World News and Trends: The tragic decline of European Christianity

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The tragic decline of European Christianity

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Peter Berger is director of the Institute of Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University. He wrote in The National Interest that "both the Catholic and Protestant Churches are in deep trouble in Europe. Attendance at services has declined sharply for many years, there is a shortage of clergy because of lagging recruitment, finances are in bad shape and the churches have largely lost their importance in public life. Western and central Europe is the most secularized area in the world" (emphasis added throughout).

British author Niall Ferguson, a history professor at Harvard University, has joined the ranks of those who are very concerned about the state of Western Christianity. His telling article in The Sunday Telegraph is appropriately titled: "Heaven Knows How We'll Rekindle Our Religion, But I Believe We Must."

He states in the text: "According to the Gallup Millennium Survey of Religious Attitudes, barely 20 per cent of Western Europeans attend services at least once a week, compared with 47 per cent of North Americans, and 82 per cent of West Africans. Less than half of Western Europeans say God is a 'very important' part of their lives, as against 83 per cent of Americans and virtually all West Africans."

Ed Vitagliano, news editor of the AFA Journal, a monthly publication of the American Family Association, connects the decline of British Christianity with the accompanying collapse in morality.

He quoted a number of religious authorities, including Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor who said: "It does seem in our countries in Britain today, especially in England and Wales, that Christianity, as a sort of backdrop to people's lives and moral decisions—and to the government, the social life of the country—has almost been vanquished."

In summary, Niall Ferguson offered his opinion that "if nothing else, a weekly dose of Christian doctrine will help to provide an ethical framework for your life, and I certainly don't know how else you are going to get one."

To understand the essential historical background of what has really happened to Christianity and why, please request or download our free booklet The Church Jesus Built. (Sources: The Sunday Telegraph [London], The National Interest, AFA Journal.)