02.03.2020 change 02.03.2020

Church Scandals see Decline in Religion Across Europe

Religion is on the decline across Europe because of scandals in the Catholic Church, says a leading Warsaw academic.

Citing the European Social Survey, Professor Zbigniew Mikołejko from the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, said that between 2002 and 2018 there was a sharp drop in declared religiousness across Europe. 

According to the data, religion dropped in Ireland (from 83 to 68 percent), Hungary (from 63 to 50 percent), Spain (from 78 to 67 percent), Portugal (from 86 to 76 percent), Poland (from 93 to 87 percent), Germany (from 61 to 57 percent) and Ukraine (from 76 to 72 percent). 

To a lesser extent, this also applies to Belgium (from 49 to 46%) and the UK (from 49 to 46%).

Professor Mikołejko said: “The trends are clear. In most European countries religion is in decline.”

He added that scandals in the Catholic Church had had an impact, saying: “Ireland was dealing with dramatic events on a much larger scale, also because the childcare system was largely in the hands of the Catholic Church.

“However, we are talking about a long-term process, not individual scandalous events.

“(These scandals) in their direct effect, in a short timeframe - as it happened in Poland after the premiere of Tell No One by the Sekielski brothers - can (...) paradoxically have an opposite, defensive effect, temporarily strengthening religious, even fundamentalist attitudes, and not weakening them.”

Poland is high compared to other European countries when it comes to religiousness. There is a relatively high percentage of people who declare that they are followers of a religion or feel connected to a church or religion (87%), declare daily prayer (31%), take part in religious practices at least once a week ( 46%). The average rating of religiousness (6.1) on a scale of 0 (non-religious) to 10 (very religious) is also significant in Poland.

Asked if Poles are among the most religious nations in Europe, Mikołejko said: “Even with a huge decline, the most religious countries are still those that are commonly considered religious, that is Poland and Ireland. All the data confirm this.

There are also countries where religiousness remains at a steady level (Croatia, Slovakia) or is increasing: Slovenia (from 51 to 57 percent), Lithuania (from 83 to 90 percent), Austria (from 71 to 76 percent), France (from 49 to 53 percent) and Italy (from 77 to 79 percent). (The respondents were asked if they considered themselves followers of a religion or felt connected to a church or religion).

Mikołejko said: “The presence of France may be surprising, as it is usually regarded as a radically secularised country, in which - stereotypically - religious zeal is only attributed to the growing Islamic community. Research does not confirm this.”

Although the decline is visible in all age groups, Mikołejko found that in the over 45s it is around three to four percent compared with younger people where it oscillates around 9-10 percent.


Author: Ludwika Tomala

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