Why is Europe So Irreligious, And Could it Ever Change?


#1

I seen an article a day or two about how more people in Britain now identify themselves as atheists than ever before; and that got me wondering: Europe is probably the most irreligious continent on Earth, but why is that? And could it ever change?


(Benjamin Kirk) #2

One likely reason is that they tend to pay more attention to history than North Americans do, for example these:


#3

I think one reason America is so religious is that we have no official state church. The state cannot dictate to us what we must believe. We are free to worship (or not) as we please. Many people actually came to this country to avoid religious persecution. That said, it’s a constant struggle to maintain the separation of church and state. Just look at all the efforts to sneak religion into the science classroom!


#4

I don’t think this trend holds up if we look at other countries. There are plenty of theocracies in the MIddle East where there is an official state church, and the percentage of believers (i.e. muslims) is extremely high.


(Phil) #5

Suspect it is also due to the birth and growth of the enlightenment philosophy that started there. It can change, and there are a number of churches that are thriving, like Holy Trinity Bromptom.


#6

First off, even as an atheist I don’t feel the need to convert others to atheism. I don’t feel that there needs to be any competition between religious faith and atheism, and I think it is wrong to view these numbers as tallies on a score board. So with that said . . .

I sometimes wonder if religious belief fades within communities during times of relative peace and prosperity. As the old saying goes, there are no atheists in fox holes. When you are faced with death, poverty, and strife you may seek out answers in religious faith to a greater degree than you would otherwise.

I think people are also seeing that secularism and atheism isn’t going to plunge us into some evil dystopian nightmare. As it turns out, society gets along just fine if people are allowed to live their lives as they see fit, even if their choices may go against Christian theology. Attitudes towards atheism are also changing where atheism is much more acceptable than it once was. In the past, people may not have considered atheism as a viable option because of the stigma attached to it.


(Albert Leo) #7

I cannot add much to this thread in regards to Europeans as a whole, but I am fairly certain why this generation of European scientists have left the Christian Faith in such great numbers. I conclude, somewhat sadly, that it is a reality that most Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christians are loathe to face. If we are truly interested in a reversal of this trend, a change that will _restore the relevance of Christian Faith to the younger generations, w_e should closely examine the arguments of the ‘Pied Pipers’ than led them astray in the first place; e.g. Sir Richard Dawkins who is so idolized in all of Europe–not just in Britain. If we really want to defeat our enemy (in this case, Dawkins), we should seek out his weaknesses. I have found one–a fatal one–in his book Ancestor’s Tale, but I have not found the support in BioLogos to do much with it.
Al Leo


#8

Islam is completely different than Christianity. It’s dangerous to not be a Muslim in the Middle East.


#9

In my experience, theists obsess about Dawkins way more than atheists do. If Dawkins had never been born we would probably still see the same number of atheists today. If you only focus on people who criticize religion then I think you will fail to make Christianity relevant to anyone.


(John Dalton) #10

Polls I’ve seen (about the US primarily) show young adults are driving these trends, which suggests they may be likely to continue. To me the most obvious change in today’s society is the rise of social media and the internet, as well as other electronic media. I believe that these trends are connected. Certainly these developments have given atheists more cohesion, but I don’t think that would explain much of it. Polls suggest larger rises in unaffiliated people than outright atheists. Most of Europe seems further down this road than the US (maybe permanently so?) but the recent UK polls seem to show a similar trend.


#11

But in Islamic countries it’s often a criminal offence to be an atheist or even to convert to another religion. So it can be hard to tell what people really believe in these places.


#12

The young people primarily polled are Millennials, which are notably more liberal and secular than previous age groups. However, the generation after them (Usually called generation Z) is, according to polls, considerably more religious than Millennials. Generation Z is just coming of age, so we haven’t really been picked up by the polls yet (I’ll be 19 in two days, so I’m a part of Generation Z). It’ll be interesting to see the polls after more of this generation comes of age.


#13

I think the best way to turn young people off to faith is to lie to them, especially about science.


#14

Even so, I would think that there are more religious people in many Arab countries than in western countries. Of course, I wouldn’t mind being wrong on this one.


#15

It is also strange that religiosity should be tied to being liberal or secular. Neither of those requires you to abandon religious belief. For example, you can be a Christian and also support the idea of government run universal health care. You can be a Christian and support the idea that there should be a wall between church and state.

I don’t know if this is the case, but some young people may be driven away from the church because they are given the false impression that you have to be a staunch conservative in order to be a Christian.


(Phil) #16

To borrow from another thread, it seems we have a lot more Christianists than Christians running around the US at times.


#17

I’m not sure what a “Christianist” is.


(Phil) #18

The way I understand it, it is a ideology or worldview based on a Christian framework but not being functionally Christian. It came up in discussing the difference in accepting evolution, and evolutionism. Certainly, the meanings are misused often,and their meaning is contextual which complicates things. Now that I consider it, maybe I am a bit confused myself.
My point is, lots of people check the Christian box on the survey form, but are functionally agnostic.


(Jay Johnson) #19

Asia/Pacific is by far the most irreligious continent:


(Benjamin Kirk) #20

Or how about those who check the box, but ignore the teachings of Christ?