The proportion of Norwegians who say they believe in God has dropped from 53 percent to 30 percent in the past 35 years, according to the Norwegian Monitor 2020 survey, which is conducted every other year and maps values, attitudes, and behaviours over time in Norwegian society.
The percentage of people who consider themselves believers has fallen by 4 percent since the last survey, which was done two years ago. Since 1985, when the first study of this kind was published, the drop reached an amazing 23 percent.
“The figures show a dramatic decline”, Norwegian Monitor project manager John Spilling said, as quoted by the news outlet Resett.
To the question of whether they believe in God, 48 percent of Norwegians answered no, 30 percent answered yes, and another 21 percent were uncertain. The proportion of believers is the lowest in the 25-39 age bracket, with 19 percent.
In a related issue, the proportion of those who view themselves as Christians has fallen from 24 percent to 21 percent over the past two years.
While merely 30 percent declare that they believe in God, 61 percent of Norwegians said they belonged to a Christian denomination. Twenty-two percent don't identify themselves with any beliefs or outlook, while 10 percent identify with the Humanist Association. Another 4 percent said they belonged to a different belief or outlook and 2 percent stated they were uncertain.
Norwegian Humanist Association Secretary General Trond Enger has argued that the figures reflect “major demographic changes” in the population that have not quite reached the politicians.
According to Enger, politics and public service are some 20 years behind and out of step with the general population. Enger pointed out that Norwegian nursing homes and hospitals only offer priests and that only priests can pass on the death message on behalf of the police and highlighted a lack of premises and ceremony rooms for other religious communities.
“We have also seen it during the corona crisis, where the vision-neutral premises were closed in many places, while the churches were open”, Enger said, calling on politicians to “update their understanding” of what Norwegians do and don't believe in.
By contrast, Preses Olav Fykse Tveit argued that religion and faith are much more than opinions in the polls.
“It's about rituals and different cultural expressions, traditions, buildings, and much more. There are still 3.7 million Norwegian citizens who are members of the Norwegian Church, and many of Norway's religious communities are Christian. The relationship with the Christian faith and religion also expresses the fact that many people know that the church means something in important stages, for example, seven out of ten in 2019 said they would marry in the church”, Fykse Tveit said.
In recent decades, the Church of Norway has been leaking worshippers at an alarming rate, much like its peers in fellow Scandinavian countries. Over the past decade alone, membership in the Norwegian Church has dwindled by ten percent. Should the current rate persist, the rate of baptism may fall below 50 percent. As of today, children who have at least one parent registered as a church member are automatically registered as members as well. However, there is an option to “unsubscribe” from the church online at any given time, yet unlike neighbouring Sweden, Denmark, and Finland this gives no financial benefit in terms of taxes.
In 2017, Norway reworded its constitution from “the state religion” to “national church” in what many perceived as a parting of ways with the Church of Norway.