Report Finds Young People in Europe Are Abandoning Organized Religion in Droves

A new report, conducted by theology professor Stephen Bullivant of St Mary’s University in London, finds that many European nations are marching quickly away from religion.

Just look at the percentage of “Nones” (atheists, agnostics, people who don’t belong to any organized religion) for people ages 16-29.

In the Czech Republic, 91% of people under 30 have no religious affiliation whatsoever. And 12 countries altogether are majority “None” in that same age group.

The Guardian‘s graphic illustrating this is even more striking:

Religion was “moribund”, [Bullivant] said. “With some notable exceptions, young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practising religion.”

The trajectory was likely to become more marked. “Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good — or at least for the next 100 years,” Bullivant said.

The report, based on information gathered in the European Social Survey 2014-16, also showed an incredibly high percentage of people under 30 who either never or rarely attend church services (outside of religious holidays) in those same countries.

The trend of religious affiliation was repeated when young people were asked about religious practice. Only in Poland, Portugal and Ireland did more than 10% of young people say they attend services at least once a week.

In the Czech Republic, 70% said they never went to church or any other place of worship, and 80% said they never pray. In the UK, France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, between 56% and 60% said they never go to church, and between 63% and 66% said they never pray.

That last bit about prayer is important. It’s not just that young people aren’t going to church. It’s that they’re letting go of faith altogether, knowing that prayer isn’t going to do anything to fix whatever’s on their minds.

According to Bullivant, many young Europeans “will have been baptised and then never darken the door of a church again. Cultural religious identities just aren’t being passed on from parents to children. It just washes straight off them.”

Keep in mind that Bullivant is a theology professor at a Catholic university where he also runs the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society. He’s not celebrating these findings. He’s disturbed by them. He sees this report as a warning to religious leaders about what’s coming down the pipeline.

We disagree. When people freely choose to abandon religion, without fear of persecution, it’s a sign that the society is becoming less reliant on magical thinking and (hopefully) more reliant on reason. Given all the problems in nations under Islamic rule, and countries like the United States in which one warped form of Christianity dictates so many policy decisions, we should all be thankful when religion becomes a relic.

It hopefully forces those countries to use fact over faith when guiding their decision-making.

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