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New St Mary's Research Shows Huge Differences in the Religiosity of Young Adults across Europe

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Research published today by academics from St Mary’s University, Twickenham and the Institut Catholique de Paris (ICP) reveals levels of religious affiliation and practice amongst 16-29 year-olds in 22 European countries.

The report, launched today in Paris and freely downloadable online in both English and French, analyses recent data from the highly-respected European Social Survey. It found that the proportion of young adults who say they have ‘no religion’ ranged between 1% in Israel to 91% in the Czech Republic. The UK, where 70% of young adults claim no religious affiliation, ranked fifth highest on the list.

Download the report

Key findings from the report include;

  • 70% of young Britons identify as having no religion, with 10% identifying as Catholics, 7% as Anglicans, and 6% as Muslims. While 7% of British young adults say they attend religious services on at least a weekly basis, 59% say they never do.
  • 99% of Israeli, 83% of Polish, 75% of Lithuanian, and 61% of Irish young adults claim a religious affiliation.
  • At the other end of the scale, merely 9% of Czech, 20% of Estonian, 25% of Swedish, and 28% of Dutch young adults say they have a religion.
  • 60% of Spanish, Dutch, British, and Belgian young adults, and 70% of Czech ones, never attend religious services.
  • Despite widely-reported religious decline in Ireland, 54% of young adults there identify as Catholics. A quarter of young Irish Catholics attend Mass weekly, and over 40% say they pray weekly. These rates are among the highest in Europe.
  • Only 2% of Catholic young adults in Belgium, 3% in Hungary and Austria, 5% in Lithuania, 6% in Germany attend weekly Mass. This contrasts sharply with Poland’s Catholic young adults, almost half of whom attend Mass weekly or more.

Speaking of the report, author Prof Stephen Bullivant said, “The differences in the religiousness – or, as dominates in many countries, nonreligiousness – of 16-29 year-olds in our sample of European countries is genuinely remarkable. There are, moreover, some genuine surprises in the data.

“For example, Ireland’s young adults are – contrary to recent reports – still remarkably religious, at least by the standards of other highly developed European nations. Meanwhile, countries that had, until quite recently, traditionally strong religious cultures – Lithuania, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria – look to be in serious trouble, in terms of the coming generations.”

About Prof Stephen Bullivant

Stephen Bullivant is Professor of Theology and the Sociology of Religion at St Mary’s University, where he also directs the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society. He has held visiting positions at the Universities of Oxford, Manchester, and University College London.

As an author and editor, Prof Bullivant has published nine books in theology and social sciences. Forthcoming volumes include Why Catholics Leave, What They Miss, and How They Might Return (Paulist Press, 2018; co-authored with C. Knowles, H. Vaughan-Spruce, and B. Durcan), Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II (Oxford University Press, 2019), and The Cambridge History of Atheism (Cambridge University Press, 2020; two volumes, co-edited with M. Ruse).

Prof Bullivant’s research has received extensive media coverage, including from the BBC, Sky News, The New York Times, The Times, The Guardian, The Economist, and Der Spiegel. He has been interviewed on BBC Radio, LBC, Vatican Radio, and EWTN. His own writings have been published by outlets including The Guardian, New Scientist, The Spectator, First Things, America, and The Catholic Herald.

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