Most Western Europeans identify as Christian, but say they do not, or seldom, attend church services – outnumbering those Christians who do attend church, a survey from the Pew Research Center has reported.
Released May 29, results found in 12 of the 15 surveyed Western European countries, non-practicing Christians (defined as those who self-identify as Christian but report attending church services less than once per month) made up the largest religious group, beating out both religious “nones” and churchgoing Christians.
The telephone survey was conducted in mid-2017 with more than 24,000 participants from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
The median percentage of the population of Western Europe identifying as Christian was 71 percent, though only 22 percent of Western Europeans attend church at least monthly. Across all 15 countries surveyed, the median percent of those who had been baptized was 91, and 81 percent reported they were raised Christian.
Median percentages were analyzed across the 15 surveyed countries to gain a view of the region overall, though countries varied in total Christian identification by as much as 42 percentage points.
Countries such as Italy, Portugal, and Ireland reported total Christian identification around 80 percent, while Norway and Sweden reported Christian identification at slightly above 50 percent.
In every country surveyed except the Netherlands and Norway, where the religiously unaffiliated are the largest religious group, non-practicing Christians make up the majority of Europe’s Christians. Italy is also an exception, where non-practicing Christians and church-attending Christians are split.
Non-practicing Christians in Western Europe were also found to outnumber people of all other religions combined.
The 71 percent Christian identification of Western Europe matches up with Christian identification in the United States. Western Europe also parallels the United States’ declining rates of Christians overall and the increase in “nones.”
Particularly in Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, the difference in the percentage of the population raised Christian versus the percentage of the population who still practices Christianity is a difference of 22 to 28 percent.
In the same countries, the percentage of people who now identify as religiously unaffiliated is between 21 and 28 percentage points higher than those raised without a religion.
In comparison to the U.S., however, religious fervor overall in Western Europe is significantly lower. While close to half of Americans say religion is “very important” in their lives, the median percentage of Western European adults who say the same is 11.
This difference becomes even more marked between American Christians and European Christians. Sixty eight percent of American Christians report religion is very important to them, compared with only 14 percent of Western European Christians.
The Pew survey on Western Europe also compared the attitudes of non-practicing Christians, church attending Christians, and the religiously unaffiliated on certain political, cultural, and religious issues, such as views toward immigrants, religious minorities, nationalist sentiment, abortion, and same-sex marriage.
On some issues, the views of non-practicing Christians were found to align more closely with religious “nones,” while on others they aligned more closely with church attending Christians.
Most non-churchgoing Christians reported belief in God or a higher power and had favorable views toward churches and other religious organizations.
On abortion, same-sex marriage, and the role of religion in government, a majority of both non-practicing Christians and the non-religious said they support legal abortion in all or most cases and support legalizing same-sex marriage. They also think religion should be kept out of government policies.