Blog Post

European Youth Abandon Religion in Record Numbers

A new study has shown an alarming loss of faith among 16- to 29-year-olds in more than a dozen European countries where as many as 70 percent say they never go to church and 80 percent don’t even pray.

According to the Guardian, the study entitled Europe’s Young Adults and Religion was conducted by Stephen Bullivant, a professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University in London. The statistics he used are from the European social survey taken between 2014-16.

“With some notable exceptions, young adults increasingly are not identifying with or practicing religion,” Bullivant said. “Christianity as a default, as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good – or at least for the next 100 years.”

However, there are significant variations in the numbers that are important to note.

For example, the most religions country is Poland where only 17 percent of young adults consider themselves to be non-religious. Compare this to 91 percent of youth in the Czech Republic. Twenty-five percent of youth in Lithuania say they’re non-religious while 70 to 80 percent of youth in Estonia, Sweden and the Netherlands say they aren’t religious.

Because of this loss of faith 70 percent of young Czechs say they never go to Church and 80 percent never pray. Between 56 and 60 percent of youth in the UK, France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands say they never go to church and 63 to 66 percent say they never pray.

“Among those identifying as Catholic, there was wide variation in levels of commitment,” the Guardian reports. “More than 80 percent of young Poles say they are Catholic, with about half going to mass at least once a week. In Lithuania, where 70 percent of young adults say they are Catholic, only five percent go to mass weekly.”

In the UK in particular, more young people identify as Catholic (10%) than Anglican (7%), with Muslims coming in third (6%).

Commenting on the study, Catholic League president Bill Donohue cites Douglas Murray, author of The Strange Death of Europe, who pointed out that “Europe today has little desire to reproduce itself, fight for itself or even take its own side in an argument.”

Of European elites, Murray says, they “seem persuaded that it would not matter if the people and culture of Europe were lost to the world.”

This was precisely what Pope Benedict XVI predicted would happen, Donohue points out. “He saw the effects of multiculturalism as clearly as anyone, showing how a contempt for moral truths that adhere to the Judeo-Christian ethos has led to ‘a peculiar Western self-hatred that is nothing short of pathological’."

He adds: “The de-Christianization of the West has yielded such fruit as record high levels of abortion, out-of-wedlock births, homosexuality, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, prostitution, drug abuse, depression, and suicide. This is the natural outcome of a civilization that has allowed moral relativism to triumph over Christianity. Just as Pope Benedict XVI said it would.”

And just like Pope Benedict predicted, Bullivant also believes that the time is fast approaching when “mainstream churches will be smaller, but the few people left will be highly committed."

However, this should not be something that frightens us, says Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput.

“ . . . [W]e should never be afraid of a smaller, lighter Church if her members are also more faithful, more zealous, more missionary and more committed to holiness,” he said in a 2016 speech at Notre Dame.

“Losing people who are members of the Church in name only is an imaginary loss. It may, in fact, be more honest for those who leave and healthier for those who stay. We should be focused on commitment, not numbers or institutional throw-weight.”

While this is certainly true, we cannot help but mourn for so many young people who are growing up in the cold arms of materialism instead of in the warm embrace of the God who loves them.

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