Switzerland is a federal state in Central Europe. It is among the world’s richest and most developed countries. The most common languages spoken in the country are German, French, and Italian. Switzerland's history spans across several centuries with the country being formally formed in 1291 after the death of the emperor of Habsburg. Switzerland has notably long maintained a neutral position in world events.
Christianity has long been the dominant religion of the Swiss people although the percentage of the population who identify with the religion has declined from 98.7% in 1910 to 66.9% today. The Swiss constitution guarantees freedom of religion and provides that there be no state religion.
Religions Practiced in Switzerland
Roman Catholicism - 36.5%
The majority of Switzerland’s religious community is made up of Catholics and Protestants. Of these two, Catholicism is more common, with 36.5% of swiss people identifying as such. The Catholic Church in Switzerland is divided among six dioceses, and includes the oldest inhabited monastery in Europe in Valais.
Saint Gallus was primarily responsible for introducing Christianity to the Swiss who at the time practiced Germanic paganism. Roman Catholicism was the only Christian denomination practiced in Switzerland until the Reformation led to a change in the status quo.
Unaffiliated - 24.9%
Just under a quarter of the population of Switzerland is not affiliated with any religion. This could include people who are Agnostic, Atheist, or those who are undecided or choose to not associate with any religion at all. Like many places in Europe, there is a trend towards irreligious in Switzerland. However, the country still does not rank anywhere near the top of the list when it comes to the world’s least religious countries.
Christian (Reformed) - 24.5% and Christian (Other) - 5.9%
About 5.9% of the Swiss population belong to other Christian denominations such as the Jehovah's Witness and Pentecostalism. Switzerland's history is closely intertwined with the Reformation as it provided refuge for reformers fleeing religious persecution. John Calvin, one of the leading figures behind the Reformation, even established the republic of Geneva in 1541. Despite having no state religion, some Swiss cantons have official churches. Membership in Swiss churches requires the payment of church tax to provide for the upkeep of the church.
Islam - 5.2%
Around 5.2% of the Swiss population identifies as Muslim. Islam in Switzerland dates back to around the 10th century when Arabs and Berbers lived in parts of Swiss territory. Many Swiss Muslims have their origins in relatively nearby countries like Bosnia, Turkey, and Albania. The 1990s saw a massive influx of Muslim migrants into the country as people fled from the Yugoslav War. The first mosque in Switzerland was built in 1962 by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community on a parcel of land given to them by the Swiss government. In 2009, Switzerland held a controversial referendum that resulted in a ban on construction of minarets.
Judaism - 0.3%
Jews have lived in Switzerland for nearly a millennium and during that time they have faced immeasurable persecution. Jews were only granted equal rights in 1876. Census data indicates that nearly 20,000 Jews are living in Switzerland with the Zurich Metropolitan area having the highest concentration of Jewish communities, a third of their total population. Ruth Dreifuss was elected the first woman president of the Swiss Confederation and the only person with a Jewish background to hold the position.
Other Religions - 1.4%
Some of the minority languages practiced in Switzerland include Eastern Orthodoxy, Methodism, Neo-Pietism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other. However, these all make up a very small percentage of the population.
Famous Religious Buildings
Like many places in Europe, some of Switzerland's most prominent religious buildings serve as tourist destinations within the country. These include St. Peter's Church in the country's largest city of Zurich, which is notably home to the largest clock in Europe. The Jesuit Church in Lucerne is another common attraction.
Religious Tolerance in Switzerland
Switzerland has overcome its history of religious intolerance to emerge as one of the most tolerant states in the world. The Swiss government ensures every person's right to practice their religion of choice and prevents people from being discriminated against by their religion.
Religious Beliefs In Switzerland
|Rank||Religious Beliefs in Switzerland||Percentage of the population aged 15 and over|
|1||Christian - Roman Catholic||36.5%|
|3||Christian - Reformed||24.5%|
|4||Christian - Other||5.9%|
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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