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%
- Islam: 5%
- Other (incl. Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism): 5%
- Unaffiliated: 50%
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%
- Islam: 5.8%
- Hinduism and Buddhism: 2.0%
- Unaffiliated: 67.8%
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.