Confidence in the church reaches 20-year low

In the last 20 years, the confidence that people have in the church as an institution has never been so low, according to the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP) who published a report about the development of religion in the country. 

Since 2006, the SCP has recorded a 13 percent rise in people who say they have "little to no confidence" in the church, from 45 to 58 percent. Between 1966 and 2006, the number of church members who believe that all the rules of the church should be followed dropped from 51 to 34 percent.

Church membership in general has been on the decline, halving since 1970. Church attendance is even worse. Of all people who regularly visit a church or "religious gathering" has fallen by 71 percent from 51 to 15 percent.

For many people, the church doesn't serve its traditional function anymore. Now, Dutch people use a church as a "sort of public usefulness company", places to marry or to hold funeral services and collective places of mourning.

The decline in peoples' confidence doesn't mean that the Netherlands has stopped being religious. Still 40 percent of the population view themselves as spiritual or religious. Spirituality outside the traditional institutions among Dutch people has become more popular since the 90s. Many people said they agree with the statement that "the meaning of life must be found in unique inner experiences."

Even though the SCP data shows that grandparents are aligning themselves more strongly with the church, whereas grandchildren are drifting away from traditional church values and traditions, the data also reveals that 44 percent of young church members visit church regularly. Only 32 percent of all church members go to church on a regular basis. These young members also have more confidence in the church, with 43 percent against 30, and are more often convinced that all church regulations must be followed.

This decline in church attendance and confidence coincides with a rise in reports of child abuse from within religious institutions such as the Catholic Church. The late Bishop Jan Niënhaus was found to have molested boys after four complaints came in against him.

Earlier this month, Bishop Wiertz spoke out about the sinister side of the Church, after a scandal involving his predecessor Jo Gijsen came out. Gijsen abused two children during his term. Wiertz asked the congregation for forgiveness.


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