 61% 26% 11%
Croatia 67% 25% 7%
Ireland 73% 22% 4%
Italy 74% 16% 6%
Poland 80% 15% 1%
Portugal 81% 12% 6%
Greece 81% 16% 3%
Cyprus 90% 7% 2%
Romania 90% 8% 1%
Malta 95% 3% 1%

ee also

* Culture of the European Union
* European Fundamental Rights Agency
* The European Union and the Catholic Church
* Christianity in Europe
* Islam in Europe
* LGBT rights in Europe
* List of religious populations
* Major world religions
* Christianity by country
* Islam by country
* Buddhism by country
* Hinduism by country
* Judaism by country
* No Faith by Country
* Great Synagogue of Europe


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