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…]

Government approved churches?

Conservative churches are troubled with the gay marriage decision and feel threatened lest the government punish them for teaching that homosexuality is sinful.  But liberal churches are celebrating the ruling and will have no problem with discrimination statutes.  If conservative congregations lose their tax exempt status, liberal congregations wouldn’t.  Indeed, some denominations would presumably include conservative congregations that would and liberal congregations that would not.

So you have GOT to read Anthony Sacramone’s post Do You Worship in a State-Approved Church?  Read especially “the talk” that he says conservative pastors must give to their congregations.   I’ll excerpt the first part after the jump, but you really need to read the whole thing.

[Read more…]

A different religious liberty angle on gay marriage

The arch-liberal United Church of Christ, which approved of gay marriage back in 2005, is suing North Carolina for infringing its religious liberty by not allowing pastors to perform same-sex weddings. [Read more…]

Would Calvin have Occupied Wall Street?

Would even liberal Lutherans say this of Martin Luther?

The cause of demonstrators involved in the “Occupy Wall Street” movement would have been supported by John Calvin, the 16th century church reformer who helped shape modern-day Protestantism, says the General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

“I am sure he would have been in the streets of New York or London with a placard,” says Setri Nyomi of the French lawyer and theologian who wrote extensively about social and economic justice.

Nyomi makes his comments in a lecture delivered Tuesday at Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States. The Ghanaian theologian and Princeton graduate is delivering three lectures this week on the role of the church in the 21st century.

“Calvin expressed opposition to all forms of social oppression resulting from money”, Nyomi says. “Today, it is the global economic systems and practices that have more sophisticated forms of effects.”

Nyomi believes Calvin’s words resonate with life today. “The church of the 21st century needs to align itself with voices of justice … even if it means being out there in the streets,” he writes.

via John Calvin would have been in the Occupy Wall Street movement, says Reformed church leader | Bringing together 80 million Reformed Christians worldwide.

HT: Jordan Ballor

The withering away of liberal Christianity

Read this interview with sociologist Rodney Stark on how the so-called “mainline” liberal denominations have dwindled into irrelevance:  Are Evangelicals the New Mainline?.  Among the many interesting points he makes is that the only congregations in those traditions that are doing well are those with conservative pastors.  And when “evangelicals” decide to go liberal, as in the emergent church or progressive evangelical movement, they decline too.  He goes into the history of this phenomenon and finds that it goes way, way back.

HT: Joe Carter


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