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    The Changing Faces of Faith in France

    The religious landscape in France has undergone profound diversification since the 1905 law on the separation of church and state, according to an article by Kekeli Koffi published on Besides the four faiths formally recognized in the early 20th century – Catholicism, Reformed and Lutheran Protestantism, and Judaism – new religions have emerged.

    “Islam, Buddhism, and Orthodoxy have established themselves, giving France the status of the European state with the largest number of Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist believers,” writes Koffi. Although official data on individuals’ religious affiliation has not been collected since 1872, an outline of the current situation can be sketched:

    • Catholicism remains the predominant faith in France, although its influence has declined significantly since the 1980s. Currently, over 60% of the population identifies as Catholic, but only 10% practice actively.
    • Atheism and agnosticism are steadily rising, with nearly 30% of French people declaring themselves non-religious.
    • Islam is the second largest religion in France, with an estimated 5 million Muslims – both practising and non-practicing – constituting about 6% of the population.
    • Protestantism accounts for 2% of the population, approximately 1.2 million individuals.
    • Judaism has around 600,000 followers (1%), mostly of Sephardic descent.
    • There are 300,000 Buddhist believers in France, mainly of Asian origin, plus 100,000 others, bringing the total to 400,000.

    Koffi notes that other religious movements also show vitality, despite controversies. Among them, Hindus are estimated at some 150,000, Jehovah’s Witnesses at 140,000, Scientologists approaching 40,000, and Sikhs totalling some 30,000, concentrated in Seine-Saint-Denis.

    This changing landscape raises questions about the relevance of old models for managing religion, concludes Koffi. While the 1905 law itself seems able to withstand time and change, institutions like the Ministry of Interior’s Bureau of Faiths have not adapted to the new reality and continue operating as if only a handful of faiths existed in France.

    We acknowledge The European Times for the information.



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