Freedom Of Religion In Finland
Since 1923, Finland has ensured religious freedom under the national constitution. Residents here have the right to identify with, practice, and refrain from affiliation with any religion of their choice. These choices are protected against discrimination as well. Public education requires children to study at least one religious class in school however, they are free to choose their personal religious ideology. Religious practitioners are not required to register their religious group though should they choose to do so, must have at least 20 adult members. This registration is necessary in order to claim non-profit status for tax purposes. The most widely practiced religions today have a long history in the country. Some minority religious groups have also begun to grow due to an increase in international immigration. This article takes a look at these religions.
Evangelical Lutheran Church Of Finland
The majority of individuals in Finland identify as members of a Christian church; the vast majority of these Christians are attendants of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. Its followers make up 70.9% of the population. Although Finnish regulation allows for religious freedom, this church is considered one of two national churches in the country as a way to promote nationalism among the Finnish population. This promotes nationalism because Christianity has had influence over the culture since the 11th century. Members of the church are required to pay an extra tax to benefit the organization. One of the largest Lutheran churches in the world, its attendance rates have been declining in recent years. This decline has been attributed to an attempt to avoid paying the tax and an increase in atheism and agnosticism.
Atheism Or Agnosticism
The number of people with no religious affiliation is approximately 22% of the population. This number has increased 100% over the last 20 years although, secularist ideology has existed in the country since the 1800’s. Increases in people identifying as non-religious are linked to increases in urban living, higher educational levels, and younger generations. As this country continues to receive international immigrants who bring with them different religions and cultures, the number of people identifying as atheist or agnostic is likely to continue growing as they are faced with more conflicting religious information as well. Some people believe this percentage is actually higher, but there is still a cultural stigma associated with being atheist or otherwise non-Christian.
Lutheran Christian Laestadianism
Laestadianism is related to the Lutheran church in that it was part of a revival movement that began in northern Finland during the 1800’s. It is considered a denomination of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and currently has a following of 2.1% of the population. The teachings of this church emphasize forgiveness and grace and allow practitioners to authorize forgiveness by verbalizing a declaration of the sins. This movement has reached Sweden, Norway, and the United States.
Tatars first introduced Islam to Finland when they immigrated to the area from Eastern Europe in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. This ethnic group administers the Finnish Islamic Congregation which has the distinction of being the first government-recognized Muslim organization in the western world. Currently, 1% of the population identifies as followers of Islam, a population that is expected to grow as Arab immigrants continue entering the country. Since the late 1990’s, the country has seen an increase in construction of mosques. Estimates suggest that roughly 1,000 people have converted to this faith, the majority being women who have married Muslim men.
Other religions practiced in Finland (each by less than 1% of the population) include Roman Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Baha’i Faith.