Seven in ten young adults in the UK have no religious affiliation at all, according to a new report from the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at
St Mary's University, Twickenham.
This compares to just 1 per cent in Israel, 17 per cent in Poland, and 25 per cent in Lithuania.
Catholics make up 82 per cent of Polish, 71 per cent of Lithuanian, 55 per cent of Slovenian, and 54 per cent of Irish 16-29 year-olds. In France, it is 23 per cent and in the UK, it is 10 per cent.
Using recent data from the European Social Survey, the report, Europe's Young Adults And Religion, explores religious affiliation and practice among 16-29 year-olds in 22 European countries. The report also features more in-depth discussion of young adults’ religiosity in France and UK, as well as on the levels of specifically Catholic affiliation and practice across Europe.
Authored by Prof Stephen Bullivant, the report, done in collaboration with the Institut Catholique de Paris, is intended to inform the Synod of Bishops on "young people, the faith and vocational discernment", to be held in Rome in October 2018.
Bullivant found that weekly Mass attendance is 7 per cent among French and 17 per cent among British, Catholic young adults. Just 26 per cent of French young adults and 21 per cent of British ones identify as Christians. In the UK, 7 per cent of young adults identify as Anglicans, compared to 6 per cent as Muslims. In France, 2 per cent identify as Protestants, and 10 per cent as Muslims.
In just four countries do more than a tenth of 16-29 year-olds claim to attend religious services on at least a weekly basis: Poland, Israel, Portugal, and Ireland.
Poland, Israel, and Ireland are, once again, among the more prayerful nations. Half of Polish 16-29 year-olds say they pray at least once a week, and 17 per cent say that they never do.
This compares to 70 per cent of Czech young adults and 60 per cent of Spanish, Dutch, British, and Belgian ones, who "never" attend religious services. Meanwhile, 80 per cent of Czech young adults – and around 70 per cent of Swedish, Danish, Estonian, Dutch, French and Norwegian ones – "never" pray.
In both France and the UK, Catholicism is the dominant Christian identity. Both countries have a significant minority – around one in every ten 16-29 year-olds – of members of non-Christian religions, with Islam being the largest contributor. Yet overall, "no religion" is the default identity of French and British young adults alike, accounting for around two-thirds of each.
In France, a quarter of young adult Catholics say that they "never" attend religious services. In Britain, it is one in five.
Prof Bullivant told The Tablet: "The UK data looks really rather encouraging, Catholic-wise, with Catholics making up roughly the same proportion of young adults as they do of the UK population as a whole. It's important to realize, though, that there's a significant 'immigrant boost' at work here: including a good dose of 20-something jobseekers from some of Europe's relative strongholds. What that might look like a few decades post-Brexit, remains to be seen."
Pic: Young people talk during a conference in Rome April 6. The conference was in preparation for next year's Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment and World Youth Day in 2019. (CNS photo/courtesy Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life)