What does Europe really believe?

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Belief that ‘there is a god’

Having just got back from a web evangelism conference in Lithuania, I thought I’d look up some stats for beliefs in that country, and found this remarkable table of Eurobarometer Poll results for the whole of Europe (scroll down about one screen on the link page to view the table).

Figures are given in percentages for a) ‘Belief in a god’, b) ‘Belief in a spirit or life force’, and c) ‘Belief in neither a spirit, god or life force’. To find the exact questions asked, you’d need to read the Poll document itself (there’s a link to it within our link above) – reporting on a survey that covered many social attitudes. Of course, many people hold inconsistent and muddled beliefs. But doubtless a) equates broadly to monotheists who believe in a creator god ‘outside the system’. And b) are people doubtful of a personal god outside and separate from creation, who merely believe in spiritual forces existing within the physical universe; while c) are atheists.

The figures for ‘belief in a life spirit or force’ are remarkably high in many countries – sometimes over 50% (and often at a similar level to theism). This is essentially New Age spirituality – and not much different from Buddhism. It’s really the default religious belief that people seem to relapse into when they retreat from genuine theism. Though some of the people in category b), if asked different poll questions, might self-identify as ‘christian’, such inflated percentages of ‘christian’ identity may mean little more than a fading respect for a broadly Christian ethic and their country’s historic ties to Christianity. Church leaders tend to ‘talk up’ the figures for Christian belief in their countries, but I think these Eurobarometer figures represent actual belief much more accurately, certainly here in UK.

It is also surprising just how much variation there is from country to country. This suggests that different European countries may need varying evangelistic starting-points in order to be effective. In particular, approaches that assume a pre-existing belief in a personal creator god may not resonate in many countries, whereas creative ways that can engage with New Age spirituality could surely be vital.

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3 comments to What does Europe really believe?

  • Thanks for letting us know about this. Let me know if we can help in any way.

  • Steve Hollinghurst

    thankd for highlighting the stats, already added to my very large file of similar – even a proffessional researcher doesn;t see ever survey so looking forward to all 336 pages ;o)

    the big deate in social analysis of religion is ‘are new age style beliefs, and for me these need to be added to by different Pagan beliefs, a sign of what happens when christian beleifs decay – David Voas would be the adovcate here – or a new approach to religion emerging in a post-modern society – my position’ this matters in how we respond. needles to say the new spiritulaites are far more at home online than most christians. i thinkw e have soem stuff to learn about how peopel are religious today on and offline which may well help us see the real issues for own witness to faith in both media (if that’s the right word increasingly unsure what is ;o)

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