The Public Presence of Religion in Western Europe: its social significance among religious constituencies lying between the secular and churchgoing Christians?

Tony Glendinning


The study examines attitudes about public religion in the Netherlands, Britain, France and Denmark using ISSP survey data for 1998 and 2008. The context is de-privatization of religion in secular Western Europe due to Christian cultural defence. The majority of Dutch and British participants hold moderate opinions about mixing religion and politics. The majority of French and Danish participants are against public religion. Comparing 2008 to 1998, anti-public-religion attitudes are more evident in the Netherlands in 2008. It is moderate attitudes that are less likely in Britain and approval is even less likely in France and Denmark in 2008 compared to 1998. Overall, public religion has become more unpopular in all four countries. In terms of differences between religious constituencies within countries, attitudes about public religion have de-coupled from churchgoing in Britain unlike continuing relative approval of churchgoers elsewhere. Non-attendance of services is associated with disapproval in France only. In the Danish case, majorities express anti-public-religion attitudes across all religious constituencies in 2008, including Danish churchgoers. National differences emphasize differing traditions, church-state relations and current conditions. There are two instances of cultural defence in our analysis. The Dutch case represents growth in religious-Christian numbers outside of the churches who are not against public religion. The other instance of religio-ethnic cultural defence is among a growing minority of nominal Christians in Britain, who are neither religious nor churchgoers, but express approval of mixing religion and politics as part of an imagined national identity rather than any basis in Christian faith.

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International Journal of Social Science Studies   ISSN 2324-8033 (Print)   ISSN 2324-8041 (Online)

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