Europe has been for a long time considered as the Christianity hub, and European missionaries and believers have introduced people from all other continents to the faith. At first, catholic faith represented the Christianity belief until the split in the sixteenth century.
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Christianity then developed under two umbrellas that have now split into many other denominations, but professing the Christianity faith. However, a decline of European Christianity has been seen over the last couple of centuries. Starting from the seventeenth century, many Europeans have ceased associating themselves with Christ, with extreme vulgarity being experienced among several of its followers.
One of the reasons for the decline of Christianity among the European countries is the split of the church that occurred around the 16th century.1
Before then, Catholicism was the dominant religion, but protests over the leadership and doctrines led to the formation of the Protestants, with individuals like Martin Luther spearheading the reformation process. During this time, many believers could not question the authenticity or the correctness of the teachings. They had been made to believe everything that was delivered by the priests and church leaders.2
During the reformation process, people were made aware of the controversies in the church as well as the inconsistencies in the teachings of Christianity faith. With the different teachings emerging, individuals started having independent interpretations and thoughts regarding the Christianity faith.
From this time forward, doubts and assumptions started to emerge among the believers and within a span of several years, the strict adherence to Christianity started to fade. The inconveniences that emerged after the reformation confirmed to the believers that many issues still required clarification.
The reformation also reduced the possibilities of having a state religion as many people fought to have independent beliefs. These beliefs in different religious perspectives made the leaders allow for diversity and instead focus on governance. Reformation led to religious toleration in which people with different beliefs integrated and carried out their activities without interference from other quarters.
The leaders were expected to define the religion to be followed by the rest of the citizens but this was later to be revoked by tolerance. People from different religions started demanding for equal rights and this increased the tolerance.
Social and religious tolerance led to a decline in the number of believers, with many finding loopholes in it. When the Protestants were allowed to spread their doctrines, other issues started to emerge that sought to have the government lessen its stand on some longstanding restrictions.
The traditional tenets of Christianity started to be cracked by individuals who developed different perspectives pertaining to religion and Christianity. Tolerance influenced religion and Christianity beliefs and made individuals to lessen their stands.
The onset of the nineteenth century saw the development of science, which largely contradicted religious beliefs. When scientific theories and discoveries started to be applied in institutions, many people started to take natural science as superior to religion. The theory of creation was revoked by theories of natural science and this created confusion over the right and correct doctrine.3
When science started becoming popular in the early twentieth century, there was a major back up from the communists. The aspect of having common religion was neglected and instead most leaders started focusing on power maximization and hence saw Christianity as a barrier to achieving this.
At this time also, the intellectuals were becoming increasingly independent and this made the distance between religion and science to increase. The freethinkers started to criticize and to question the Christianity teachings. Myths on creation, the flood, and the tower of Babel were some of the issues that were questionable. The critics felt that the Bible was not convincing and so was Christianity.
Before the reformation period, the Christians had not been resilient when it came to freedom of expression and democracy. They instead believed in having a rigid and hierarchical form of governance that did not tolerate questions and freedom of any kind.
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Most of the beliefs started focusing on scientific proofs with evolution being the one of such theories.4 The church took active roles in both World War One and World War Two. It used the teachings of the Bible to encourage the oppressed to hold on, citing the afterlife as the consolation.
Secular humanism is another issue that influenced the decline of Christianity in Europe. When freethinking started to be popular in Europe, many secular issues started being practiced. One of the laws that was passed and accepted in Europe was the law on obscenity.
Countries like the Great Britain liberalized the law on obscenity in 1959 and later liberalized abortion in 1967.5 The acceptance of some of these laws made the Christians to feel inferior. The non-Christian values and beliefs became so popular that they started to influence the existing Christian values.
Although the churches were against the legislation of these laws, they supported most of them. The culture of tolerance that had long affected the individuals made it possible for the churches to accept the changes being introduced by the government.6
Legislation of the secular humanistic made the Christian values to be forgotten and this led to the decline of Christianity in not only Britain, but also the entire Europe. The decline of values and morals led to the development of critics and free thinkers who started identifying errors in the Bible.
The changing cultures and societal priorities led the individuals to be less concerned about churches and this led to a decline in the number people attending Sunday services. The first issue that led to decline of Christianity was the reformation that was brought about by the Protestants’ move to end Catholicism.
After the reform, the Protestants created an opportunity for questioning and disbelieving the Christianity doctrine. Firstly, the catholic doctrines were exposed to be full of inconsistencies and oppression. The church was portrayed as one against freedom and human rights. This made the believers to have different thoughts and as a result enhanced tolerance and equality for all.
When tolerance became popular, most Europeans lost their faith and instead started accepting other ideologies and doctrines. Science was one such doctrine that greatly affected the believers as it was mostly based on facts and empirical research.7
The theories that were proposed by the scientists were more convincing than the existing Christianity doctrines. When Charles Darwin brought the law of evolution, it seemed to make sense than the existing law on intelligent design. This made people to believe more in the theory than in the existing creation theory.
In addition, the education system started to integrate all the possibilities about humanity into the syllabus. Evolution and creation were both integrated into the curriculum and this made the students to be more confused and unsure of what to believe in. Careers replaced church attendance and it created a decline in the number of individuals being registered and affiliated to specific churches.
The cultural change and the adoption of secular governance made the focus on Christianity to be forgotten. Due to tolerance, governments could not adopt a national religion. Britain is one of the few countries that has a national religion and is getting constant pressures from liberalists who want governance to be separated from religion.
When the Bible was first attacked by secular and scientific theories, the Christians were involved in a puzzle.8 The freethinkers and intellects were the most vibrant and they developed a framework upon which the whole doctrine could be criticized.
The onset of biblical criticism made compliance with the teachings a hard task to accomplish. Alternative believes and doctrines soon emerged and influenced the Christians to have alternative perspectives regarding the religion. Tolerance created rebels who went against the teachings of Catholics and Protestants.
The nineteenth century brought with it political and social reforms. Since Constantine was converted in the fourteenth century, there was a lot of martyrdom that soon faded with tolerance. Individuals started using religion as a stepping stone to achieve political and secular success.9
During Europe’s colonization of different countries, religion was used as the backup and as the consolation for the oppressed. The use of Christian beliefs to justify suffering and oppression made some of the believers to develop different perspectives that led to complete or partial dropping out of the Christianity faith.
Tolerance and decline in Christianity faith allowed secular humanism to spread in not only Europe but also other continents. Embracing secular values also made it possible for governments to legalize issues like abortion and use of contraceptives, and since there was significant support from the churches, the followers became more confused and opted out of the religion.
European Christianity is therefore a victim of tolerance and secular humanism. Although it started as a simple revolt against the Catholic Church, it spread to include secular and other rights issues that were against the traditional Christian belief.
Church leaders have also lost their influence and this has made humanity to follow secular based laws that are independent. The separation of governance from Christianity has made the impact on young and aspiring Christians to fade.
The inability to form a national religion and the emerging inconsistencies in the Bible has reduced Christianity into an inferior religion despite having the highest number of followers. The staunch Christians have reduced and the few remaining are either partial or affiliates in terms of family or baptismal names.
Arthura, James, “Religious and spiritual markers in community involvement,” British Journal of Religious Education 33, no. 3 (2011): 299-312.
Kalu, Ogbu and Alaine M. Low. Interpreting Contemporary Christianity: Global Processes and Local Identities. Cambridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008.
McGrath, Alister E. The Future Of Christianity. Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002.
McLeod, Hugh and Werner Ustorf. The decline of Christendom in Western Europe, 1750-2000. New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Spohn, Willfried, “Europeanization, Religion and Collective Identities in an Enlarging Europe A Multiple Modernities Perspective,” European Journal of Social Theory 12, no. 3 (2009): 358-374.
1 Hugh McLeod and Werner Ustorf, The decline of Christendom in Western Europe, 1750-2000 (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003), 220.
2 Ogbu Kalu, Alaine M. Low, Interpreting contemporary Christianity: global processes and local identities (Cambridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008), 23
3 Willfried Spohn, “Europeanization, Religion and Collective Identities in an Enlarging Europe A Multiple Modernities Perspective,” European Journal of Social Theory 12, no. 2 (2009): 360.
4 Willfried Spohn, “Europeanization, Religion and Collective Identities in an Enlarging Europe A Multiple Modernities Perspective,” European Journal of Social Theory 12, no. 2 (2009): 362
5 Hugh McLeod and Werner Ustorf, The decline of Christendom in Western Europe, 1750-2000 (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003), 218.
6 Alister E. McGrath, The future of Christianity (Oxford, Wiley-Blackwell, 2002), 28
7 Ogbu Kalu, Alaine M. Low, Interpreting contemporary Christianity: global processes and local identities (Cambridge, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008), 22
8 James Arthura, “Religious and spiritual markers in community involvement,” British Journal of Religious Education 33, no. 3 (2011): 310.
9 Hugh McLeod and Werner Ustorf, The decline of Christendom in Western Europe, 1750-2000 (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2003), 218.