Thursday, October 09, 2008

Europeans More Religious than Assumed, Survey Suggests

While most reports indicate that Christianity is in decline in Europe, the findings of a recent survey suggest that Europeans are more religious than widely thought.

Three-fourths of all Europeans (74 percent) in the countries surveyed are religious, with one-fourth (25 percent) considered highly religious, according to German think tank Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Religion Monitor study.

Only 23 percent of Europeans are non-religious.

"Although everyone has been talking about religion, there has been no reliable information about what people actually believe and its consequences for everyday life," said Martin Jaeger, a project manager at Bertelsmann Stiftung Foundation, according to Ecumenical News International.

"This survey looked for the first time at religiosity, rather than just institutional affiliations and self-perceptions,” Jaeger said. “It shows the situation is highly complex; Europeans are much more religious than is often assumed."

The extensive survey included 100 detailed questions about faith and religion, and questioned 21,000 respondents from 21 countries.

Based on comparable data from seven European countries – Germany, France, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, Poland and Switzerland – religion is strongest in Italy (89 percent) and Poland (87 percent) - both heavily Roman Catholic countries - and weakest in secular France (54 percent).

In Europe, Roman Catholics are more likely to be devout than Protestants, with 42 percent of Catholics saying they attend church compared to only 15 percent of Protestants.

And unlike in America, Europeans say that religion has little influence over their political views and sexuality. Many Europeans expressed that they separate their conduct and attitudes in these two areas from their religious beliefs.

More than half (58 percent) of Europeans say that their religious convictions have no influence or little influence on their political views, while nearly half (48 percent) say religion does not much affect their sexuality.

Nevertheless, more than half of Europeans (57 percent) say they practice their faith more or less regularly, and 61 percent say they engage in prayer.

Weekly or irregular church attendance is part of normal life for 90 percent of Poles and 75 percent of Italians, the survey also found.

“Traditional churches clearly have a communication problem because people are more open to religious messages and practices than we thought," Jaeger contends.

Another interesting finding showed that young adults are no less religious than their elders. Among young people ages 18 to 29, 41 percent hold strong beliefs in God and the afterlife, compared to 42 percent of the population as a whole.

Overall, respondents said religion influences their views on issues such as birth and death, or the meaning of life.

"The findings suggest Europe still draws on Christian values," Jaeger noted.

"Religiousness still clearly exerts a significant influence on the social and cultural life of Europe. Its role in linking the nations of the European Union should not be underestimated." +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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(Source: CP)

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