The Netherlands are a unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy with its capital at Amsterdam. Before the 20th century, the country was predominantly Christian. However, in recent years, religious adherence has declined. Currently, about 67% of the Dutch report no religious affiliation with the number expected to hit 72% in the year 2020. However, Agnosticism and Atheism are still sometimes seen as controversial.
Religious Beliefs In The Netherlands
Atheism is the belief that God does not exist. Atheism started in 1880 but became widespread in 1960 when other major religions began declining. The Netherlands is one of the most unreligious countries in the world with only 32.2% of its population reporting an official religious belief. According to a study in 2015, 63% of the Dutch believed that religion does more harm than good in a country.
Agnosticism Or Undefined Christianity
Agnosticism is the belief that the existence of God cannot be confirmed nor defined within the confines of humankind. 31% of the Dutch population is agnostic, with the majority of them classified as strong agnostics.
Roman Catholic Christianity
The Roman Catholic Christianity practiced in the Netherlands is part of the worldwide Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope. It is the single largest religious group in the country although the number of its believers is decreasing. In 2006, the Sunday church attendance by the Roman Catholic faithful in Netherlands had decreased from 1.2 million people to the current level of around 200,000. Historically, members of the Catholic church were sometimes discriminated against, often treated as second-class citizens. The government even banned the religion in 1580 although it was later restored.
The Protestant Church In The Netherlands
The Protestant church in the Netherlands (PKN) was founded in 2004 as a merger between the three churches; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of Netherlands, Dutch Reformed Churches, and the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands. Most of the members of this church are found in the Northern parts of the country as opposed to the south where the Catholics are the majority. Like the universal church, PKN holds the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasius Creeds that express their doctrine. They also observe the Holy Communion and Luther’s catechism.
Islam is a relatively new religion in Netherlands. The majority of the Muslims belong to the Sunni sect with a number being the Shia. Most of them are immigrants, especially from the former Dutch colonies. In the 1990s the country opened its borders for refugees from war-torn countries such sa Bosnia, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The other religious groups present in the country include Baha'i, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism.
Religious Freedom And Tolerance In Netherlands
The freedom of religion is a fundamental right in Netherlands. The government, however, will step in whenever a religion-related issue arises.