Europe can be seen as the home of Christianity in some ways – certainly the Vatican City can be which is the center of Catholicism where the Pope resides. Millions of Christians (specifically Catholic) listen to what this monarch has to say on matters of religion and millions head on pilgrimages to Rome to see St Peter’s Square and the Sistine Chapel alongside other great monuments to the religion.
Ironic then perhaps that in some ways Christianity is dying Europe – and even in Italy – if not completely then certainly compared to the US. Over in the US roughly one in three people attend a regular religious service. In France which is predominantly Catholic this is closer to one in twenty.
Indeed if Christianity is dying in Europe then many people would point to France as sparking the fuel – as a result of the secular ‘relativism’ that began around the renascence. Across Europe though religion has become far more diverse. In 1910 95% of Europe were Christian, whereas by 2010 this had fallen to 80%. Of course this is still a significant figure – but among this 80% a vast majority hold secular beliefs and do not attend religious ceremonies.
The renascence is seen as one culprit for Christianity dying in Europe, so what else is to blame? Well the main gains were agnostics (beliefs that do not subscribe to a major religion) and atheists – together accounting for 13% of the population (which was 0.5% in 1910). Muslims have also increased in number and there are now more than 41 million Muslims living in Europe. This latter change is largely due to immigration, and has resulted in many alarmist statements – some even claiming that ‘Islam will conquer Rome’.
All this has seen European churches becoming less and less frequented, and in many publicly expressed concerns from the Pope. However it’s not all bad news for Christianity in Europe, and there are some signs of life still in the religion. While the numbers are declining in Europe, it is important to recognize that Christianity is still the predominant religion – and that 80% of Europeans still identify themselves as Christian. This isn’t always reflected in church attendance no, but there are some countries such as Poland (predominantly Catholic) where attendance is higher.
Immigration is also not entirely a problem for the religion and in fact where Christianity in Europe has seen the most growth has been as a result of immigration from Africa (with conversion accounting for a very small amount of growth). At the same time Christianity has actually been gaining ground across the developing world leading some to believe that this is where the future lies for the religion.
So is Christianity dying in Europe? That really depends on what you mean by ‘dying’, but suffice to say that it has begun to lose ground and that religion on the continent is certainly more diverse than it ever has been before.