For the first time in Dutch history, the official number of religious and irreligious people is equal, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) reports. The percentage of religiously affiliated citizens above age 18 dropped from 55% in 2010 to 50% last year, a turning point in the ongoing process of secularisation. The current figures are:
Roman Catholicism: 24%
Protestantism (various denominations): 15%
Other (incl. Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism): 5%
There are large geographical differences, with the more urbanised West (North and South Holland) being the most secular, the southern provinces of North Brabant and Limburg being the most (nominally) Catholic.
Only 1 in 6 people still regularly attend religious services though. In the conservative Protestant Bible Belt, running across the country from the southwest to the northeast, this figure is higher, sometimes over half, and in the case of Urk 94%.
The actual percentage of believers is much lower than 50%, however. A lot of people still registered as members of a church are actually not religious (anymore), but for various reasons have not officially renounced their membership (yet) – a phenomenon known as ‘belonging without believing’. An earlier 2016 survey by Bernts & Berghuijs showed that people’s actual religious convictions were as follows:
Roman Catholicism: 11.7%
Protestant Church in the Netherlands: 8.6%
Other Christian denominations: 4.2%
Hinduism and Buddhism: 2.0%
This shows a big disconnect between membership and actual adherence. Especially the Catholic Church often claims that a quarter of the Dutch population is Catholic, pointing to the official stats, but when questioned, fewer than half that number associate themselves with the Roman faith.
According to Bernts & Berghuijs, their attitudes regarding the existence of (a) god(s) were:
Atheism: 24% (I don’t believe in gods)
Agnosticism: 34% (I don’t know if there are gods or not)
Ietsism: 28% (I don’t believe in gods, but there must be something higher/supernatural/more than we can observe)
Theism: 14% (I believe there is a God / are gods)
A December 2014 survey showed a similar reversal in public opinion, when for the first time in the Netherlands’ history, more than half of people (63%) thought that religion does more harm than good.
Viralgranskaren (‘The Viral Monitor’) is a standing column of the Swedish branch of the international freesheet newspaper Metro(that is also originally from Sweden). They specialise in finding out whether viral videos and stories are actually true, and encourage people to fact-check before sharing something on social media.
On 18 November 2016, they created both a Swedish and an English version of a video explaining why fact-checking news reports is important.
The example they give is of a story that went viral in late October 2016. It was based on a real news article from Sveriges Television (SVT). However, xenophobic conspiracy right-wing websites, blogs, shock-logs etc., especially outside Sweden (e.g. Infowars), seized upon the article – that didn’t even mention Islam, Muslims or refugees – to claim that decorative Christmas lights were ‘banned to avoid offending Muslim migrants’. (more…)
The Swedish Humanist society protested the current visit of Pope Francis in Sweden. Hours before a sermon held by Pope Francis at the Cathedral of Lund, Sweden on October 31, activists posted a poster containing ten theses on the Cathedral door, mimicking Martin Luther’s protest 500 years ago. The poster was swiftly removed by church officials, but contained a call for reforming the Catholic church regarding:
Equality for Women
Equality for LBTQ persons
Freedom of religion for children
Full right for women to decide about their own bodies
A stop for the opposition to contraceptives
Every human’s right to euthanasia
All child abuse to be reported to the authorities
A stop for blocking certain scientific research, especially stem cell research
A stop for the doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope
Each person’s right to define their own moral code.
‘Under the current rules, the Vatican declares something a ‘miracle’ if more than 50% of all experts (several dozens) vote in favour,’ the Dutch (Protestant-leaning) newspaper Trouw reports. ‘That bar will be raised to 66%.’ Apparently, the pope still doesn’t realise you can’t just suspend the laws of nature by majority vote.
Interestingly, the paper adds that ‘the number of miracles was already declining in recent decades – possibly because doctors can explain more and more’, implying that declaring something a ‘miracle’ may be nothing more than an argument from ignorance.
Both the Norwegian and Danish national churches have lost a lot of members over the last couple of months. In Norway this started with a web service that facilitated for anyone to leave the church and in Denmark a secular campaign over the summer has driven many to cancel their membership.
Now the turn has apparently come to Sweden. In Sweden the national church has been separated from the state since 2000, but still has some special privileges. The most important one is that the membership fee, which used to be a tax, is still collected via the income tax return. The membership fee is based on your taxable income and averages at about 300 euros per year.
Just like in Norway, the Swedish church recently published a webpage where you can easily leave the church, the only thing required is the digital signature according to a system used by all Swedish banks . Earlier you would have to acquire a physical form to sign and send back to your local church administration centre. Apparently this new way of leaving is a service that people appreciate, because after less than two weeks about 10000 people have decided to opt out of the church.
With Norway and Denmark losing tens of thousands of members over the last couple of months, and now the same in Sweden, it seems we are witnessing a crisis for the old national churches in Scandinavia.