Vexen Crabtree (vexen) wrote,
Vexen Crabtree

Religion In Europe: Secularisation, Tolerance and Freedom

Europeans (2007)

Belief in God52
Catholic Christians49.5
Protestant Christians12.7
Orthodox Christians8.6
Added a section to: "The European Union: Democratic Values, The Euro, Crises and Migration" by Vexen Crabtree (2007) on religion.

46% of European people attach no important to religion, according to a survey of 30,000 people in 27 EU member countries.

11.1. Belief in God On average throughout the 27 EU countries, only half of its people believe in God. There is much variation from country to country. Only 16% of the populace of Estonia belief in God, but 95% do in Malta. Scandinavian countries are highly atheist. Two main social groups are particularly prone to belief in God; those over 55 years old and those whose education did not proceed beyond the 15-year-old stage. Finally, females are more likely to believe in God than males.

11.2. The Waning of Religion in a Modern Continent

Life without religion has become the norm for most Europeans. About 30% of the population state that they don't believe in God, but still put down an official religion on paper. This is a common trend amongst secularising peoples, as people forget what religion is about. The bigger the religious institution, the quicker it is likely to be shrinking. This has caused structures such as the Anglican Communion to topple as African Bishops, representing African churches that are growing in size and making money, prise the union apart as the weakening West loses its ability to promote its own (slightly) more tolerant version of Christianity.

“When asked what values they "cherish above all", respondents overwhelmingly chose "peace" (52%), "respect for human life" came second (43%). Democracy got 24%. Way down at the bottom – 11th out of 11 – was "religion" with a meagre 7%.” [National Secular Society]

My collection of statistics on the UK highlight the loss of power and influence of religious ideas in Britain. Less than half of the British people believe in God, and two thirds have no connection to religion. "Between 1979 and 2005, half of all Christians stopped going to church on a Sunday".

11.5. European Law and Values on Religion

Of the Union's 27 states, according to Wikipedia, only five have an official state religion. Cyprus (Cypriot Orthodox Church), Denmark (Danish National Church), Greece (Church of Greece), Malta (Roman Catholic Church) and England (Church of England). Some states have close relationships with various religious bodies that are not enshrined in law.

European Law institutionalizes equality and religious freedom. This means that religions are not free to discriminate against each other; anti-discrimination laws mean that employers are sometimes forced to accommodate a persons' religious beliefs as long as it is practical to do so (this is especially the case in some countries such as the UK), and in others many private and local agreements allow some religious people special privileges at work. But the overall attitude is that, due to the multiple religions that make up the European Union, Law cannot impose religious rules. The ethos that brings most tolerance and equality, therefore, is strict secularism. This goes to its extreme in countries like France, where, according to the EU Monitoring Center, "religion is very rarely taken into consideration within companies' diversity initiatives and the majority of the population would seem to adhere to the idea that religion belongs to the private sphere of life".

When it comes to religion, the following values and customs are pertinent to keep in mind, in Europe:

  • Religion is a private affair, and a personal choice.
  • There is no compulsion in religion under law.
  • People have a freedom to change their beliefs (to convert) whenever they want.
  • Western culture is critical and skeptical, and religious ideas are frequently questioned and challenged.
  • Freedom of speech overrides religious sensibilities about blasphemy.
  • People attempt to accommodate religious practices were practical. This is enshrined in European law.

There are secularising trends towards some of the following areas of tolerance, in a multi-faith Europe:

  • State buildings and events should not support any particular religion.
  • Public events, especially more important ones, should avoid emphasis on any particular religion.
  • Religious education in schools should be optional.
  • Religious theories should not be taught in schools as fact, not even by faith schools.

These values ensure that official culture does not indirectly discriminate against anyone by enforcing one brand of faith over another, and ensures people are free to pursue their own religions at will, but, not at the expense of other people's freedoms.

Tags: europe, god, religion, secularisation
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