Thursday, 22 March 2018

Good News From the Catholics

Europe's Young Adults and Religion | St Mary's University Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society.

A recent poll conducted jointly by St Mary's University Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, UK and the Institute Catholique de Paris, France makes miserable reading for it's target readership - 2018 Synod of Bishops, due to be held in Rome in October 2018. In brief, it shows the massive haemorrhage of church members is continuing apace especially amongst the young. The survey was concerned with the religious views and practices of the key sixteen to twenty-nine year-old.

The key findings are:
  1. The proportion of young adults (16-29) with no religious affiliation (‘nones’) is as high as 91% in the Czech Republic, 80% in Estonia, and 75% in Sweden. These compare to only 1% in Israel, 17% in Poland, and 25% in Lithuania. In the UK and France, the proportions are 70% and 64% respectively.
  2. 70% of Czech young adults – and c. 60% of Spanish, Dutch, British, and Belgian ones – ‘never’ attend religious services. Meanwhile, 80% of Czech young adults – and c. 70% of Swedish, Danish, Estonian, Dutch, French and Norwegian ones – ‘never’ pray.
  3. Catholics make up 82% of Polish, 71% of Lithuanian, 55% of Slovenian, and 54% of Irish 16-29 year-olds. In France, it is 23%; in the UK, 10%.
  4. Only 2% of Catholic young adults in Belgium, 3% in Hungary and Austria, 5% in Lithuania, and 6% in Germany say they attend Mass weekly. This contrasts sharply with their peers in Poland (47%), Portugal (27%), the Czech Republic (24%), and Ireland (24%). Weekly Mass attendance is 7% among French, and 17% among British, Catholic young adults.
  5. Only 26% of French young adults, and 21% British ones, identify as Christians. Only 7% of young adults in the UK identify as Anglicans, compared to 6% as Muslims. In France, 2% identify as Protestants, and 10% as Muslims.

The report was written by Professor Stephen Bullivant, Professor of Theology at St Mary's University, Twickenham, UK.

It is tempting to look at the countries with the highest proportion of 'Nones' (Czech Republic and Estonia) and conclude that this was in part at least, due to a generation brought up under Communism. However, the two lowest (Poland and Lithuania) are also former Communist states and Lithuania and Estonia are also Baltic Republics and were both formerly integral parts of Russia. Clearly, their histories are only a small part of the cause of this rejection of religion by the young.

This 16-29 year-old group is highly significant since this survey shows, and as has been confirmed in other surveys, the children of 'Nones' tend to be overwhelmingly 'Nones' themselves and religious affiliation and opinion formed by the age of about 30 is rarely changed.

'None' has now become the default response for more than 50% of the young population of 12 of the 22 European countries surveyed with a further 3 nudging the 50% mark. In these countries, 'Nones' now outnumber all other demographic groups combined so none of these countries can now be accurately described as a Christian country, a Catholic country, a Protestant country, etc, in so far as the younger generation is concerned. Within another 40-50 years this will be true for all age groups for most European countries.

The churches of Europe are facing a demographic tidal wave as this group ages, depriving them of new members to replace the dead, of new priests to replace the old and retired and above all, the funds with which to maintain the churches and pay the wages of those for whom it provided employment. If this were a business, it would be facing imminent bankruptcy.

And of course, with this scale of rejection, the churches are losing any claim they once had to moral authority or to be consulted in matters of law and/or social policy. In an information age, evidence-free superstition is marching into battle, armed only with illusory 'faith' - and losing every time. Science and reason are winning.

In short, the days of religious Europe are numbered. This truly is the End Times for religion in Europe as the final remnants of the Dark Ages are being swept away.

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