The Enlightenment Continues Elsewhere

Jay Moore research at
Sun May 6 19:19:54 MDT 2001

Hollow Halls in Europe's Churches
Attendance by Christians Dwindles As Number of Faithful Decreases

 By T.R. Reid
Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, May 6, 2001; Page A01

CANTERBURY, England -- For more than nine centuries, pilgrims wended their
way in multitudes to the majestic cathedral in this ancient town, trekking
from all over Europe, as Geoffrey Chaucer put it in the first great book
printed in English, "the holy blisful martir for to seke."

But the faith that drove those pilgrims is severely diminished today. At
Morning Prayer last Sunday, the great vaulted ceiling of Canterbury
Cathedral looked down upon a grand total of 13 worshipers. A midday
communion service did better, with about 300 people on hand, counting the
choirboys in their white ruffled collars and a phalanx of tourists with
video cameras. But that still left 80 percent of the seats unused.

Canterbury, mother church of the global Anglican/Episcopalian faith, is
hardly the only European church that is largely empty most Sundays. Western
Europe, home of the world's biggest religious denomination, the Roman
Catholic Church, and the birthplace of most major Protestant faiths, has
largely turned its back on religion.

It now has "one of the least religious populations in the world," noted the
Dutch sociologist Nan Kirk de Graaf.

In Britain and France, less than 10 percent of the population attends church
as often as once a month. In Scandinavia, the handsome high-steepled
churches that mark every city and village attract less than 3 percent of the
people. In Amsterdam, the Dutch Reformed hierarchy is converting churches
into luxury apartments to pay its bills.

"It's a secular age," sighs Canon Michael Chandler, vice dean of the
cathedral here. "We're breeding a whole generation without much spiritual

. . .

In one sense, Europe's loss of religious faith poses a striking contrast to
the situation in the United States. Depending on how the question is asked,
up to 95 percent of Americans say they believe in God; in much of Western
Europe, the figure is closer to 50 percent.

Full article at

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