Are The French Religious?

Are The French Religious?

Religion is often a huge topic of conversation around the world (even among Atheists). Many people prefer to keep such topics to a minimum, but when learning how to speak French it's important to know cultural norms which includes religion. Which religions are popular? Are most people in France Catholic? Jewish? Muslim? Where are the most popular mosques, cathedrals, and synagogues to visit? Is there a large percentage of atheists in France? Have no fear, we are here to shed some light on the subject with Are The French Religious? We hope you enjoy!

It may come as no shock that the majority of religious people in France consider themselves to be Christian (45% of the population). A tourist visiting France for the first time would quickly come to this realization through evidence in the many cathedrals that grace the landscape across the county. However, many French citizens in modern society are not big on practicing any particular religion and have a difficult time identifying what religious group they belong to. This confusion stems from the tradition of being baptized at birth in a Catholic Church, but not practicing Catholic traditions beyond that. If you were to ask a French person today what religion they are, a common response might be 'Christian, but my family never goes to church.' In fact, a solid number of those (who were baptized at birth) might consider themselves today to be Atheist or Agnostic. To understand the demographics of religions in France, one major consideration comes to the surface. Due to a law from 1872, any performed census in the French Republic is not allowed to distinguish citizens based on their race or beliefs. However, that law does not pertain to polls and surveys (which are free to included those questions if they wish). That said, we rely on 'polls' and 'surveys' to collect the data about religious demographics. IPSOS Mori (one of the largest research companies in the world), conducted a survey from 2011 which helps us better understand some of the religions groupings in France.

If we look at the numbers - 45% of French people consider themselves to be Christians (almost all Roman Catholic), 35% consider themselves Atheist or Agnostic, 3% Muslim, 1% Buddhist, 1% Jewish, 5% adhere to unspecified other religions, and 10% did not give an answer to the question. This means that Catholicism still hails as the most popular religion in France. However, according to a 2009 study from the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP), only 4.5% of self-declared Catholics go to church each week. This shows that France, in general, does not have a huge number of practicing religious members who attend religious ceremonies on a weekly basis.

One possible conclusion regarding the lack of attendance in the religious settings might be based on the French principal of Laïcité (the absence of religion in political affairs - especially regarding the creation of government policies). The country as a whole welcomes religious freedom and, since the 1789 Revolution (which broke the Roman Catholic church away as a claimed 'state religion'), the French culture hasn't been infusing religion into its weekly traditions as much. Overall, in modern French culture religion isn't a major focus and the country is considered to be one of the more secular ones in the world.

Regardless of the numbers, religious structures can be seen all over France. Check out a few of my favorites below.

Grande Synagogue de la Victoire - Image: Ed Alcock for the New York Times Located in Paris, this building began construction in 1867 and contains a wonderful number of details including a series of 12 stained glass windows representing the Tribes of Israel. 

Grande Synagogue de la Victoire - Image: Ed Alcock for the New York Times

Located in Paris, this building began construction in 1867 and contains a wonderful number of details including a series of 12 stained glass windows representing the Tribes of Israel. 

Synagogue Notre Dame de Nazareth - Image: capteurdmotion.com Located in Paris, this building is the oldest of the 'great' synagogues of Paris.

Synagogue Notre Dame de Nazareth - Image: capteurdmotion.com

Located in Paris, this building is the oldest of the 'great' synagogues of Paris.

Saint Etienne Cathedral - Image: commons.wikimedia.org Located in Bourges, France, this Roman Catholic cathedral was built to honor Saint Stephen. 

Saint Etienne Cathedral - Image: commons.wikimedia.org

Located in Bourges, France, this Roman Catholic cathedral was built to honor Saint Stephen. 

Cathedral Notre-Dame, Rouen - Image: theluxurytravelexpert.com Located in Rouen, the gothic style cathedral was destroyed during a Vikings invasion in 841. After continuous rebuilding and updating, its 19th century cast iron spire is that tallest in France.

Cathedral Notre-Dame, Rouen - Image: theluxurytravelexpert.com

Located in Rouen, the gothic style cathedral was destroyed during a Vikings invasion in 841. After continuous rebuilding and updating, its 19th century cast iron spire is that tallest in France.

Grand Mosquée de Paris - Image: huffingtonpost.fr   Located in the center of Paris, visitors are welcome to visit (not allowed in the practice area) and can eat at the connected arab restaurant.

Grand Mosquée de Paris - Image: huffingtonpost.fr  

Located in the center of Paris, visitors are welcome to visit (not allowed in the practice area) and can eat at the connected arab restaurant.

Grande Mosquée de Lyon - Image: lyon-france.com France's sixth largest mosque, which houses cultural facilities, a library, and a school. 

Grande Mosquée de Lyon - Image: lyon-france.com

France's sixth largest mosque, which houses cultural facilities, a library, and a school. 

Saint Pierre aux Nonnains Basilica - Image: aladecouvertedenotrepatrimoine.blogspot.com One of the oldest churches in all of Europe, this basilica in Metz, France was originally built as a Roman gymnasium in 380 AD, then converted to a church in the 7th Century. It later became a warehouse and, in 1970, was transformed into a concert hall and exhibition space.

Saint Pierre aux Nonnains Basilica - Image: aladecouvertedenotrepatrimoine.blogspot.com

One of the oldest churches in all of Europe, this basilica in Metz, France was originally built as a Roman gymnasium in 380 AD, then converted to a church in the 7th Century. It later became a warehouse and, in 1970, was transformed into a concert hall and exhibition space.

To answer the question Are The French Religious? Yes. Overall, the majority of citizens believe in some form of higher power, but choose not to practice through an organized religion on a consistent or weekly basis. Many holidays and traditions continue to be based on religious calendars such as Fête de Noël (Christmas) and Fête de Hanoucca (Chanukah). These celebrations make for great visits to France which often include festivals, gatherings, and plenty of cultural food and drink.

I hope you enjoyed this post! To learn more about French language and culture, visit www.jplinguistics.com and sign up for one our French Group Classes or Private Lessons. Also, don't forget to tell your francophone friends about our blog by using #jplingo @jplinguistics.

(Source information from above: wikipedia.org 'Religion in France')