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Religion: Sweden not a Christian Nation

According to a 2014 End of Year Survey by WIN/Gallup International, Sweden is the least religious country in Europe and is surpassed in atheists only by China, Hong Kong and Japan.   Before 1996, children born in Sweden with parents who were members of the Swedish Church were automatically enrolled in the Church.  Christianity has fallen significantly in the last three decades, while atheism has grown, and Muslim membership increases.

Like many countries, Sweden had a state religion.  Until 2000, the Church of Sweden was the official state church and Lutheranism was the state religion.   At that time, the Church and state separated leaving no state religion after 2000.  Moreover, since 2000 children born were not automatically enrolled into the Church.

According to Church of Sweden membership statistics, church attendance has declined since WWI when about half of all Swedes believed in an afterlife in Heaven.  Now, less than 4% of the Churches members attend public worship regularly.

According to LivingChurch.org in a 2013 article, Church of Sweden’s Nonbelievers, “A recent survey by the Church of Sweden found that about two-thirds of the country’s 9.4 million people belong to the church. Yet only 15 percent of church members say they believe in Jesus Christ. An equal percentage of Swedes call themselves atheists. And only about 400,000 of the roughly 6.6 million members of the church say they attend services at least once a month.

The survey, conducted by Jonas Bromander, chief analyst of the Church of Sweden, also found that membership continues to decline (at an accelerating pace), from about 95 percent of the population 40 years ago to the historically low 68.8 percent today.

Church membership in other Scandinavian countries has also fallen. The Church of Norway, for example, has seen its membership decline from 86.6 percent of the population in 2001 to 76.9 percent in 2011. Similarly, in Denmark, membership has dipped from roughly 85 percent to about 80 percent in the same period. And in Finland, the comparable numbers are 85 percent and 77 percent.”

According to The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism (2012) only 29% of Swedes claim to be religious compared to a 59% global average.  The Report showed that 64% of Swedes were members of the Church of Sweden at the time of the survey and there were only about 5 mosques built in Sweden – about 2010.  At that time 1 in 3 marriages were already being performed as civil weddings; yet almost 90% of Swedish adults that died were buried following church services.

In addition to young adults being influenced by universities and social media more than churches and sermons; since 1951, freedom of religion laws allows other religions to significantly grow.  According to ‘Mångfaldsbarometern 2014,’ published by the University of Gävle, 74% of Swedes have a positive attitude towards accepting ethnic and cultural diversity.

Two Eurobarometer Polls (2010 and 2012) revealed that only 18% of Swedish citizens stated ‘they believe there is a God;’ 34% answered ‘they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god or life force;’ and 53% responded that they were Christian.  A 2015 Demoskop study showed a 21% ‘believed in a God,’ but was still down from 35% in 2008.  The study also reported that only 14% of Swedes believe in creationism and 16% in ghosts.

The Church of Sweden reported the following

Year Sweden’s Population Church Members Percentage
1972 8.1 million 7.8 million 95%
1980 8.3 million 7.7 million 93%
1990 8.6 million 7.6 million 89%
2000 8.9 million 7.4 million 83%
2010 9.4 million 6.6 million 70%
2015 9.8 million 6.2 million 63%

Note that the above chart showing 63% of the country as members as Christians and members of the Church of Sweden does not disclose that most of the members are so by previous birth certificate and Church registration laws prior to 2000.  Also, it does not show the regular attendance of members which as stated earlier is between 4% and 10%.  Based on their belief in God and Jesus Christ the actual percentage of adult Christians in Sweden is likely between 10% and 20%.

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