What is the religious climate in your country?

June 9, 2008 | Uncategorized | 38 comments

I know I have at least a few readers from outside the United States, and I’d love to open up this post to you guys to hear about what the religious climate is like in your part of the world.

I hear the media reports and have visited quite a few countries as a tourist, but I’d like to hear the inside scoop. So, if you live (or have lived for an extended time) outside the U.S., I’d be delighted if you could take a moment to enlighten us with your perspective on the following questions:

  1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)
  2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
  3. Imagine a typical social event in your area. How appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian (e.g. make a statement like, “We’ve been praying about this a lot” or “I’ve asked God to show me what the right answer is to my dilemma”)? Would a statement like that seem perfectly normal or a bit odd?
  4. Imagine a typical neighborhood in your area. If a practicing Christian family moved in, how would they fit in? Would they blend right in or seem out of place?
  5. How many families do you know who have more than two children?

  6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
  7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

Please feel free to add any additional thoughts or comments as well — long comments welcome.

As you can tell, my interest is primarily in countries that are historically Christian, but anyone is welcome to reply. I’m looking forward to reading your answers!

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UPDATE: If anyone would prefer to answer these questions on their blog rather than in the comments, feel free to use the Mr. Linky below. (Thanks to Marit for that suggestion!)

1. Lizzie at A Whisper of Grace
2. Suz
3. Kathryn (The Bookworm) – corrected link
4. Firinne
5. Suzy
6. SusanInGermany
7. Linda (Holland)
8. Koala Bear Writer (Canada)

Powered by… Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets.

38 Comments

  1. Momma Mary

    I live in California. Sometimes it FEELS like a different country. Heck, sometimes I feel more ‘targeted’ here because of Christianity than I did in Bahrain (small country in the middle of the Persian Gulf). So, I’m going to answer your questions, based on CA.

    Church Attendance? In my neighborhood, it’s pretty good. But churches are hard to find here. I have found about three that I’d consider going to. One of them is the Military Chapel.

    Outside of Military Functions, people tend to look at me strange when I’m speaking with my friends about prayer and reading the bible. (It happened to me at lunch on Wednesday.) People here seem to worship themselves, money and the earth more than they worship any kind of God. Growing up in the midwest, and living in Virginia for four years, then moving here. I feel like I’m in a God-less country sometimes.

    Luckily, I have found a bible study group to belong to. But I do feel as if I’m living in a different country. Quite often!

  2. Marit

    Hi! My name is Marit and I live in Holland. I grew up in Norway, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Louisiana, but am a dutch citizen.I live in a town called Nunspeet which is in the so-called Bible Belt of Holland.

    Church attendance is right up there. There are a lot of traditional protestant churches here. The strictest require women to wear dresses/skirts at all times, and to wear a hat to church. The families in these churches are also big, as they don’t believe in birth control. Some of the strictest churches don’t believe in vaccination either and do not support shopping/working/eating out on Sundays.

    A typical social event would most definately NOT include comments like the ones that you have made. Belief is something strictly personal, not talked about, and often reserved for sundays only. Some churches proclaim the message that you can never be sure of your salvation. In the evangelical churches (of which there are much less) there would be room for comments like these, but as the dutch tendency is to be sober and down to earth, it might be thought of as being too vague and emotional to talk about God in such a personal way.

    In other parts of the country the more traditional churches are loosening up and are leaving more room for Gods Spirit to work.That would include singing new songs, instead of songs from the year 1600, allowing instruments in the church (instead of only the organ), or deviating from the standard service.
    In this area tradition is the rule.
    The most of Holland is secular.

    A christian family moving in and going to a traditional church would fit right in. More evangelical families might find it more difficult as they are not “traditionally christian” or atheist and are therefore hard to place in a category!

    I enjoyed answering these questions, and would love to write more. If there are any questions, then please ask!
    ———————————-
    (Have you thought about using Mr. Linky for this post? Then each person could write a post and then link back to yours, possibly making it a bit easier to read and write)

  3. Anonymous

    1. I’ve been living in southern Germany/northern Switzerland.

    2. Southern Germany is (was) traditionally Catholic, with lots of Lutherans. There are still quite a few churches around, mostly old. Attendance is low. Mean age to me appears around 50. There are some activities, but mostly they are invisible to the world at large, some traditional processions etc. excepted.

    3. A statement such as this would be perfectly odd in “normal” circumstances and get you labeled as weird.

    4. They would certainly be out of place, of course depending on how vocal they are.

    5. None. (However, I don’t have children, so I really don’t get into contact with families with kids.)

    6. Agnosticism, paired with incredulous head-shaking when the topic of the Chuch comes up.

    7. Churchgoers are old and are slowly dying off. The young are even less interested in religion.

  4. Rebekka

    This is really long! Sorry.
    I have to say first of all that I’m not a Dane, I’m from California. But in October I will have lived in Copenhagen for six years. I’m here because my husband is Danish.

    Denmark has been Christian since 965 AD and became Lutheran after the Reformation. Around 90-91% of the population is “ethnically Danish”. The main ethnic minorities are from Africa, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, so the bigger cities generally have a very visible dark-skinned and Muslim minority population. (Head scarves are a big issue here.)

    A little over 80% of the population are members of the state church (Folkekirken). To maintain membership you pay 1% of your income to the church, which is automatically withdrawn via your taxes. Of course there are some people who are devout, but the vast majority of people seem to be members because it’s traditional, and because it means you get to get married in the church, baptise your kids there, and eventually have a funeral. The vast majority of young people are confirmed at 14, which means they get to have a party and get presents, although there is a yearly “scandal” in the newspapers where they interview a bunch of them, who all deny believing in God.

    re: church attendance. Very slim. Usually a few older people. My husband is a sterling example — he hasn’t been to a service since he had his own confirmation, and he’s 33. There are churches all over the place, however, as one can imagine in a country with such a long tradition of Christianity. Every village has at least one.

    re: acknowledging in casual conversation that you are a practicing Christian. This would be beyond odd. This would lead to a sudden silence and your audience squirming as if you’d suddenly started to elaborate in detail upon your personal bathroom habits. Nothing makes Danes as uncomfortable as discussing religion (especially Christianity — it doesn’t seem as bad with Islam, I think they expect Muslims to be devout) in a personal way. Some of our closer friends know that I go to church, and this is accepted because I’m American and that’s what Americans do. What Danes know about their own or other Christian religions is appallingly little: in nursing school I had a religion-and-ethics class where the teacher told us very knowledgeably that Muslim AND Catholic fathers would not change the diapers of their girl children because they were afraid of being aroused by the sight of baby genitalia.

    re: typical neighborhood. A practicing Christian family would not be noticed unless they began to do uncouth things like hanging crosses in the windows, which would make people look askance. But the neighbours would otherwise have little opportunity to find out about their religion because nobody talks to strangers here. (Even your neighbours are strangers until you’ve been introduced.)

    re: families with more than two children. My husband has four cousins, but they’re all between the ages of 20-30. None of our social circle has more than two, although it’s still early by standards here, since none of them are over 35. You occasionally see larger families in the street or public transit, but they are without exception Muslim.

    re: dominant belief system in my area. I live in one of the less trendy areas of Copenhagen where housing is marginally less ruinous than closer to the center. I would say the dominant belief systems here are Islam, the remnants of communistic atheism (if you’re from the former Yugoslavia, for example), and non-practicing Lutheranism.

    re: trends. One occasionally sees “white” girls in hijab; these are Danish girls who have converted to Islam and married a Muslim man. This is a source of outrage for the right-wing political parties. Otherwise, religious trends are not really something you notice, because people are so reticent. Occasionally there’s an article in the newspaper or a magazine about spirituality — Buddhism or some such — but hardly at a level I would call a “trend” (I am from CA after all).

    One thing that does strike me as odd, though, is that in connection to my work at a hospital (nursing) I would expect more people to want to talk to a priest. (Particularly the people I’m in contact with, many of whom have brain tumors.) This is not the case. Even if they’re having a really rough time, if you offer to call a priest they recoil in horror, even if you hasten to say that they don’t need to talk about religious matters, that the hospital priests are very good at listening. One man completely lost it, started screaming, and thought we were trying to tell him he was about to die. Only once have I had someone accept the offer, and that was a patient from the Faroe Islands (a Danish territory known and mocked for its religiosity). This just strikes me as so sad, my own religious convictions aside, because the priests are a fantastic resource for patients grappling with existential problems, but they’re hardly used. 🙁

    Incidentally some of my coworkers know that I’m Catholic, because they were talking about Americans’ religious fervor (definitely excessive from the Danish POV), and remembered that I’m from there. So one asked me if I “was” anything. So I said, yes, I’m Catholic. Silence. Then a hasty change of subject. But I suppose this is acceptable to some degree, since I’m American, and not as scandalous as it would be if I were Danish.

  5. Emily

    Hi Jen,

    I’m a long-time reader, and I live in London, England. The area that I live in is called Leyton, in the East of London, right near where the Olympic Games will be in 2012.

    Church attendence in my area seems to be reasonable. I go to my local Catholic church, run by Claretian Missionaries, which is about 2/3 full at most Masses. There are a few non-conformist churches nearby, and you often see people carrying Bibles on the bus on a Sunday.

    I find it hard to mention praying for people etc. at work, for example. However, there are pockets of people who are vocal about their faith. Several of my friends would post Bible quotes to each other on Facebook, for example. They are member of the more evangelical wing of the Church of England (Anglicans). Saying that, everyone at work and all my friends know that I am a Cathlolic.

    We only moved here about 6 months ago, and we fit in fine. I don’t think being Christians would make you stick out.

    It’s hard to answer the children question, because we are only just expecting our first one, and most of my contemporaries are still unmarried. There are a couple of families at church with ‘large’ numbers of children – in England that is more than 4, I would say. Certainly any over that would elicit comments. It is generally expected that you would want 2 children, if any at all. My husband and I are 27, expecting 1, and hoping for many more. We have had comments about how ‘young’ we are to be starting a family, and lots of jokes about Catholics being like rabbits.

    There are quite a few Madrasahs in our area, so I presume the predominant religion is Muslim. That said, there are also a lot of Polish and Portuguese shops, though we don’t have Masses in either of these languages at our church, and I have not noticed a large number of Polish or Portuguese people at the Masses I attend. This is a vey ethnically diverse area, so it is difficult to tell.

    Generally, I think people are very inquisitive about religion, and the community seems to be more conspicuously religious than the one I grew up in (in rural Kent). However, that might be because it is so much more diverse than where I grew up, and the political climate doesn’t help either!

  6. Anonymous

    Hi Jen

    I “lurk” here quite often from the UK. I live just on the outskirts of London. Within about 5/10minutes by car from my house there are five Catholic Churches, at least six church of England Churches, two Baptist Churches, one Salvation Army, one Methodist, one Seventh Day Adventist, one Congrational Church, and various “house” type Churches. The Catholic Churches are all very well attended, 1000+ families at each, I have visited two of the Church of England Churches and both were sparsely attended. The best attended (after the Catholic Churches) are the Baptist ones.

    Among my friends it would be quite normal for references to faith to be dropped into the conversation but then most of my friends are from Church and a practising Christian family would feel quite at home in my neighbourhood.

    We have a family of four (grown up) children, and most of the married couples we know have four children, we do know a few families who have five or six children.

    There is also a large Muslim population in our area, with a strong Sikh contingent.

    All that said from reading the National press you would get the impression that this is no longer a Christian Country

    Leslee

  7. Kelly @ Love Well

    Interesting topic, Jen.

    As Momma Mary said, I think it would be equally fascinating to see the differences in the different regions of the U.S. Having moved quite a bit throughout this wonderful country, I can say it varies quite a bit even within our own borders.

  8. Anna

    I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Church attendance is quite good at the Catholic church I attend. Four Sunday services and they are all well attended. I really don’t know about the other churches in our area but there are quite a few protestant churches of different types around. There is also very large mosque quite close to us, which seems to be very busy.

    It would be acceptable to talk about God in casual conversation, although there are plenty of people who would consider it a bit odd. Most people do not talk about religion during a typical social occasion.

    A practicing Christain family would fit right in to my neighborhood. There are a number of people who attend church regularily and have religious artwork prominently displayed in there home.

    I know a number of families with 3 children. I also know a few families with more, mostly devout catholics. But two are considered to be the ideal family size, one boy and one girl. When my husband told his co-workers that we were expecting our third he was told he should get a vasectomy. We couldn’t possibly want more than three, even having a third when we already had a boy and a girl was considered odd.

    Christianity still seems to be the dominant believe system but the Muslim population is increasing. There also seems to be a increasing number of atheists and agnostics.

    I think people in general are becoming less religious here but it can be hard to tell. Most people do not talk about their religious beliefs for fear of offending someone.

  9. Jolyn

    This is such a wonderful topic close to my heart. We moved to Ohio last year from northern Italy. I will not proclaim expertise on the religious climate there, as we are an american military family and weren’t totally immersed (I’m not fluent in Italian by any stretch of the imagination, for instance). But my son did go to Italian school for the three years we were there, where they have Catholic “religious instruction” in the public schools, and we were living in the middle of an Italian village.

    We attended an English-speaking church off-base which happened to be affiliated with the International Baptist Convention/Conference. Our Pastor was American and former military, his wife Italian, and he was technically a missionary. Over 90% of our congregation was american military. The Catholic Church is definitely the tradition in Italy, and what few Italians distinguish themselves by attending a protestant church risk ostracizing themselves from their families. Our Pastor attempted an Italian-language bible study for many, many, many years before he had any takers.

    Churches in Italy are prevalant, as you can imagine. And they are beautiful beyond description, even in the smallest of villages, but only the elderly attend services except for holidays and special ceremonies. I had many american catholic friends there, and my one good friend (and mother of five children) occasionally attended the church in their village and she said they were the only ones under 60.

    Italians are not having children, simply put. If it weren’t for the immigrant population (mainly Muslim) Italy would have a negative population growth. Many of the Italians who worked on base said they liked coming there because they could be around children … if you saw a family with more than one child, definitely two, you assumed they were american (in that specific area).

    Older Italians would readily refer to God’s blessings — especially in the context of children. But younger ones, or not so young, seemed jaded and indifferent, more interested in material things and spending time with their friends having a good time and such.

    The future looks bleak for Italians from a spiritual perspective: they’re not having children; and they view church membership as an obligation but nothing personal.

    Whew! Now just one question for you, if I may go off-topic. Recently my MIL gave me William Young’s “The Shack”, you’ve probably read it or heard of it? I wonder if you’d do your version of a review on it sometime? I am a relatively new reader, but already I have come to love your writing and to appreciate your “reality religion”, if I may call it that, and I would really be interested to know what you thought of his book.

  10. Anonymous

    This is a fascinating comment thread. I will throw in my contribution. I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is an incredibly diverse community. We have everything from your standard midwestern conservative evangelical to Hindu, Buddhist, and Neo Pagan religious communities. Nothing is out of bounds, nothing is off limits. I am careful about bringing up religion, only because I don’t want to offend anyone. If I am speaking with someone who does not believe in God, I will still make references that I feel are appropriate, but non-threatening ones, such as, “We’ll keep you in our prayers,” which is a very common and unremarkable platitude. It would be considered somewhat weird if you were to bring up faith and religion, especially personal faith, in mixed company, but once the conversation gets rolling, anything goes.

    There are tons of families with more than two children around here. In fact, I think having three children is a bona fide trend. Sort of one-upping the Joneses. I also know a few families that have more than three, and one with eight. The family of eight stand out a little, but not much. The Mom did tell me that her oldest son was embarrassed in high school because his Mom was pregnant, and that’s pretty much unheard of for a high school kid–for your Mom to be pregnant. LOL.

    I go to a Catholic “megachurch.” Attendance is pretty high. There was a major corporate closure in the area, and that thinned out the crowds at mass, but we still fill up the church five times a weekend, and initiate a large group of new Catholics each Easter. My particular church is a tiny bit more on the liberal side, although we still do a lot of kneeling, the liturgy is very traditional, and nothing shocking is preached in the homilies. The other Catholic churches have their own personalities. Churches in general are pretty visible in the community. I would say roughly half of my friends and neighbors attend some kind of religious services, be it Christian, jewish, etc. (We even have one church which is Christian on Sundays, and Jewish on Saturdays.)

    Trends: Islam! The Detroit area supposedly has the highest population of muslims outside the middle east, centered on Dearborn, Michigan, where you feel like you are in a foreign country with the signs all in Arabic and the children playing in the street have headscarfs. I am seeing a lot of that “leaking” into my area. There is one charter school in my town that used to be an Islamic academy. They went secular when they went public, but there is still a strong muslim community at that school.

  11. Bearfax

    Hi Jen,

    What a great subject! I’m amazed, not only at your inspiration, but by the fact that I opened your blog at 9:00AM on Monday (the day you posted it) and there were already 7 lengthy comments posted ranging geographically from California to Europe. You are inspiring the world, girl, and I love you for it.

    I live in the Province of Quebec, Canada as I have for all 70 years of my life. But when it comes to religion, particularly the Catholic religion, I can truthfully say I no longer live in the province where I was born.

    The Montreal parish where I lived the first 21 years of my life (way back in the 40s and 50s) boasted a registration of about 5000 families. In those days an average Catholic family had 4 or 5 children I think. Ours had 8. So the population of the parish was around 20,000 souls. There were 5 full time priests and the 5 Sunday masses were ‘standing room only’ weekly events.

    Unfortunately times change. In 2001, with a parish registry of less than 200 people, and one part-time priest, the parish wardens were forced to ask the bishop to deconsecrate the church, sell the building to an evangelical sect, and transfer the remaining activities to a neighbouring French language parish. That is probably one of the most dramatic stories of the Catholic Church in Quebec but it’s not unique. Where I live now, in rural Quebec, I can see that the francophone population has suffered similar, if not so drastic, changes. The nearest large town, (approximately 50,000 population) is dotted with 8 or 10 large churches but 3 or 4 of them are no longer in use. The ones that are still in use, some with capacities of 1000 people or more, usually have only one Sunday mass and that is attended by perhaps 100 to 125 people.

    I’m going to close this for now but I’ve printed out your post. It’s on my desk and I’ll get back to it, if not today then during the week. There is a lot going on here and I’ve lost the habit of composing my thoughts.

    Catch ya later.

    Bearfax

    PS. I’m very proud of the fact that Quebec City is hosting the Eucharistic Congress this month!

  12. Anne

    Here goes…

    1) Cambridge, England

    2) Church attendance seems to be high for Catholic churches, but I can’t make any comments about other denominations. At my church we have a vigil mass on Saturday, and then five masses on the Sunday which have good attendance generally, apart from the Latin mass which is the last mass of the day and only sees around… 80 people? That might be an optimistic estimate, I’m not so good at estimates!

    3) It would be entirely inappropriate. Personally, I don’t have the strength of character to make such comments, even in an offhand way, as you are immediately asking the other person to think of you as a freak (and I know I should be braver). To be absolutely honest, I don’t even feel confident to wear a miraculous Mary medal if it’ll show, so only wear it round my neck if I can tuck it under my top. If not, I carry it in my pocket. Offering prayers for someone, mentioning praying/God or anything like that is really socially taboo and would cause silence, offence or ridicule in 99% of cases.

    4) I don’t think I can answer this question because we don’t really have a hugely ‘neighbourhood’ feel around here. Our neighbours are practically strangers and so on. Therefore, everyone can ‘fit in’ because there’s nothing much to fit into.

    5) Very few families outside of those I know from church. Practically none. If you do have lots of children, people are more likely to make insulting jokes/comments and so on. These comments tend to get worse if they know you are Catholic, as people have a lot of stereotypes.

    6) I would say the dominant belief system if atheism. But a kind of passive atheism. People don’t really care to think about God and so on and are almost anaesthetised to these things by the modern world.

    7) Trends… less religion, I suppose!

  13. MikeF

    Hi Jennifer –

    1. I’m writing from a village in rural Dorset, UK, with 2 large military camps nearby, and various scientific establishments on the site of a decommissioned nuclear establishment. I’m a lay pastoral assistant at the local Anglican church, which also serves the adjoining villages and hamlets in our parish.

    2. There are four churches in the village: Roman Catholic, Methodist, Vineyard, and Anglican (Church of England). Our own church is relatively well-attended (70-odd regulars I’d estimate); the RC church, which is the parish church for quite a wide area, has rather more, and the other two rather less than that.

    3. Average social event – yes, no problem about publicly acknowledging that you’re a Christian. Most people already know, anyway 😉

    4. Yes, a practising Christian family would fit in easily – in fact, I can think of several who’ve done so over the past year – and they’re feeling happy and at home.

    5. How many families with >2 children? Several round us, in what passes for the “working class end” of the village. I’d hesitate to put a percentage on it, but certainly more than in the average British urban area. Hard for young couples to afford housing here, though, apart from the Housing Association rental properties like ours, which usually go first to those in key jobs, or with particular local needs, or disabled, etc.

    6. Dominant belief system? Christian, on the face of it, but lots of people really don’t care much beyond the material, at least so long as everything’s going well. I know one Buddhist family in the village, but I don’t personally know anyone of any other faith.

    7. Trends? It’s hard to say. Of course there is the secularisation that affects all the UK, and I guess church attendance suffers in consequence; but then at least most of the people who are in church are there because they believe, and not just because it’s socially expected.

    There are several Bible study groups in the village, two or three open to any Christian, a couple of others open only to members of one of the parent churches – not ours!

    There’s a deep life of prayer among the Christians locally, and two of us are Third Order Franciscans – one SFO in the RC church, and myself!

    I feel that we are at last beginning to engage with the problems of rural life in the UK in our own time: the increasing isolation of the agricultural community, the difficulty of affordable housing, the very real social divisions that are still evident. I love our community – and I love knowing that I’m working where God has called me to work, at long last!

    Blessings – and thanks for a fascinating survey!

    Mike

  14. Ashley

    Longtime Lurker here…

    I live on a military base in California, and there is a huge Christian community here. We’re the largest Iraq-deploying base in the country, so there are alot of conversions right before, after and during for the Marines here. Most wives attend while their husbands are gone, but stop once their husbands come home. The Catholic community is almost unbearably tiny, making it hard for anyone looking to convert, like myself. Whenever I tell one of my Christian friends I’m converting I get a long pause followed by “Really. Huh.” Despite almost everyone I meet claiming to be a Christian of some kind, I seem to be one of the few people I know who brings up God outside of Church. And anytime I mention being “led by the Holy Spirit” I just get blank stares. So it’s all on the surface. As for children, well, you will never see so many children and pregnant women as you do on this base. At the beginning of my husband’s last deployment there were 60 wives in his company; 30 were pregnant.

  15. AC Momma

    I have to agree with mommma mary that living in California sometimes feels like a different country. But I don’t view it that way becaues of religion, just our way of life compared to other states I suppose.
    I was born and raised in Cali and the area where I am from here there is a church on every corner of various denominations: you name it we probably have it. We also have a very large Catholic diocese. There are so many Catholic churches in our area. The little town I live in only has one Catholic church and attendance is rather dismal. So dismal and depressing that I prefer to attend another church in our neighboring city. There are a lot of people in our parish who do the same. We live in a little commuter town and driving into the next town is really only about a 15 or 20 minute drive. We practically live there anyways with work and family being there.
    The church I attend in the town next door has 4500 registered families and if you don’t get to Mass early you will have a hard time finding a seat no matter what Mass time you attend.
    My experience in social situations is that most people are fine with speaking about religion to a certain extent. If you said “I am praying for your mom,” or whatever, it would not be thought of as odd. But if you started talking about the Bible or wanted to debate a religious issue you would probably be thought of as nuts. It really all depends on who you are with really. Religion is ok as long as you don’t stick it down someone’s throat.
    We know many families that have four children in their families and ironically none of them are overtly religious. They just wanted a large family. It seems to be a growing trend in our area actually.
    I’ve noticed that people in my area are active in church when they are young. Then they go off to college and lose their religion. They don’t get it back until after they get married and have children, usually in their thirties.
    As far as where I live I would have to say the majority of people are Christian, practicing or not. And no one advertises they go to church because everyone will wonder why. But not really in a negative way, just curious as to how you can find time to fit church into your busy schedule.
    I mainly started my blog to talk about my RCIA journey in the Catholic Church because I don’t know too many people who would really want to hear about it. But that is ok. That’s what makes the internet and blogging so great. You can always find someone with a common bond for what you believe.

  16. Anonymous

    Hi!

    I’m Jules and I’m a Catholic. To answer your questions:

    1. I live in Milton Keynes which is a relatively new town in Britain.

    2. My local parish is quite well attended. Bizarrely the profile of those attending Mass is clustered around the middle-aged to elderly and young families. There is a big gap in the middle. People lapse as teenagers then return when they marry and have kids – I’m guilty of that one.

    3. Mentioning that you’re a practicing Catholic in polite company usually elicits a mixture of disbelief, horror and revulsion. People genuinely cannot believe that a seemingly intelligent individual can be a practising Christian.

    4. Actually, one of my immediate neighbours is a practising Christian. One family two doors down are practising Catholics and the the other family two doors down are very religious Sikhs.

    5. Actually most of my friends have more than two kids – even though none are religious.

    6. Dominant belief system: utilitarianism. Oh yeah, and shopping!

    7. People are sadly becoming less religious.

    Actually the title of your post ‘What is the religious climate in your country?’ brought to mind the phrase ‘getting chilly’

    The culture and (especially) the government is becoming more and more anti-Christian. People are only interested in whether something makes their life more convenient.

    Must stay positive!!!

    Jules.

  17. DiggidyDog

    1. Vancouver, BC, Canada.
    2. Lot’s o’ churches around. I would say they are well attended. My in laws attend a mega-church mennonite brethern church which is packed and expanding again soon. My Catholic parish is vibrant, alive, and growing as well.
    3. Talking about your faith in conversation would likely be considered odd but really it depends on the person on the other end. The pre-Catholic-podcast listening-blog reading ME would have never brought up the subject and would have felt uncomfortable if someone else did. But the new ME is opposite. I talk about it and would welcome someone bringing up the subject with me. I agree with the other Canadian commenter, that religion isn’t talked about for fear of offending someone. It must be a Canadian thing.
    4. A new family would blend right in. I think most people around here keep their religion personal, so unless the new family put a crucifix on their front lawn, it wouldn’t be that noticable.
    5. Not too many families have more than 2. The ones that do seem to stop at 3. We don’t have any close families with more than 3 kids.
    6. Christianity is #1. I would say that Catholics + all of Protestant land are about 50/50. There is a large Sikh community, but I don’t notice many muslims.
    7. My sense is that people are becoming more religious. I think there are a lot of people searching out there.

  18. Bearfax

    Hi Jennifer, I’m back.

    I’m referring to your list of questions to stimulate my old and feeble mind rather than trying to answer each one like a high school exam, or worse still, as a ‘meme’. (I think one of the fears of having my own blog is the fear of having to respond to a meme and then forward it on to 5 other poor folks, LOL)

    Although Mass attendance in Quebec is way down I can say, generally, those folks who do attend regularly are very active, committed believers in Jesus Christ. That being said, there are very noticeable fluctuations throughout the year, depending on where the youngsters are in their religious school year. When there is a group being confirmed there is a big crowd, but the following week you’d be hard pressed to fill 5 pews. I attend Mass normally at a french language parish which has two “Sunday “masses and I would guess a total of about 200 people attend each week. Occasionally I travel a little farther and attend an english mass in a small chapel There they have about 30 regulars..

    My social contacts are a mixed bag of Catholics, non-Catholics, french speaking, english speaking and/or bilingual folks but of those whose mother tongue is english, the vast majority are non-Catholic.( I live in rural Quebec. In some of the larger urban cities there are a sufficient number of english speaking Catholics to have their own parishes.) The statements you refer to are used fairly routinely by Catholics and non-Catholics alike and I think there are proportionately as many lukewarm non- Catholics as lukewarm Catholics. Many French Canadians have Catholic images displayed in their homes but in many cases it can be attributed to their French Canadian loyalties rather than to their religious fervour.

    I do notice that the evangelical movement is growing among the french-speaking population, to the point of seeing ‘competition’ in some neighbourhoods. I know many families with 3 or 4 children but statistically they are becoming very rare in Quebec.

    Now, questions 6 and 7 bring me to very controversial subjects that are causing havoc and upheaval in the social/political/religious circles in Quebec and I’ll have to take another pause to see how I’ll address them.

    ( I’ve been lurking on many Catholic blogs for almost a year now but never thought I would get so long- winded. LOL)

    Bearfax

  19. Literacy-chic

    Is Academia a separate country? I would like to have similar questions about faith in various disciplines, across universities. It would be nice to claim not only a religion, but also religious belief, as I have many colleagues who call themselves Catholic when it is time to complain about or “cast votes” for the new Pope… Then there are the “I’m Methodist, but [that doesn’t have any influence over my opinions on this subject]”… Then there are the people of faith who are afraid to be ridiculed because their faith does influence their worldview, the one or two oddballs who are open about religion, and the one crank who exists to make other people vaguely uncomfortable for not being militantly religious (married to a Russian Orthodox priest) enough. And this just among the grad students. And we’re probably among the more religious departments in liberal arts at one of the more religious state campuses in the country… Sorry, was that off-topic? What I meant was,

    I know others are going to talk about the country I live in, and I can’t imagine that your experience varies from mine that much, but it disturbs me that it is taboo to discuss religious belief as a valid worldview in academic circles. (whew! I think I salvaged it!) 😉

  20. Literacy-chic

    I have really enjoyed reading others’ answers, btw! 🙂

  21. Brian

    1) I live in Perth Western Australia. My wife and I are atheists who home school our two children. Most of our friends are Atheists or Catholics. My wife’s extended family are Protestants.

    2) There seem to be plenty of Churches around here; almost all are Christian, but you could find a synagogue or mosque if you wanted one. On a Sunday morning the Christian Church car parks seem to be reasonably occupied. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they’re busy but they aren’t empty either.

    3) Outside of specifically religious occasions, it would be past “odd” and I’d even go so far as to say “weird” for someone to say things like that in a social setting. Our family regularly have dinners with other families and street parties and such like with friends who are religious and no-one has ever said anything like that in front of me. Nor do I get the impression that they are varying their conversation for us. If someone said that at a party then the conversation would pause for a second while everyone (including the religious people) wondered what to say in response.

    The only times I’ve ever heard people talk like that are when I’m in a Church for a wedding, communion, funeral etc. In those situations, (and I assume regular Church) it’s not out of place.

    That is ABSOLUTELY not to say that these people are ashamed of their religiousness. But it’s a private thing between them, their families and God.

    Everyone thinks American religious people are weird in the way they talk about religion (and promote it). There is a song by an Australian group with the line “I believe that God does not endorse TV evangelists” in it. That would be true of 99% of people I know.

    4) No problems. Not at all out of place. (unless they started talking like question 2)

    5) I can think of one set of friends (atheists) with 4 kids and my best friend and neighbour (Catholic) has 4 kids. I can also think of a couple of 3 kid families but 2 kids is the norm around here.

    6) If you asked people, the answer would be Roman Catholic by a smidge over Protestant and “I dunno. I never really thought about it.”

    7) No trend. I would say things are pretty static over the last 30 years.

  22. Alicia

    1)I’m Alicia, and I’m from Uruguay, South America. The country was born from a Spanish colony, so we inherited the Catholic religion from Spain. But religion is absent from public life. It would be very weird to listen to a politician mention God in public.

    2)Church attendance – Low. Most people (around 70-80%) are “social Catholic”: baptism, first communion and marriage, even if they don’t go to a church except for those three times in their lives. Denominations (mostly evangelical religions) are growing rapidly.

    3) Making those statements would be weird even when talking to the parents of my children’s classmates, and they go to a Catholic school. Or to my mother in law, who considers herself Catholic.

    4)What Brian said: “No problems. Not at all out of place (unless they started talking like question 2).” Or doing things like having more than 2 children.

    5) I know several. But I come from a “large” family (we’re 5 siblings) and I taught many years at an Opus Dei school. However, my children go to a large Jesuit school and less than 10% of the families have more than 2 children. I’m expecting my fifth child and struggling with unkind comments from people from the school and extended family.

    6) “Social” Catholicism.

    7) Evangelical religions are growing.

  23. Firinne

    Thanks for these questions. It’s really interesting to read about others experiences.

  24. Kristen

    Well, I see no one has checked in from Belgium 🙂 We are living about 35 miles from Brussels. We are an American military family living here. Some interesting notes…

    1. On base chapel – the Catholic mass has the biggest service on Sundays (primarily American) -some mornings, standing room only. The Protestant and Anglican services have far fewer attendees.

    2. In my local town, there is a Catholic church, but there does not appear to be a large regular group of people and most appear to be older.

    3. Despite Belgium being a secular country, many of the state holidays are church holidays, Easter, Pentecost, Ascension, etc. Many attend services on these days.

    4. My children go to the local Catholic school (we are Protestant). I am not sure if the teachers are believers, but I have often said, that I pray for them and it has not seemed weird, and they actually seem appreciative of these comments. The school is not overtly “religious”, but when it is Christmas, they talk of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, etc and on Easter, that it is Christ’s resurrection, etc.

    4. There are many families with 2 or 3 (although I haven’t seen more than 4) children.

    It does feel spiritually dark here, though. Lots of history, steeped in witchcraft. Many towns still celebrate with some of these rituals. Interesting place to live. 🙂

  25. Shannon

    I live in the “None Zone” of the US, where people check “none” when asked their religious preference. (That’s WA, ID, OR.) Megachurches seem to be doing well, but only to a point. They’ve got initial conversion down, but church leadership is beginning to talk quietly about “more.” They know that other churches with longer history have a way of addressing that “more.”

    And so you see Lent popping up in congregations that never used to observe it, or workshops on prayer practices, or you name it.

    As for my own congregation? They are all men, all incarcerated, and many of them get serious about religion for the first time when they come to prison. Trying to teach a bit of discernment gets to be a challenge.

    I just read a note from a guy who used a quote from 1 Cor. to justify his change from Catholic to Judaism. Go figure.

  26. Maggie

    Hi,

    ‘Delurking’ (found you via LMS).

    I hail from Ontario, Canada.

    Church attendance depends on denomination. The more evangelical churches, (Pentecostal and Baptist) have higher numbers but when I have attended services there I feel it’s more of a ‘going to be seen’ vs ‘going to worship’ mentality.

    I am a practicing Anglican but do have several friends from different denominations. And faiths too. The church I attend has 300 families on the rolls but rarely does everyone attend. Most attend for Christmas, Easter and the odd funeral.

    Several French Catholic churches have closed in the area as they do not have the numbers to support them. Then again, there were several scandals at Catholic schools that have left many disillusioned. And many former Catholics have joined ranks at the more evangelical churches.

    Over the past few years I’ve gotten more comfortable talking about God/Religion in public. Not only that, but I’ve read religious books in public places, including public transit, I attend a small group that meets weekly in a coffee shop and we show up with Bibles in tow and read passages aloud!

    Not once have patrons or the owner of the coffee shop complained about us. In fact, I once had a really nice chat with another patron about a book I was reading. He was surprised that someone my age (mid-20s) would be so open about their faith and in such a public place.

    A couple of my co-workers are devout practicing Christians and we often have deep theological discussions over lunch and coffee. Really refreshing knowing that I am able to converse so freely, knowing that in certain areas of the world you can’t even wear a cross, let alone talk about God in the workplace.

    I see no reason as to why a practicing Christian family would not fit in around here. I’ve always tried to stick to the philosophy of ‘preach the gospel always and sometimes use words’ meaning that through my actions (or inactions) those around me know I am a Christian. That being said, I do wear a cross and have religious texts and art around the home. And I have invited, on occasion, people to attend church with me.

    There are a couple of families in our Church that have more than 2 children. Granted this part of the country seems to be under a mini baby boom!

    Dominant belief system would be Christian. Probably more Catholics by birth than any other denomination. Though as previously stated, Pentecostal and Baptist are the larger churches.

    The trend for our church is to teach/educate fellow Anglicans that it is *gasp* ok to evangelize. That Evangelizing is not a dirty word that it is ok to admit to doing this. As well, that Evangelism comes in many forms, and can be as simple as just being there to answer questions about faith as oppose to forcing ones beliefs onto seekers or non-believers.

    Good questions! I have several entries under ‘religion’ on my blog that details my journey if your readers are interested.

    Cheers!
    Maggie

  27. Anonymous

    This discussion was a good idea! I am very surprised to read that the religious climate in the UK is not that hostile (at least not in certain regions of UK). I am a Chicagoan who reads BBC news (among other news sources) and occasionally skims the comments on Have Your Say (HYS). Whenever there is a discussion related to religion or Catholicism, I find that the highly recommended comments are those that propagate the Atheist fundamentalist agenda or accuse the Pope of a whole list of things. When someone speaks against this nonsense, the comment is either ranked low on the recommended list or torn apart by another commentator.
    If you are curious to read about the views of the British on bringing faith into politics or Bush’s welcoming of the Pope, see
    http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?sortBy=2&forumID=4580&edition=2&ttl=20080612092725&#paginator
    http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?sortBy=2&forumID=4621&edition=2&ttl=20080612092725&#paginator

    It would be impractical for me to comment on the religious climate in Chicago, as the city is huge! But I must note that on Ash Wednesday of this year, there was a huge, continual influx of people into St. Patrick’s Church in downtown. It was very inspiring.

  28. MikeF

    Anonymous from Chicago, I think that while the climate in (certain) communities, especially rural ones, is not really hostile at all, the media climate is on the whole hostile – despite the BBC’s own excellent record as regards religious broadcasting, and their own really quite good Religion Ethics subsite.

    Of course, in the UK as elsewhere, bitterness and controversy sells newspapers, raises ratings, while warmth and fellowship does not…

    Blessings

    Mike

  29. The Koala Bear Writer

    Interesting discussions! Sounds like trends are similar around the world, yet older Christian countries (i.e., in Europe) are moving away from the faith faster. What does that mean for us here in younger Christian countries?

  30. ekbell

    I live in in the city of Calgary, in the province of Alberta, Canada.

    There are many churches here and the Catholic Churches I’ve gone to have all been well attended. The city is quickly expanding with a large immigrant population and many of the immigrants are Catholic, so the churches are full of people from around the world (makes for interesting and tasty potlucks).

    Discussing God would be a bit odd if it wasn’t at a Church function or with someone you knew well. On the other hand visible signs such as wearing a cross won’t attract attention.

    In most neighbourhoods a practicing Christian family wouldn’t stand out, unless they put up a lot of religious statuary outside. The neighbourhoods are quite ethically and religiously mixed.

    As for families with more then two children, Calgary is having a tiny baby boom. I know of a number of families with three children and a very few (including us) with more. Most though have two. Our parish has quite a number of African immigrants with fairly large families (4 or 5). My husband reports that at work the reaction to us expecting our fifth child varies according to where the person was born. Canadian born coworkers just don’t get it, why would anyone want that many kids? Most of his asian born coworkers seem a bit envious and his african born coworkers will congratulate him on his wealth of children.

    I think that the dominant belief system in this area would be Christian (mostly Catholic) with unbelievers next but I’m mainly going by the Statistics Canada report on religion. Many people are nonpracticing whatevers.

    Canadian borns tend to be nonpracticing whatevers, immigrants tend to be practicing. It’s hard to predict a trend as it will depend on which culture wins out particularly given the differing birth rates between Canadian born and immigrants.

    Our diocese’s main problem is the ever increasing numbers of parishioners from all over the world without a corresponding increase in priests. There is a very active (and reasonably successful) vocations program in the diocese as well as an ever increasing call for laypeople to volunteer for the social and charitable dimensions of the diocese’s work.

  31. Victoria

    1. Melbourne Australia

    2. I have no idea what the church attendance is like in my area except for my parish. My parish has about 800 people attending Sunday Mass.
    3. At a typical social event it would be deemed odd if someone acknosledged that they were a believing Christian.
    4.If a practising Christian family moved into my neighbourhood they would blend in because no one cares what anyone else does as long as it doesn’t interfere with their life . If the Christian family were to start shouting prayers early in the morning then people would care.
    5. Secularism is the dominant belief system of people in my area.
    6. I know four families who have more than two children – they are all members of my parish. They have a total of 23 living children.
    7. I think that people are becoming less religious, if that were possible.

    In Australia people are not so much anti-religious as a-religious. Catholicism of course is often a target for criticism in the media who receive many of their leads from dissidents within the church including clergy. In Australia it would be rare for a workmate to try and evangelise one; people just don’t care enough. I hear on American Catholic radio of neighbourhood and workplace bible studies – this just wouldn’t happen in Australia.

  32. eally

    Hi! I am in the USA…the Bible belt to be exact – Northwest FL! LOL
    This has been so interesting to read all of the comments!
    It’s also very sad to me though because where I live Jesus is EVERYWHERE! From the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep it is not unusual or strange at all to openly discuss God in the streets, with friends, family members or anybody. We’ll even ask our waiters/waitresses at restaurants before we say our blessing if there is anything we can pray for them about and they never look at you strange…just with looks of appreciation and most will share their prayer requests with you. This has led to some great friendships.

    Church attendance fluctuates with the seasons…low in summertime due to kids being out of school and vacations, etc. I attend a Southern Baptist church. Our pastor is very into community missions and encourages church members to get out into the community to spread the love of Jesus through “works” so we do lots of different community projects in area neighborhoods and get to know our communities. We work together with several other churches to do this so we aren’t “competing” but we are all going out in the name of Jesus spreading love and help to those in need.

    After reading from so many of the other comments where God’s love is not shared or discussed but instead just kept to oneself because it is a personal thing…this is so sad.

  33. Anonymous

    1. Nashville, Tennessee.

    2. There are about ten churches every square mile. This is an exaggeration, but not much of one.

    3. Dropping religious language is perfectly acceptable in almost all situations, and de rigeur in quite a few.

    4. A Christian family would certainly fit right in.

    5. There are three families with nine children that go to our church. Our church is not really typical, though. I get the sense that 2 or 3 children is the norm, but children are definitely the norm.

    6. The most numerous churches are “Church of Christ,” though I must admit, I know next to nothing about that particular denomination. We attend a Presbyterian (PCA) church. There don’t seem to be too many of them.

    7. This is a Christian industry town. The trend I see is for churches to become networking hubs. Also, as the area becomes more affluent and the country music industry’s alliance grows stronger, I suspect that the pervasive Christianity will become more and more cultural and less and less personal. It already tends toward that side anyway. There is also a small, but visible Muslim minority.

  34. Anonymous

    A little late.. but I will give it a go!

    1. New Zealand

    2. Low and dropping

    3. Not at all.. there would be a n uncomfortable silence and then someone would change the subject.

    4. NZers are generally pretty accepting.. they would probably blend in as long as they weren’t seen to be preaching

    5. fewer and fewer

    6. Secular, with Christianity being the largest religious denomination but increasing numbers of other religions

    7. Certainly fewer younger people in my church, declining church attendances all around

    Kay

  35. Kacie

    Wow, how fascinating. I’m exploring your blog and was really sucked into this post. I grew up as the child of missionaries in Indonesia. My parents are non-denominational Protestants.

    I must say that the religious climate changes quickly from city to city in the US. I lived the past six years in downtown Chicago and found it to be quite antagonistic towards Christianity. It was generally mocked, although in today’s “open-minded” world I was never personally scorned. Society as a whole was very suspicious of outspoken faith. Cultural faith is very accepted, but not more then that. On the other hand, I have recently moved to Dallas and the difference is shocking. This place is saturated with Christianity – particularly evangelicals. It is everywhere. I see people reading their Bibles on the bus constantly, I am often engaged in religious conversations, and churches are everywhere. I can’t say I find it very comfortable, despite being “one of them”.

    In Indonesia it is similar. In parts of the country, for instance much of the island of Sulawesi, church attendance is low and there are very few Christians and very many Muslims. It would definitely be strange for someone to begin discussing their Christian faith at a social event with mixed attendance. The relationship between Christians and Muslims seems to be growing more strained over time as Muslim extremism grows across the world. This seems to be the case throughout most of Indonesia.

    On the other hand, the island of Papua is predominately Christian (and animistic). Church attendance is high and there are many active Christians in most sectors of society (although top government positions are always Muslims sent from the gov. in Western Indonesia). Many church leaders also support the independance movement on the island and engage in strong community development. Many are outspoken about their faith and this is not offensive or unusual. In this area the church continues to grow, however with the growing presence of western media and amenities, there is also a growing secular mindset and a deep cultural clash in response.

    On both islands most families in the city have two children – this is due to the strong influence of the government’s family planning policy. In villages that are further away from gov. influence, both Muslim and Christian families are larger.

  36. Maria

    Hi Jennifer!

    I just want to say that I enjoy reading your blog very much and this is a such fascinating thread! Here’s my contribution:

    1. I live in Manila, Philippines. Historically, and up until today, we’re the most predominantly Catholic country in Asia. I’d say about 70-75% of the population is RC.

    2. Churches are virtually everywhere in my country, especially in the city. They’re always packed during Sundays and certain feast days. The best part is that the age-range of mass-goers is pretty broad. This is because it’s traditional for all members of the family to go to Mass together–from newborn infants to aging grandparents.

    3. It’s also perfectly normal to make statements like the ones you mentioned in social gatherings. Religious expression is not just tolerated here, it’s very much part of our cultural identity. You should see the way we celebrate our major feast days!

    4. Filipinos are generally polite, but we’re not as “neighborly” as Americans. Nonetheless, Christians will have no problem moving in to a new neighborhood. People usually pay no mind to a family’s religious affiliation, probably because it’s always assumed that they’re Christian just like everyone else.

    5. I think the better question to ask is, “How many families do you know have LESS than two children?” Because believe it or not, there’s not a lot of those at all. I’d say the average number of children per Filipino family is 3-4. Two generations ago, it was probably twice that. I guess you could call us blessed, and I would agree! But recently, the government’s been weary of these numbers, calling it “overpopulation”. The hot issue now is a new House Bill that they’re trying to pass called the “Reproductive Health Bill”. The CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) has been staunchly opposing it because this “RH Bill” requires the government to subsidize contraceptives and make them readily available in poor communities.

    6. Almost all the people I know are Catholic, but though there are genuinely devout members among them, most are only “Cultural Catholics”. I think this is pretty representative of the Philippine population in general. It’s a blessing and a curse, I suppose.

    7. While I’m proud of my country’s Catholic heritage, I’m less so of its social structure. There is, unfortunately, a pretty significant gap between the well-to-do and the poor. The upper middle class is composed of highly-educated people who are very much influenced by Western culture and thought. Unsurprisingly, Atheism and Agnosticism is fast become fashionable among them. The “RH Bill” issue that I mentioned earlier has become their rallying point. They fully support the subsidization of contraceptives, convinced that the cause of our country’s poverty is overpopulation. Because the CBCP has been the bill’s most vocal opponent, it has somehow become acceptable for these upper-middle class crowds to be aggressively Anti-Catholic (the abuse scandals haven’t been much help, either). I wish I could talk more about how truly horrible this growing Anti-Catholicism is, but I don’t want to stray too far from the topic. Just to give you an idea of what it’s been like: A couple of months ago, an activist named Carlos Celdran interrupted a religious service inside the Manila Cathedral to protest against our Bishops. To this day, many RH Bill supporters consider him a hero.

    Aside from Atheism, Agnosticism, and even Anti-Catholicism, another trend I’ve noticed is Catholics defecting to Protestant and Evangelical denominations. This trend is especially popular among the lower classes who can’t afford to send their children to Catholic schools. Public schools offer zero religious instruction, while local parishes lack the resources to provide catechism classes. As a result, more and more people are easily lured from the Church by zealous Christians.

    So this is basically where the Philippines is at, in terms of its religious climate. It’s an incomplete picture, to be sure. There’s still the matter of Muslims in the Southern part of the country, but that warrants a separate discussion–one which, given my cultural background and general lack of knowledge, I am not qualified to elaborate on. I also tried to make my description of the Catholic/Christian situation in my country as concise as possible based on your questions. But you should know, especially given the rich history of the Philippines, that the situation is more nuanced than it appears.

    I hope this helped 😀

    God Bless!

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