France - A Secular Nation?
It's my dream blog entry. I live in France and started this blog to chart the cultural diffrences between the French and me, and the unique experiences of working in a roof tile factory. Lately, the themes of atheism and skepticism has been taking more of my time, and in today's local paper, what do I find, but a pre-Easter survey on the religious persuasions of the French.
And the surprise is that France is becoming increasing secular. I've scanned the graphs in from the article. 4000 people were interviewed, across all ages and sectors.
This first graph is titled "Could you say which is your religion, if you consider yourself to have one?" The interesting figure here is that 29%, nearly a third of French people claim to have no religion. Note also that only 3% are declared muslim, a figure that would have been higher if this survey was exclusively from one of the big cities.
This graph is titled "People who declare themselves Catholic" But notice that the figures don't add up to 100% What the graph is saying is that 44% of people aged between 15-35 years of age declare themselves catholic while 75% of people over 60 do so. It shows that as time goes by, France will become increasingly secular. (Set aside issues of Muslim immigration)
This 3rd graph is a breakdown of the behaviour of the Catholics. "How often do you attend Mass or religious services?" The large majority, 53% only ever step inside church for baptisms, weddings and funerals. This is the declared catholics remember. This demonstrates that for most of the 59% declared Catholics oin France, their religion is has only cultural implications, and not deep religious implications. Only 23% say they would pitch up for the big feasts like Easter, Assumption and Christmas
Graph number 4 asks: "In each of the following areas, would you say, in your life are very important, fairly important, not very imprtant, or not at all imprtant?" And the 2 bars they show in the graph are the figures for people who ranked the areas as "fairly important" and "very important". The thing to notice here is that most French regarded family, friends and social life, leisure and culture and work as important. Religion and spirituality was only rated as "fairly important" by 37% of people and only 13% thought religion was "very important" in their lives.
This last graph is the killer. Only 38% of french people believ in God. 38% could be called agnostic, and a whopping 22% of french people declare themselves atheist!
There is also an accompanying article that gives a bit more detail and interviews 2 local priests for their opinions. I'll post the translation of that tomorrow