Religion in France
Countryaah, France has a distinction between church and state, and
census does not include religious affiliation. French law
has since 1872 banned the questioning of religion in public
censuses. This principle was confirmed by a 1978 law.
There is therefore uncertainty about how many people
belong to different religions in France. However, there are
a number of polls with questions about this. The CSA
regularly conducts such surveys, and in a 2012 CSA survey,
56 percent said they were Catholics, 32 percent were
non-religious, six percent were Muslims, two percent were
Protestants, one percent were Jews and three percent that
they belong to another religion.
measurements give a slightly different picture. In a survey
conducted by the National Institute for Demographic Studies
(INED) in 2008 and 2009, as many as 45 percent say they are
non-religious, while 43 percent say they are Catholics,
eight percent are Muslims, two percent are Protestants and
0.5 percent that they are Jews.
Paris is considered one of the world's foremost centers
of religious science, with a focus on the École Pratique des
Hautes Études at Sorbonne.
Catholicism in France
The largest religious community in France is the Catholic
Church, organized in 95 dioceses. The highest body of the
church is the Assembly of the Confederation of the
Presidents of France (French Bishop's Conference Plenary
Assembly), which meets every year in Lourdes.
However, according to the CSA's 2012 survey, the
proportion of Catholics fell by 25 percentage points from
1986 to 2012, from 81 to 56 percent. According to the same
survey, the proportion without religion increased from 15.5
to 32 per cent in the same period, while the proportion who
professed other religions during the period increased from
3.5 to 11 per cent, which is largely explained by an
increase in the proportion of Muslims.
In addition to the fall in the number of Catholics,
several statistics also show a decline in religious
involvement among Catholics: While 84 percent of all newborn
children were baptized in 1970, the corresponding figure was
approx. 58 per cent in 2000. In the same period,
ecclesiastical marriages dropped from 95 per cent to 40 per
cent and the number of priests from approx. 45,000 to
approx. The decline in religious involvement is also
confirmed by the CSA's 2012 survey, which shows a
significant decline in the number of practicing Catholics,
while the number of non-practitioners has remained stable
over the past decade.
In the interwar period and in the post- World War II
period, the Catholic Church won considerable intellectual
prestige through philosophers such as Gabriel Marcel,
Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain, and writers such as
Charles Péguy, Paul Claudel, François Mauriac and Georges
Islam in France
The Muslim population in France is the largest in Western
Europe. Most are immigrants from North Africa or from other
former French colonies in Africa. The majority are Sunni
Muslims, but there are also Shia groups. The number of
French converts is estimated to be around 50,000 (2003).
There has been immigration from the Middle East and North
Africa since the late 1800s. The first mosque in France, the
Mosquée de Paris, opened in 1926. Immigration from North
Africa increased greatly from 1960, and after 1970 Islam has
been in strong growth. As with other religions, there is
uncertainty about how many Muslims there are in France,
different surveys operate with different numbers.
Officially, it is estimated that there are 5-6 million
Muslims living in France, and a third of them are believers
and practitioners. According to Ined (2010), France counts
2.1 million “self-proclaimed Muslims”.
Islamic issues are of great domestic political importance
and are constantly the subject of public debate. In 1991,
France, as the first country in Western Europe, received an
Islamic university that educates Imams and Qur'an teachers,
L'Institut musulman des sciences humaines. The initiator was
the Islamist umbrella organization Union des Organizational
Islamiques de France (UOIF), founded in 1982, which serves
as the umbrella organization for the largest Muslim
organizations in the country.
In 2004, the law prohibiting conspicuous religious
symbols in public schools was passed. The law had particular
consequences for Muslim girls' use of hijab (a scarf that
covers their hair). The law sparked a comprehensive debate
about the right to use hijab in school, including in other
Western European countries.
Other church and religious communities
According to the Ined survey, the Protestant churches in
France number less than half a million.
Jean Calvin (1509–1564), the foremost theologian of
Reformed Protestantism, was French, and gained many
followers (Calvinists) in France, especially in Western
France and in the areas around Paris. The Nantes edict
(1598) granted Reformers (Huguenots) considerable freedom to
practice their religion, but by the repeal of the edict in
1685 many of the French Reformers fled to Prussia, which at
that time had a more liberal religious policy than France.
There are hundreds of thousands of members of various
Orthodox churches, such as the Russian Orthodox, and other
churches, such as the Armenian.
In addition, France has a large Jewish population, and
there are 125,000 Jews in France today, according to Ined.
According to the same survey, there are also 150,000
Buddhists living in the country.
Ever since the French Revolution of 1789, there has been
a significant anti-clerical tradition in France. By the law
of 1905, the present divide between church and state was
introduced. However, the distinction does not apply in the
former German regions of Alsace and Lorraine, which became
French in 1918.
During the French Revolution, an attempt was made to
establish a Catholic national church, with allegiance to the
nation rather than to the pope. Most bishops and priests
refused, and many who did not flee abroad were killed. In
1801 and 1802 Napoleon reverted to part of the anti-clerical
ordinances of the revolution, and entered into agreements (concordates)
with the Catholic Church, the Protestant Churches, and the
Mosaic Faith Society. Catholicism was recognized as the
majority religion, and the priesthood was to receive an
annual allowance to replace the confiscated church property.
The July Revolution of 1830 caused a new anticlerical
reaction, while the February Revolution of 1848 was kindly
put. In 1850, the elementary school was entrusted to the
Catholic Church, but in 1882-1886 a public school system was
introduced without religious instruction. At the same time,
the 19th century was characterized by a strong Catholic
foundation in significant sections of the population, and
for example the great pilgrimage to Lourdes began in 1874
after Bernadette Soubirous ' Mary revelation in 1858.
The time around the turn of the century was characterized
by anti-clericalism. With the statutory distinction between
church and state from 1905, church property was seized,
bishops and priests set on the street and the schools of
priests emptied. La Loi sur les associations (1901) led to
the dissolution of most religious order societies and
congregations, although most nevertheless returned in the
period 1919-1939. In Alsace and Lorraine, however, the
dioceses of Strasbourg and Metz retained their status under
the Concordat of 1801, when they again became French in
In 1959, a law was introduced that allowed financial aid
to Catholic private schools. The National Assembly agreed to
limit support in 1984, but plans were scrapped after major
demonstrations. During the 1980s and 1990s, more and more
religious communities and monasteries gained legal
recognition (reconnaissance légale).