Religion in Europe: Wikis


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Predominant religious heritages in Europe      Roman Catholicism      Orthodox Christianity      Protestantism      Sunni Islam      Shia Islam      Buddhism

Religion in Europe has been a major influence on art, culture, philosophy and law. The largest religion in Europe for at least a millennium and a half has been Christianity. A number of countries in Southeastern Europe have Muslim majorities. Smaller religions include Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Hinduism which are found in their largest groups in Britain and France.



Religions by country

Religion Portal    

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.[1]

Eurobarometer Poll 2005 chart results
Belief that "there is a god" per country
Belief that "there is some sort of spirit or life force" per country (Eurobarometer 2005)
No belief in "any sort of spirit, god or life force" per country (Eurobarometer 2005)

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

The decrease in theism is illustrated in the 1981 and 1999 according to the World Values Survey,[2] 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 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 Estonia and Czech Republic are the least religious countries in Europe.


Gallup poll 2007–2008

Lack of Importance of Religion in Europe by Gallup poll (2007–2008)
Country Percentage
 Czech Republic
 United Kingdom
 Bosnia and Herzegovina

During 2007–2008 a Gallup poll asked in several countries the question "Does religion occupy an important place in your life?" The table on right shows percentage of people who answered "No".[3]


European countries have experienced a decline in church membership and church attendance. A relevant example is that Sweden where the church of Sweden, previously the state-church until 2000, claimed to have 82.9 % of the Swedish poplulation as its flock in 2000. Surveys showed this had dropped to 72.9 % by 2008.[4] However in the 2005 eurobarometer poll only 23%[5] of the Swedish population said they believed in a personal God. It is generally thought that this disparity between church claims and numbers of people who actually believe in a god is likely to be the case in many other EU countries, especially in France and northern Europe, as recent trends and surveys are showing.

Eurobarometer poll 2005

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 Denmark, 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", though the wording of the question has been criticized as "leading" by the British Humanist Association.[6]

Modern religions


Christianity by Country

* Lacks its own page  • Full list •     

View of Rome from the Dome of St. Peter's Basilica.

The vast majority of theist Europeans are Christians, divided into a large number of denominations. Roman Catholicism is the largest denomination with adherents mostly existing in Latin Europe (which includes France, Italy, Spain, Southern [Wallon] Belgium, and Portugal), Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, but also the southern parts of Germanic Europe (which includes Austria, Luxembourg, Northern [Flemish] Belgium, Southern and Western Germany, and Liechtenstein). Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy are organized into many churches, the largest of which are:

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


A Mosque in Poland.

Islam came to parts of European islands and coasts on the Mediterranean during the 7th century Muslim conquests. In the Iberian Peninsula various Muslim states existed before the Reconquista. During the Ottoman expansion Islam was spread into the Balkans and southeastern Europe. Muslim have also been historically present in Russia. In recent years, Muslims have migrated to Europe as residents and temporary workers.

Muslims account for 4-7% of the population in France, 5.8% in the Netherlands, 5% in Denmark, just over 4% in Switzerland and Austria, and almost 3% in the United Kingdom.[7] Muslims make up over 95% in Turkey, 38–70% in Albania,[8][9] 40% in Bosnia and Herzegovina,[10] 33.3% in Macedonia,[11] about 20% in Montenegro,[12] 12% in Bulgaria[13] and between 10-15% of the population of Russia.[14] Islam has been a factor in the cultural development of the Balkans and parts of 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 is the home of largest Jewish community in Europe with 1% of the total population.[15] Other European countries with notable Jewish populations include Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and Italy.

Other religions

Below one million adherents

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 England (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 United Kingdom, 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 used to be Lutheranism, but it is no longer "official" since 2000 and has lost more than 10% of its adherents since the same year. Azerbaijan, France, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and Turkey are officially "secular".

No religion

There is increasing atheism or agnosticism among the general population in Europe, with falling church attendance and membership in many countries.[19][20] 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%).[21] In such countries, even those who have a faith can be disdainful of organized religion.[22] Across the EU, belief was higher among women, increased with age, those with strict upbringing, those with the lowest levels of formal education, those leaning towards right-wing politics, and those reflecting more upon philosophical and ethical issues.[21]


Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe      Same-sex marriage      Other type of partnership      Unregistered cohabitation      Issue under political consideration      Unrecognized      Constitution limits marriage to man–woman

The secular lifestyle is gaining ground in the Europe Union. Sunday church attendance figures are hovering in the single digits in several European countries. This is especially true with respect to marriage. Whereas the different religions advocate/ mandate the opposite sex marriage as the only "natural" one and typically frown on cohabition, the general population in Europe seems to disagree more and more.

In 2008, the highest ever number of births outside marriage were recorded in the European Union , just short of 37%, up 13 % compared to the year 1995 with first-births out of wedlock and cohabition figures being even higher. Several European countries recorded a majority of births outside marriage, including Iceland (64%), Estonia (59%), Norway (55%) Sweden(55%), Slovenia (54%), France (51%), and Bulgaria (51%), these countries tend to be less religious ones (less than half of the population believing in god) whereas half of the European population believes in god.[23] Within the United Kingdom (45,4%), Scotland (50,1%) and Wales (55,6%)[24] recorded a majority of births outside marriage. In Austria and The Netherlands, more than half of first-borns are born out of wedlock,[25] and in Ireland close to half are. More strikingly as of January 2010, with Austria approving same sex civil unions as per 1 Jan. 2010 and the Portugese parliament approving same sex marriage as of 8 January 2010, more than half of the EU countries allow either same sex marriage of same sex civil unions. The largest religious group in Europe, the Roman Catholic Church strongly opposed to these laws threatening to excommunicate politicians voting in favor of these laws.

A European country has also been the first officially atheist state in the world. Albania in 1967 constitutionally banished religion.[26]

See also


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ World Values Survey, Religion and morale: Believe in God. Accessed 2007-07-25
  3. ^ Gallup Poll
  4. ^ (Swedish) Svenska Kyrkan Statistiek pagina Medlemmar 1972-2008 excel file
  5. ^ Eurobarometer Poll 2005
  6. ^ Census 2011
  7. ^ Muslims in Europe: Country guide, BBC News, 23 December 2005, accessed 3 May 2007
  8. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Albania - People
  9. ^ Miller, Tracy, ed. (October 2009) (PDF), Mapping the Global Muslim Population: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Muslim Population, Pew Research Center,, retrieved 2009-10-08 
  10. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Bosnia and Herzegovina - People
  11. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Macedonia
  12. ^ Muslims in Europe: Country guide - Serbia and Montenegro
  13. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Bulgaria
  14. ^ CIA - The World Factbook - Russia
  15. ^ CIA The World Factbook -- France
  16. ^ "Vipassana Foundation - Buddhists around the world". 
  17. ^ "BuddhaNet - Buddhism in the West". 
  18. ^ "Hinduism". 
  19. ^ Cline, Austin (2005-02-28). "Secularism in Europe". Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  20. ^ Zuckerman, Phil (2005). "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  21. ^ a b "Eurobarometer 225: Social values, Science & Technology" (PDF). Eurostat. 2005. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  22. ^ Cline, Austin (2006-02-25). "Czech Republic: Most Atheist Country in Europe?". Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  23. ^ Evolution on the family in Europe page 42 out of 82
  24. ^ UK populations vital statistics page 67 68
  25. ^ Half of first-born children’s parents are not married
  26. ^ Gallagher, Amelia (1997). "The Albanian atheist state, 1967–1991". 


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