Even though Protestant Christianity had been originated in Western Europe and Catholicism has persisted there for the majority of its history, the region is now among the most secular territories across the globe. For centuries, there has been an ongoing trend of Christian Church institutions gradually losing their power and prominence alongside the increased industrialization of societies and the liberalization of ideas and perceptions of the world. More and more young people surveyed by research organizations have been stating that they were moving away from identifying themselves as Christians. For instance, many young Europeans say that they “were baptized and never darken the door of a church again.”1 Therefore, the passing of religious cultural identities from one generation to another has weakened significantly, which led to the decline of religiosity in the region.
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The secularization of Western society, which began in the late nineteenth century, became highly prominent in the twentieth century while Christianity was spreading throughout the non-Western parts of the world. The spreading ideas of the Enlightenment were significantly responsible for the spread of secularism. As a result, less and less Europeans attended regular religious services, with fewer people placing importance on God even though they remained belonging to a religious denomination. Considering these developments, the Church made attempts to modernize spiritual teachings, which resulted in liberation theology. However, the liberation of society that followed in the twentieth century posed new challenges to the Christian faith, especially when it comes to issues of marital relations, gender roles, birth control, and sexual orientation. As the Church failed to support the liberal views of the populations and reaffirmed the sanctity of natural death and birth as well as condemned same-sex relations and abortions.
Still, there are specific characteristics of non-practicing Christians in Europe; for instance, even though they do not believe in God and the teachings of the Bible, they do have a belief in some other higher power or a spiritual force. Non-practicing Christians also usually express overall positive attitudes toward religious organizations by saying that they serve societies by helping the poor and bridging gaps between people.2 In comparison with their church-attending counterparts, non-practicing Christians are less likely to express negative views towards other nationalities, be against immigration, or oppose legal abortion or same-sex marriages.
Many Europeans refer to themselves as Christians for cultural reasons and do not practice the religion, and history shows that there are many reasons for them to do so. For instance, the Church always underlined that people must believe in the Bible as the basis for Christianity, failing to address any contradictions and criticism toward the teachings. Another example is the overall bad experience with church and religion. There has been a persistent problem of religious organizations being unwelcoming of others and persecuting ‘outsiders’ for being different or having opposing ideas.3 Finally, the Church as an institution was historically manifesting itself as a wealthy and power-hungry organization that only cares about increasing the numbers of church-goers and donations. The opposite was true for small local churches that just wanted to bring good into the world, and the disconnect between the Church as an institution and religion itself made many people dislike Christianity. Thus, the secularization of society, which was inevitable in light of progress and industrialization, swayed Europe in the direction away from Christianity and toward secularism.
Hamblin, William and Daniel Peterson, “European Religious Apathy and the Steep Decline of Christianity In Britain”. Deseret News, 2013.
Pew Research Center. Being Christian in Western Europe. 2018.
Sherwood, Harriet. “‘Christianity as a Default is Gone’: The Rise of a Non-Christian Europe”. The Guardian, 2018.
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- Harriet Sherwood, “‘Christianity as a Default is Gone’: The Rise of a Non-Christian Europe”, The Guardian, 2018. Web.
- Pew Research Center, Being Christian in Western Europe, 2018. Web.
- William Hamblin and Daniel Peterson, “European Religious Apathy and the Steep Decline of Christianity In Britain”, Deseret News, 2013. Web.