While the term “dying” is used frequently by political groups to rally for various causes, especially in Europe, there is a degree of truth about this that can be said for France. The nation with a formerly long Christian history has for centuries fought against her past and has tried to annihilate it for political reasons. France now finds herself close to having realized her goal, but with an unexpected twist, for as non-religious people, especially under the age of thirty are a majority of the population, there are now as many Catholics under thirty as there are Muslims for the whole nation:
With the fire of Notre-Dame, the debates on the burkini and the recurring controversy over the “Christian roots” of France , one might think that religious are legion here. Yet religion is receding. In France today, half of adults say they believe in God, a slight decline in the past ten years. But, without a bad play on words, the devil is in the details, and it is true also of religious practice. Fortunately, to help us to see more clearly, we benefit from the analyzes of Claude Dargent and Olivier Galland. The first is a professor of sociology, a specialist in religion; the second is a sociologist, and his research focuses on young people and their values.
Historically, France is a Catholic country , the “eldest daughter of the Church”. This religion remains that of a relative majority of our compatriots, but it collapses. Only 7% of those surveyed go to Mass at least once a month, compared to 9% in 2008. In total, in 2018, 32% of Catholics are in France, 19% of whom are non-practicing. That is to say, they do not go to church even for the big feasts (Easter, Christmas …), while considering themselves as Catholics. However, in 1981, there were still 70% of Catholics in France, including 17% of regular practitioners, and 41% of non-practitioners.
A generational gap
What happened ? First of all, there is a significant generational gap: practicing Catholics represent less than 3% of 18-29 year olds compared to 16% of those aged 70 and over. Those who keep a religious practice of Catholicism are mainly directors, executives and managers, or in intellectual and scientific professions. It is necessary, moreover, to qualify the disaffection of the young for the Roman Catholic Church. If fewer of them declare themselves religious, those who are claiming a higher level of religiosity than their elders, that is to say, the religious feeling is stronger than before with those who have faith.
On the side of other religious groups, do we witness the same phenomenon of disenchantment? Yes and no: The proportion of people practicing “another religion” has tripled in forty years, from 3 to 10% of the adult population. Religious minorities long settled in France ( Judaism and Protestantism) regress, however, Evangelical churches grow and count 1.6% of the French population among their faithful. Eastern religions (Buddhism, Hinduism) and Orthodox Christianity account for less than 0.5% of the population each. In France, all these cults remain relatively marginal!
The largest religious minority is, unsurprisingly, Islam, with 6% of respondents. The proportion rises to 14% of people declaring a religion. There are even as many Muslims as Catholics among 18-29 year olds! Muslims are also more urban: they represent 13% of the population of large cities, more than double the national average. On the other hand, they attach greater importance to religion in their lives than other religious groups. One Muslim in two prays indeed every day, including a small majority of women.
Believers in the lead
But none of these religions is representative of the bulk of the French population. Indeed, the share of “non-religion”, so atheists, agnostics or deists, has increased from 27 to 58% of the French population in forty years. This is a very heterogeneous group, but today represents the absolute majority of the French population. In 2018, 21% of atheists are convinced, more than twice as many as in 1981! Men are more often atheists than women. On the other hand, neither living in a big city nor having studied for a long time is a guarantee of being less religious. On the contrary, the big agglomerations are more religious than the rest of the French territory.
The “non-religious” who do not consider themselves atheists go from 18 to 37% of the population over forty years. It is important to note that a small half of the “non-religious” were raised in a practicing family, most often Catholic. It is therefore for them an emancipation of the religious practices of their family.
If we add the people declaring themselves religious, but never going to the office, the proportion “non-practicing” of the French population goes up to 64%, almost two out of three people! On the other hand, there are still as many regular practitioners of their religion as twenty years ago in France. Moreover, if more than half of French people say they never pray, the share of those who pray each day increases slightly in twenty years, from 12 to 14% of the population.
In forty years, France is thus going from a Catholic country , with some religious minorities and a small quarter of individuals who are not affiliated to a particular cult, to a country largely secularized. This secularization should not mask high levels of religiosity among those who practice their religion. On the other hand, there are a few religious groups on the increase: Muslims especially, and to a lesser extent Evangelical Protestants. (source, source)
These trends in population are not changing, and are a warning for the future.
France is likely going to become at least part Muslim, and not by any conquest, but by the refusal to believe and to do their job in having children, the charge given to all in the Old Testament.
The Muslims are not invading.
They are simply filling the vacuum left by the French, who would rather choose idleness and self-indulgence rather that even the smallest bit of self-sacrifice for the future.
The wish of the enlightenment revolutionaries is coming true- but just not how they likely anticipated or hoped that is would happen.