Friday, 2 November 2007

Christianity may yet rise again in Europe

[...] Grace Davie of the University of Exeter argues that there are really two religious economies in Europe. In the old one, religion is “a public utility”: there is one state-backed supplier, and most Christians follow their religion vicariously (in the sense that somebody else does your churchgoing for you). For instance, around 75% of Swedes are baptised as Lutherans, but only 5% regularly go to church. The church pockets a staggering $1.6 billion in membership fees, collected by the state through the tax system. It has been rare for Swedes to opt out, though that seems to be changing.

Alongside this old religious economy, a smaller one, based on personal choice, is growing. Together evangelicals, charismatics and Pentecostals accounted for 8.2% of Europe's population in 2000, nearly double the rate in 1970, according to the World Christian Encyclopedia. Pentecostalism is France's fastest-growing religion. London's immigrant-packed East End is thought to have twice as many Pentecostal congregations as Church of England ones.

However, most evangelicals and charismatics are contained within the older religions. Over 2m Britons have now taken the Alpha course, “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life”, which began at Holy Trinity Brompton, a posh church in Kensington. Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, uses Alpha veterans to “rechurch” areas of his diocese. Read more
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