Over half of Dutch not religious

Rosary on an open bible (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/James Chan) cross, jesus, roman catholic Rosary on an open bible (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/James Chan)

For the first time in the Netherlands' history, fewer Dutch are religious than those who aren't, Statistics Netherlands reported on Monday. Last year 49 percent of Dutch aged 15 or older indicated they belonged to a religious group, 51 percent are not religious.

In 2016 the Dutch population was evenly split - 50 percent religious, 50 percent not religious. In 2012, 54 percent of Dutch belonged to a religious group.

Of the religious Dutch, 24 percent are Roman Catholic and 15 percent are Protestant - 6 percent Dutch reformed, 3 percent reformed, and 6 percent belong to the Protestant Church of the Netherlands. 5 percent are Muslim, and the rest belong to 'other' religious groups, including Jewish and Buddhist. 

Despite the decline in Dutch belonging to religious groups, participation in religious services barely declined over the past few years. After declining from 37 percent in 1971 to 17 percent in 2012, attendance to churches, mosques and the like dropped only one percent to 16 percent between 2012 and 2017. According to the stats office, the slight decrease in attendance is entirely attributable to the Catholics. The church or mosque attendance of Protestants and Muslims did not decrease between 2012 and last year. 

Ten percent of Dutch attend a religious service on a weekly basis, 3 percent two or three times a month, 3 percent once a month, and 7 percent less than once a month. 78 percent of Dutch rarely or never go to a religious service. 

Among the group of religious Dutch, 46 percent are men and 52 percent women. 17 percent of the women regularly attend religious services, and 14 percent of men.

Young people between the ages of 18 and 25 are by far the least religious age group, according to the stats office. A third of people in this age group belong to a religious group, of whom 13 percent attend religious services on a regular basis. People over the age of 75 are much more religiously involved - 71 percent belong to a religious group, of whom 34 percent regularly attend services.

There is also a clear trend between level of education and religion. Among Dutch with only primary education, 64 percent are religious and 20 percent regularly attend services. Among highly educated Dutch, it was 37 percent and 12 percent respectively.