Netherlands: More Atheists than Believers
Study shows 17% of the Dutch believe in God, slightly more than 25% describe themselves as atheists and the absolute majority, 60%, waver between belief and unbelief. Number of believers amongst young people is higher than amongst older people.
Livenet.ch · AMSTERDAM · 29 JANUARY 2015 · 13:00 CET
In the Netherlands there are, for the first time in more recent history, more atheists than people who believe in God. This is the conclusion reached by the market research institution ‘Ipsos’ following their latest survey.
17% of the Dutch believe in God, slightly more than 25% describe themselves as atheists and the absolute majority, 60%, waver between belief and unbelief. This is the conclusion reached by the survey, which was designed by the political scientist André Krouwel and the professor of theology Joke van Saane
According to the survey the majority of those questioned describe themselves as agnostics, or unable or unwilling to commit themselves definitely in matters of faith (agnostics think that you cannot be sure about whether there is such a thing as a higher being). Therefore faith is continuing to dwindle steadily, as comparative figures from previous surveys prove. Only in 2012 there were still more believing than unbelieving people in Holland.
One explanation for this trend, according to Professor van Saane, is that the modern person has himself and his feelings in the spotlight and allows himself to be guided by them. Surprisingly the number of believers amongst young people is higher than amongst older people.
As this is the first study with a conclusion of this kind, others, such as the protestant theologian Joep de Hart, think that it is still too early for attempts at explanation like this one. Even if only a relatively small percentage of people describe themselves as believing, 53% of the population say at least that they believe in some form of life continuing after death and over 40% describe themselves as ‘spiritual people.’
‘EARLY CHRISTIAN’ OPPORTUNITY
The current figures from the Netherlands are also mirrored in the latest studies from Germany or Switzerland. Here the circumstances are very similar. The question is how churches and congregations can react to this. A culturally pessimistic swansong to ‘Christian Western civilisation’ does not, in practice, get anyone anywhere. In fact the church finds itself today, much more than before, in an ‘early Christian’ setting: Christian values and issues are not automatically binding on all, and believers are for the time being in the minority. High time to take advantage of the opportunity and to bring faith up for discussion again.