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Is Religious Attendance Bottoming Out? An Examination of Current Trends Across Europe

Authors

  • Marion Burkimsher

    Corresponding author
    1. Independent Researcher Affiliated with the Institut de Sciences Sociales des Religions Contemporaines, University of Lausanne
    • Correspondence should be addressed to Marion Burkimsher, 94 Rte du pont de la London, Naz Dessous, F-01170 Chevry, France. E-mail: drmarionb@gmail.com

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  • Acknowledgments: The author would like to thank David Voas, Stephanie Doebler, and three anonymous reviewers for their comments on this article.

Abstract

The purpose of this research note is to summarize the available data on trends in religious attendance across 24 European countries to determine whether a base level has been reached in some countries. We focus on the changes observed in the period 1990–2012. After critically assessing the data quality of the recent European Social Survey (ESS) and European Values Study (EVS), we present four different methods of assessing current trends. First, we assess intercohort differentials, an indicator previously used extensively. We then look at trends in young people's rates of attendance, followed by trends of the postwar cohorts born in 1950–1981. We proceed to an appraisal of individual life-course variations by looking at attendance as a child and young adult. A compilation of these indicators shows that they often do not fully agree on whether there is growth, decline, or stability. To generalize, the high-attending Catholic countries are more likely to exhibit religious decline, whilst a few ex-communist countries are seeing sustained growth. The most secular countries seem to be generally stabilizing in the 5–20 percent range for attendance rates of the postwar generations.

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