Switzerland: 1 in 3 are now non-religious, mainline Protestantism falls to record low 21%

Official statistics conclude that free evangelical Christians (below 5%) pray and attend worship services more than other faith groups.

Evangelical Focus

BERN · 20 JUNE 2023 · 12:06 CET

A view of the Protestant Church Grossmünster in Zurich, Switzerland. / Photo: <a target="_blank" href="https://unsplash.com/@espressoloverpictures">Sandro Boffa</a>, CC0.,
A view of the Protestant Church Grossmünster in Zurich, Switzerland. / Photo: Sandro Boffa, CC0.

Non-religious people are about to become the largest group in Switzerland, according to the newest statistics released by the Federal Statistical Office in June 2023.

This latest report is based on final figures of the year 2021.

The number of ‘nones’ hits a new record high in the country of Protestant reformers Jean Calvin and Huldrych Zwingli.

The Swiss who do not identify with a certain religion now represent 32.3% of the population. In 1970, only 1.2% said they had no religion; in 2000, these ‘nones’ represented 11.4%. Since the new century started, the figure has tripled.

Among the citizens with no religious affiliation, 38% identify as atheist and more than a fifth as agnostic. Still, 30% of non-religious people admit they believe in some sort of superior power.

Mainline Protestantism in steep decline

The statistics show that while those identifying with Roman Catholicism in 2021 (32.9%) fall by 5.7% compared to 2010, the decline is even clearer among those identifying as Protestant or Reformed (21.1%), 6.9% less than in 2010.  

Many Swiss who belong to the national historic churches do not practice their faith. Around 40% of Reformed Protestants and 30% of Roman Catholics say they never pray.

Half of mainline Reformed Protestants attend a church service less than 5 times a year. Among Roman Catholics, the most common frequency is a bit higher: they go to church once every month or two.


Free evangelicals the most committed with their faith

The Statistics Office report does not make it easy to calculate an exact percentage of evangelical Christians. It speaks of “0.5% neo-pietistic or evangelical communities, 0.4% Pentecostal and other charismatic communities, 0.2% Apostolic communities”, as well as “1.1% other Evangelical Reformed churches” and “0.3% other Christian communities”.

Switzerland: 1 in 3 are now non-religious, mainline Protestantism falls to record low 21%

  Graph: Federal Statistical Office of the Swiss government. Published: 3/2023 

But it is more concise in the language when it defines the practices. 93% of “other evangelical communities” belief in one single God (compared to 40% of Reformed Protestants). Free evangelicals also “pray more frequently” than other religions: 30% pray several times a day and 54% pray almost every day.

The attendance to worship places of free evangelicals is the highest among religious people: “68% of members of other Evangelical communities attend a religious service at least once a week”, says the report.


Nationality and religion

95% of Reformed Protestants and three quarters of Roman Catholics are Swiss nationals. The shares of Swiss nationals are lowest for Islamic communities (37%) and other religious communities (51%).

Among those who do not identify with a certain religion, 71% are Swiss nationals.


Does faith make a difference in life?

The survey also showed that almost half of the Swiss believe that there is life after death or that certain people have a gift of healing or clairvoyance. Around 2 in 10 belief in reincarnation and that one can come into contact with the dead.

More than half (53%) agree that “religion or spirituality plays a rather or very important role in difficult moment in life”. The survey concludes that “40% of the population aged 15 and over say that religion or spirituality is important in their attitude towards the environment and 42% in bringing up children”.

But “the areas of life where religion or spirituality are less important are working life (21%), decisions in referendums or political orientation (14%), sexuality (16%) or eating habits (14%), concludes the report.  

The figures used by the Federal Statistics Office of Switzerland correspond to the final figures collected in the year 2021, which now have been made available.

Published in: Evangelical Focus - europe - Switzerland: 1 in 3 are now non-religious, mainline Protestantism falls to record low 21%

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