Religion in Europe

Religion in Europe has been a major influence on today's society art, culture, philosophy and law. The largest religion in Europe is Christianity. Three countries in Southeastern Europe have Muslim majorities. Ancient European religions included veneration for deities such as Zeus. Modern revival movements of these religions include Heathenism, Rodnovery, Romuva, Druidry, Wicca, and others. Smaller religions include Indian religions, Judaism, and some East Asian religions, which are found in their largest groups in Britain, France, and Kalmykia.


Little is known about the prehistoric religion of Neolithic Europe. Bronze and Iron Age religion in Europe as elsewhere was predominantly polytheistic (Ancient Greek religion, Ancient Roman religion, Basque mythology, Finnish paganism, Celtic polytheism, Germanic paganism, etc.). The Roman Empire officially adopted Christianity in AD 380. During the Early Middle Ages, most of Europe underwent Christianization, a process essentially complete with the Christianization of Scandinavia in the High Middle Ages. The emergence of the notion of "Europe" or "Western World" is intimately connected with the idea of "Christendom", especially since Christianity in the Middle East was marginalized by the rise of Islam from the 8th century, a constellation that led to the Crusades, which although unsuccessful militarily were an important step in the emergence of a religious identity of Europe. At all times, traditions of folk religion existed largely independent from official denomination or dogmatic theology.

The Great Schism of the 11th century and Reformation of the 16th century were to tear apart Christendom into hostile factions, and following the Age of Enlightenment of the 18th century, atheism and agnosticism have spread across Europe. 19th-century Orientalism contributed to a certain popularity of Buddhism, and the 20th century brought increasing syncretism, New Age, and various new religious movements divorcing spirituality from inherited traditions for many Europeans. The latest history brought increased secularisation, and religious pluralism.[2]


European countries have experienced a decline in church membership and church attendance.[3][4] A relevant example of ongoing trend is Sweden where the church of Sweden, previously the state-church until 2000, claimed to have 82.9% of the Swedish population as its flock in 2000. Surveys showed this had dropped to 72.9% by 2008[5] and 64.6% by 2014.[6] However, in the 2005 eurobarometer poll just 23%[7] and in the 2010 eurobarometer poll just 18%[1] of the Swedish population said they believed in a personal God.

Gallup poll 2008–2009

During 2008–2009, a Gallup poll asked in several countries the question "Is religion important in your daily life?" The table and map below shows percentage of people who answered "Yes" to the question.[8][9]

Results of a 2008/2009 Gallup poll on whether respondents said that religion was "important in [their] daily life."[8][9]
10%-19% (Estonia, Sweden, Denmark)
20%-29% (Norway, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Finland)
30%-39% (France, The Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Russia, Belarus, Luxembourg, Hungary, Albania, Latvia)
40%-49% (Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain)
50%-59% (Azerbaijan, Serbia, Ireland, Austria)
70%-79% (Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Moldova, Armenia, Poland, Cyprus, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
80%-89% (Georgia, Turkey, Romania, Malta)
90%-100% (Kosovo)
No data
Importance of Religion in Europe by Gallup poll (2008–2009)[8][9]
Country Percentage
 United Kingdom
 The Netherlands
 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Eurobarometer poll 2010

The Eurobarometer Poll 2010[1] found that, on average, 51% of the citizens of EU member states state that they "believe there is a God", 26% "believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" while 20% "do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force". 3% declined to answer. According to a recent study (Dogan, Mattei, Religious Beliefs in Europe: Factors of Accelerated Decline), 47% of Frenchmen declared themselves as agnostic in 2003. This situation is often called "Post-Christian Europe". A decrease in religiousness and church attendance in Denmark, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden has been noted, despite a concurrent increase in some countries Greece (2% in 1 year) . The Eurobarometer poll must be taken with caution, however, as there are discrepancies between it and national census results. For example, in the United Kingdom, the 2001 census revealed over 70% of the population regarded themselves as "Christian" with only 15% professing to have "no religion", though the wording of the question has been criticized as "leading" by the British Humanist Association.[10] Romania, one of the most religious countries in Europe, witnessed a threefold increase in the number of atheists between 2002 and 2011, as revealed by the most recent national census.[11]

Eurobarometer Poll 2005 chart results

The following is a list of European countries ranked by religiosity, based on belief in a God, according to the Eurobarometer Poll 2010.[1] The 2010 Eurobarometer Poll asked whether the person believed "there is a God", believed "there is some sort of spirit or life force", or "didn't believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force".

Eurobarometer Poll 2010[1]
Country "I believe
there is a God"
"I believe there is some
sort of spirit or life force"
"I don't believe there is any sort
of spirit, God or life force"
Malta Malta 94% 4% 2%
Romania Romania 92% 7% 1%
Cyprus Cyprus 88% 8% 3%
Greece Greece 79% 16% 4%
Poland Poland 79% 14% 5%
Italy Italy 74% 20% 6%
Republic of Ireland Ireland 70% 20% 7%
Portugal Portugal 70% 15% 12%
Slovakia Slovakia 63% 23% 13%
Spain Spain 59% 20% 19%
Lithuania Lithuania 47% 37% 12%
Luxembourg Luxembourg 46% 22% 24%
Hungary Hungary 45% 34% 20%
Austria Austria 44% 38% 12%
Germany Germany 44% 25% 27%
Latvia Latvia 38% 48% 11%
United Kingdom United Kingdom 37% 33% 25%
Belgium Belgium 37% 31% 27%
Bulgaria Bulgaria 36% 43% 15%
Finland Finland 33% 42% 22%
Slovenia Slovenia 32% 36% 26%
Denmark Denmark 28% 47% 24%
Netherlands Netherlands 28% 39% 30%
France France 27% 27% 40%
Estonia Estonia 18% 50% 29%
Sweden Sweden 18% 45% 34%
Czech Republic Czech Republic 16% 44% 37%
European Union EU27 51% 26% 20%
Turkey Turkey (EUCU, not EU) 94% 1% 1%
Croatia Croatia (joined EU in 2013) 69% 22% 7%
Switzerland Switzerland (EFTA, not EU) 44% 39% 11%
Iceland Iceland (EFTA, not EU) 31% 49% 18%
Norway Norway (EFTA, not EU) 22% 44% 29%

The decrease in theism is illustrated in the 1981 and 1999 according to the World Values Survey,[12] both for traditionally strongly theist countries (Spain: 86.8%:81.1%; Ireland 94.8%:93.7%) and for traditionally secular countries (Sweden: 51.9%:46.6%; France 61.8%:56.1%; Netherlands 65.3%:58.0%). Some countries nevertheless show increase of theism over the period, Italy 84.1%:87.8%, Denmark 57.8%:62.1%. For a comprehensive study on Europe, see Mattei Dogan's "Religious Beliefs in Europe: Factors of Accelerated Decline" in Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion. Malta and Romania are the most religious countries and Estonia and Czech Republic are the least religious countries in Europe.

Eurobarometer poll 2012

According to new polls about Religiosity in the European Union in 2012 by Eurobarometer, Christianity is the largest religion in the European Union accounting 72% of EU citizens. Catholics are the largest Christian group in EU, accounting for 48% EU citizens, while Protestants make up 12%, and Eastern Orthodox make up 8%, and other Christians account for 4% of the EU population. Non believer/Agnostic account 16%, Atheist account's 7%, and Muslim 2%.[13]


Belief "there is a God" per country based on Eurobaromer 2005 poll 
Belief "there is some sort of spirit or life force" per country based on Eurobarometer 2005 poll 
No belief in "any sort of spirit, God or life force" per country based on Eurobarometer 2005 poll 

Abrahamic religions

Baha'i Faith

The first newspaper reference to the religious movement began with coverage of the Báb, whom Bahá'ís consider the founder of a precursor religion, occurred in The Times on 1 November 1845, only a little over a year after the Báb first started his mission.[14] British, Russian, and other diplomats, businessmen, scholars, and world travelers also took note of the precursor Bábí religion[15] most notably in 1865 by Frenchman Arthur de Gobineau who wrote the first and most influential account. In April 1890 Edward G. Browne of Cambridge University met Bahá'u'lláh and left the only detailed description by a Westerner.[16]

Starting in the 1890s Europeans began to convert to the religion. In 1910 Bahá'u'lláh's son and appointed successor, 'Abdu'l-Bahá embarked on a three-year journey to including Europe and North America[17] and then wrote a series of letters that were compiled together in the book titled Tablets of the Divine Plan which included mention of the need to spread the religion in Europe following the war.[18]

A 1925 list of "leading local Bahá'í Centres" of Europe listed organized communities of many countries - the largest being in Germany.[19] However the religion was soon banned in a couple countries: in 1937 Heinrich Himmler disbanded the Bahá'í Faith's institutions in Germany because of its 'international and pacifist tendencies'[20] and in Russia in 1938 "monstrous accusations" against Bahá'ís and a Soviet government policy of oppression of religion resulted in Bahá'í communities in 38 cities across Soviet territories ceasing to exist.[21] However the religion recovered in both countries. The religion has generally spread such that in recent years the Association of Religion Data Archives estimated the Bahá'ís in European countries to number in hundreds to tens of thousands.[22]


View of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the largest European Roman Catholic Church
Cathedral of Saint Sava in Serbia is the largest Orthodox church in the world
The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia is one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals
The St John's Church, Bergen is a Lutheran church in Norway
Calvinist Temple Saint-Étienne (Protestant St. Stephen's Church) in France

The majority of Europeans describe themselves as Christians, divided into a large number of denominations.[23] Christian denominations are usually classed in three categories: Catholicism, Orthodoxy and Protestantism (a diverse group including Lutheranism, Calvinism and Anglicanism as well as numerous minor denominations, including Baptists, Methodism, Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, etc.).

Christianity, more specifically the Catholic Church, which played an important part in the shaping of Western civilization since at least the 4th century.[24][25]

European culture, throughout most of its recent history, has been heavily influenced by Christian belief and has been nearly equivalent to Christian culture.[26] The Christian culture was one of the more dominant forces to influence western civilization, concerning the course of philosophy, art, music, science, social structure and architecture.[26][27] The Civilizing influence of Christianity includes social welfare,[28] founding hospitals,[29] economics (as the Protestant work ethic),[30][31] politics[32] architecture,[33] literature[34] and family life.[35]

Christianity is still the largest religion in Europe according to a 2011 survey, 76.2% of Europeans considered themselves Christians at that time.[36][37] According to a 2012 study about Religiosity in the European Union in 2012 by Eurobarometer Christianity is the largest religion in the European Union (account 72% of EU population), Catholics were the largest Christian group in EU, and accounted for 48% of the EU population, While Protestants made up 12%, and Eastern Orthodoxs made up 8%, and other Christians 4%.[38]

Christian Denominations

There are numerous minor Protestant movements, including various Evangelical congregations.


Further information: Islam in Europe
Birmingham Central Mosque, the first mosque in the United Kingdom to use loudspeakers to broadcast the adhan.[40]

Islam came to parts of European islands and coasts on the Mediterranean during the 8th-century Muslim conquests. In the Iberian Peninsula and parts of southern France, various Muslim states existed before the Reconquista; Islam spread in southern Italy briefly through the Emirate of Sicily and Emirate of Bari. During the Ottoman expansion, Islam was spread from into the Balkans and even part of central Europe. Muslims have also been historically present in Ukraine (Crimea and vicinity, with the Crimean Tatars), as well as modern-day Russia, beginning with Volga Bulgaria in the 10th century and the conversion of the Golden Horde to Islam. In recent years, Muslims have migrated to Europe as residents and temporary workers.

According to the Pew Forum, the total number of Muslims in Europe in 2010 was about 44 million (6%).[41] While the total number of Muslims in the European Union in 2007 was about 16 million (3.2%).[42]

Muslims make up 99% of the population in Northern Cyprus,[43][44] 96% in Kosovo,[45] 56% in Albania,[46][47] 51% in Bosnia and Herzegovina,[48] 39.3% in Macedonia, [49][50] 20% in Montenegro,[51] between 10 and 15% in Russia,[52] 7 -9% in France,[53][54][55] 8% in Bulgaria,[56] 6% in the Netherlands, 5% in Denmark, just over 4% in Switzerland and Austria, between 3 and 4% in Greece and almost 5% in the United Kingdom and Germany.[57][58][59]


The Jews were dispersed within the Roman Empire from the 2nd century. At one time Judaism was practiced widely throughout the European continent; throughout the Middle Ages, Jews were accused of ritual murder and faced pogroms and legal discrimination. The Holocaust perpetrated by Nazi Germany decimated Jewish population, and today, France is home to the largest Jewish community in Europe with 1% of the total population (between 483,000 and 500,000 Jews).[60][61] Other European countries with notable Jewish populations include the United Kingdom (291,000 Jews),[61] Germany (119,000), and Russia (194,000) which is home to Eastern Europe's largest Jewish community.[61]


Main article: Deism

During the Enlightenment, Deism became influential especially in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Biblical concepts were challenged by concepts such as a heliocentric universe and other scientific challenges to the Bible.[62] Notable early deists include Erasmus, Voltaire, Kant and Spinoza.[63]


Further information: Secularism, Irreligion, and Postchristianity

The trend towards secularism during the 20th century has a number of reasons, depending on the individual country:

The trend towards secularism has been less pronounced in the traditionally Catholic countries of Mediterranean Europe. Greece as the only traditionally Eastern Orthodox country in Europe which has not been part of the communist Eastern Bloc also retains a very high religiosity, with in excess of 95% of Greeks adhering to the Greek Orthodox Church.

According to Pew Research Center survey in 2012 religiously unaffiliated (include agnostic and atheist) make up about 18.2% of Europeans population.[70] According to the same survey religiously unaffiliated make up a majority of the population only in two European countries: Czech Republic (75%) and Estonia (60%).[70]

Atheism and Agnosticism

Main articles: Atheism and Agnosticism

During the late 20th and early 21st centuries, atheism or agnosticism has increased, with falling church attendance and membership in various European countries.[71] The 2010 eurobarometer poll found that on total average, of the EU27 population, 51% "believe in a God", 26% believe in "some sort of spirit or life force" and 20% had neither of these forms of belief.[1] Across the EU, belief was higher among women, increased with age, those with strict upbringing, those with the lowest levels of formal education and those leaning towards right-wing politics.[66]:10–11 Results were varied widely between different countries, on the one end 94% of Maltese respondents stating that they believe in a God and on the other end only 16% of the people of Czech Republic stating the same.[1]

According to a poll measuring religious identification in the European Union in 2012 by Eurobarometer, 7% of EU citizens identify as atheists.[13]

European indigenous religions

Esetrother community of the Íslenska Ásatrúarfélagið (Icelandic Esetroth Fellowship) preparing for a Þingblót at Þingvellir.
An Odinist-rite wedding in Spain, in 2010, at the Temple of Gaut in Albacete.


The religious development of Druidry was largely influenced by Iolo Morganwg.[72] Modern practises aim to imitate the practises of the Celtic peoples of the Iron Age.[73]

Germanic indigenous religion

Main article: Germanic neopaganism

Heathenism or Esetroth (Icelandic: Ásatrú), and the organised form Odinism, are names for the modern folk religion of the Germanic nations.

In the United Kingdom Census 2001, 300 people registered as Heathen in England and Wales.[74] However, many Heathens followed the advice of the Pagan Federation (PF) and simply described themselves as "Pagan", while other Heathens did not specify their religious beliefs.[74] In the 2011 census, 1,958 people self-identified as Heathen in England and Wales. A further 251 described themselves as Reconstructionist and may include some people reconstructing Germanic paganism.[75]

Ásatrúarfélagið (Esetroth Fellowship) was recognized as an official religion by the Icelandic government in 1973. For its first 20 years it was led by farmer and poet Sveinbjörn Beinteinsson. By 2003, it had 777 members,[76] and by 2014, it had 2,382 members, corresponding to 0.8% of Iceland's population.[77] In Iceland, Germanic religion has an impact larger than the number of its adherents.[78]

In Sweden, the Swedish Forn Sed Assembly (Forn Sed, or the archaic Forn Siðr, means "Old Custom") was formed in 1994 and is since 2007 recognized as a religious organization by the Swedish government. In Denmark Forn Siðr was formed in 1999, and was officially recognized in 2003[79] The Norwegian Åsatrufellesskapet Bifrost (Esetroth Fellowship Bifrost) was formed in 1996; as of 2011, the fellowship has some 300 members. Foreningen Forn Sed was formed in 1999, and has been recognized by the Norwegian government as a religious organization. In Spain there is the Odinist Community of Spain — Ásatrú.

Official religions

A number of countries in Europe have official religions, including Liechtenstein,[80] Malta,[81] Monaco,[82] the Vatican City (Catholic);[83] Armenia (Apostolic Orthodoxy) ; Denmark,[84] Iceland[85][86] and the United Kingdom (England alone) (Anglican).[87] In Switzerland, some cantons are officially Catholic, others Reformed Protestant. Some Swiss villages even have their religion as well as the village name written on the signs at their entrances.

Georgia has no established church, but the Georgian Orthodox Church enjoys de facto privileged status. Much the same applies in Germany with the Evangelical Church and the Roman Catholic Church, and the Jewish community. In Finland, both the Finnish Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church are official. England, a part of the United Kingdom, has Anglicanism as its official religion. Scotland, another part of the UK, has Presbyterianism as its national church, but it is no longer "official". In Sweden, the national church used to be Lutheranism, but it is no longer "official" since 2000. Azerbaijan, Czech Republic,[88] France, Ireland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain and Turkey are officially secular.

Indian religions

Jain temple in Antwerp, Belgium


Main article: Buddhism in Europe

Buddhism is thinly spread throughout Europe, and the fastest growing religion in recent years[89][90] with about 3 million adherents.[91][92] In Kalmykia, Tibetan Buddhism is prevalent.[93]


Hinduism mainly among Indian immigrants. Growing rapidly in recent years, notably in the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands.[94][95] In 1998, there were an estimated 1.4 million Hindu adherents in Europe.[96]


Jainism, small membership rolls, mainly among Indian immigrants in Belgium and the United Kingdom, as well as several converts from western and northern Europe.[97][98]


Sikhism has nearly 1 million adherents in Europe. Most of the community live in United Kingdom (750,000) and Italy (70,000).[99][100] Around 10,000 in Belgium and France.[101] The Netherlands and Germany have a Sikh population of 12,000.[102][103] All other countries have 5,000 or fewer Sikhs such as Greece.

Other religions

Other religions represented in Europe include:

See also


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