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Secularisation Continues in the Netherlands

by our Editors in General , 14 mei 2016

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

In general, homosexuality, church and religion always were a troublesome combination. From the stake, hangings from high buildings to life imprisonment. But the times are changing.

The figures on the secularisation of the Netherlands speak for itself. It is remarkable that when intelligence increases, having faith decreases. Not that long ago, religion was a must for people who gained to benefit from being seen in the front row at church on Sundays. It benefited their company, status when job searching or getting a promotion. However, secularisation is continuing at an increasingly faster pace. Over time, the percentage of religious people is decreasing, and a much lower percentage of those who believe are still church goers. This is especially true for Catholics.

The Netherlands no longer is a Christian nation. That is the most important conclusion to be drawn from the survey 'God in the Netherlands' by the catholic public broadcaster KRO under over 2,100 Dutch people. A large majority, over 82 percent, hardly ever or never goes to church. And a large majority thinks that religion should not play a leading role in politics and education.

Almost 25 percent of respondents consider themselves to be atheists. In 2006, this was 14 percent. Another remarkable fact is that the rise of spirituality has come to a halt. Ten years ago, 40 percent of respondents considered themselves spiritual, but now that percentage has dropped to 31 percent.

Religion is also seen less as a means for social interaction and togetherness. Also, 25 percent of the population think that morale is under threat if people stop believing in God. Ten years ago, this was 40 percent. The number of people indicating that they never pray has risen from 36 percent in 2006 to 53 percent in 2016.

Less and less people are visiting church services. Church attendance almost halved, with 30 percent in 2006 to 18 percent in 2016. Especially the Roman-Catholic churches are getting emptier, with a slightly larger decrease compared to Protestant/Calvinist churches. A decreasing number of Catholics participate in religion and church. Only 13 percent still believes in the existence of heaven, and less than half believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Over half the Catholics think that the Church is not in keeping with their own world view.

The Protestant Church shows less secularisation. Even though the membership figures drop, the statistics for churchgoing and faith remain more or less equal. 77 percent of the Protestant believe in the divine character of Jesus Christ, a slight decrease of 8 percent compared to ten years ago. Yet one third of members miss dovetailing of the church with their own world view.


Not only are there less church goers, the number of church members is still decreasing to about a quarter of the population. In 2006, 34 percent of the population was member of a church. In the Netherlands, 25 percent of the population indicates belonging to one of the Christian churches, 5 percent is Islamic, and 2 percent is adhering to Hinduism or Buddhism. The rest of the Netherlands is non-denominational. This group represents people who do belief, but do not go to church (17 percent) and people who do not believe, but are spiritual (10 percent). The largest part of this group, 41 percent, is secular (neither believers nor spiritual).

But what does it all mean? It cannot be proven, but wasn't the Netherlands the first country in the world that introduced legislation that arranged equality between heterosexual and homosexual couples? Was it not the example to a lot of gays of an ideal society?

It is also remarkable that over half of the Catholics think that the Church is not in keeping with their own world view. The many child abuse scandals in the Catholic Church will be part of this. But also outside of the Netherlands, the resistance against the unworldly views held by the church is increasing.

A good example of this is Ireland, a stronghold of the Catholic Church, which had to watch with sorrow how the country voted in favour of the equal treatment of heterosexual and heterosexual couples, in spite of the fanatic campaign to vote No by the Catholic Church. We can only be pleased that people are starting to think and decide for themselves, and do not leave this to others.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 330, februari 2019

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