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Religion and Secularism in the European Union

State of Affairs and Current Debates


Edited By Jan Nelis, Caroline Sägesser and Jean-Philippe Schreiber

The present volume monitors new developments concerning religious issues, faith-based organizations, State-Church relations and secularism in the EU, which especially during the past two decades have undergone profound changes, changes which continuously and increasingly alter mentalities and habits, whether belief-related or not. In this collective work, authors develop the major themes that are relevant to their country of expertise, while a final chapter is devoted to the role of the European Courts (ECHR and EU). The different chapters show that in recent years, religion, once thought to be of minor importance in a highly secular society, has made quite a vigorous political comeback. Thus Europe seems to have reached a crucial point in its history, a moment in which future tendencies in the field of religion and secularism are being defined, and negotiated. There is little doubt that the outcome of this process will influence the continent’s future outlook, as well as its role and relevance in an increasingly globalized world.

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The Netherlands. The Impact of Secularization on a Pillar-Based Society (Agnieszka Szumigalska)


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The Netherlands

The Impact of Secularization on a Pillar-Based Society


Masaryk University/VU University Amsterdam

In recent decades Dutch society has undergone deep changes in the field of religion. On one hand the links between individuals and religious communities have considerably loosened, whereby religion has lost its former socio-cultural role, mainly as a result of secularization. Nevertheless, among those who nowadays indicate no religious affiliation, still more than 40% do not declare themselves atheists or agnostics.1 On the other hand, after WWII new (non-Christian) religious communities have marked the religious outlook of the Netherlands, with Islam as an example.

The dynamic character of the changes in religiosity in Dutch society can be illustrated using Church membership data. While in 1909 approximately 5% of the Dutch did not belong to any confessional community,2 in 2014 this percentage had increased significantly (49.2%). Age seems to be an important factor (72% of those older than 75 declared religious affiliation, while among the respondents aged between 18 and 25, only 41.4% did), as well as the level of education – higher levels of education imply lower percentages of religious affiliation. In 2014, 76.6% of the Dutch declared that they rarely or never attended religious services, whereas those who declared regular attendance accounted for 16.4% of the population.3 ← 135 | 136 →

Historically, religion has played a significant cultural and socio-political role in the Netherlands; it was the basis of...

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