Why do so few Europeans go to church?

The distinguished sociologist of religion Peter Berger once promoted “the secularization thesis,” arguing that as societies become more modern, they become less religious.  But he has since said that thesis has been falsified, that the world is getting more religious than ever (and that modernity actually has contributed to the growth of religion).  The more interesting question, he says now, is why Europe has resisted that trend.

I am wondering now, though, after my speaking tour of Scandinavia, if Europe is as secular as it appears.

Nearly 80% of the population of Denmark belongs to the state church.  This requires paying a church tax of from .4% to 1.5% of one’s income, on top of an already crushing tax burden.  These members have been baptized and confirmed and they will be married and buried in the church, but only 3% of them go to church on any given Sunday.

Here are further statistics about the religious climate in Denmark:  According to a 2010 poll, 24% are atheists; 47% believe more vaguely in “some sort of spirit or life force”; and 28% believe in God.  Another poll found that 25% of Danes believe Jesus is the son of God and 18% believe He is the savior of the world.

So, yes, Denmark is a very secular country, with lots of non-believers (about a fourth) and liberal believers (about a half), but another fourth appears to confess Christ.  Perhaps a fifth are Gospel-believing Christians.  That’s actually not bad for a supposedly secular country.

But let’s put the statistics together.  If 80% of the country belong to the Church of Denmark, that must include lots of people who do not particularly believe in Christ, or even God.  And if only 3% of the population attends church regularly, that means that lots of Christians are not attending church either. [Read more...]

Church attendance statistics, state by state

Gallup has done a study of church attendance in each state.  See the results after the jump.  Is there anything we can do with this?

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Discovery of how to keep young people in the church

A new study has discovered what is being called the “holy grail” for keeping teenagers in the church when they become adults:  Parents.   If their parents talked about their faith at home, showed that their faith is important to them, and were active in church, 82% of their children became similarly religious as adults.  The connection is “nearly deterministic,” according to one researcher. [Read more...]

People who just come to church on Easter

Church attendance is down, but lots of people–including those who don’t come the rest of the year–still go to church on Easter, as well as Christmas.  The tendency is sometimes to look down on “Christmas/Easter Christians.”  But the fact is, on these two days of the year, they show up.  Why is that?

You pastors, how do you handle this phenomenon?  (Do you take the opportunity to upbraid them for not coming the rest of the year?  I have heard that!  Do you do anything different?)  After the jump, an interesting discussion on the topic from the Barna people. [Read more...]

How important is Church?

Not very, according to a new Barna study, at least for 51% of Americans.

What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith? When Barna Group asked, people offered a variety of answers—prayer, family or friends, reading the Bible, having children—but church did not even crack the top-10 list.

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The biggest bestseller in Norway is the Bible

Norway is considered a hyper-secularized country, but its biggest bestselling book today is a new translation of the Bible. [Read more...]