Column from Finland: Are we witnessing a historic change in religiousity?


Christian Life

Sari Savela, CNE.news

It seems that religiosity among young men is on the rise, writes Sari Savela. Photo Pexels

Religiousity among young men seems to be on the rise in Finland, writes Sari Savela. “Despite a clear decline in belief in God, a surprising and hopeful finding has emerged in Finland.”

A while ago I watched a sympathetic documentary about two young Swedish men who preached Jesus in a small town in Sweden. I was delighted with the way in which faith was shown in the documentary. The narrative was warm and respectful. The young men really loved Jesus and wanted the people in their hometown to be saved. They told about Jesus in the street in a natural way and prayed for people. There was joy and peace in their faces.

It was perhaps no coincidence that the documentary was about young men. Research shows that young men are more religious than young women - at least in Finland. The documentary could well have been made in Finland. It has to be said, though, that preaching Jesus on the street is not at all common in Finland, as people are generally alienated from Christianity in the same way as elsewhere in Western Europe.

The number of people believing in Jesus as their own savior in Finland is according to some research roughly eight per cent of the population. Around 64 percent of Finns still belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, many of them belong to the church out of habit. Every year, more members leave the church than join it. Membership loss has been a problem for several years.

According to the Church's latest four-year report (2016-2019), Finns' faith in the God of Christianity has almost halved in 20 years. In 1999, almost half (47%) of Finns believed in God, but in 2019, only one in four believed in God as the Church teaches. If we include those who believe in God, but quite differently from what the Church teaches, 43 percent of Finns believe in God.

Despite a clear decline in belief in God, a surprising and hopeful finding has emerged in Finland. It seems that religiosity among young men is on the rise.

Belief in God has increased among young men since the 2010s. Men under 20 today are more likely to believe in God than men of the same age ten years ago. This trend is also reflected in a recent Empathy and Cognition Survey of Urban Churches (2023).

It will be interesting to see if we are living through a great historical transition. Traditionally, women have acted as the inheritors of family traditions, such as the tradition of the Church, and as promoters of Christian upbringing. Now, several recent studies show that young men in Finland are significantly more religious than women of the same age.

For example, young men and fathers are now more likely than young women and mothers to support child baptism. The number of baptisms has fallen sharply in recent years. Even in families where parents belong to church there is not necessarily a desire to baptise a child.

While young men are becoming more religious, young women are becoming more distanced from religion and suffering more from mental ill-health. Interestingly, studies have found that

religiousness increases well-being and happiness. The correlation is particularly strong for girls. Girls for whom religiosity is important are better off emotionally than those for whom religiosity is not important.

It would be interesting to know why religiousness among young men is on the rise. There are certainly several explanatory factors. Either way, it is encouraging news from a Christian perspective.



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