What does Europe really believe?
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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