The one in Spain is not a rare case in Western Europe. In none of its neighbors is the abandonment of religion in adulthood rare. In contrast, further east, the distances between believers before and believers now remain the same or even in several Eastern countries reversed the trend: there are more who recognize Christians as adults than those who were as children.
The data come from 54,000 queries to Europeans from 34 countries between 2015 and 2017 gathered in two surveys on religion and a joint analysis of the study center Pew Research Center.
Neither does Christianity, that for centuries was inherent in the idea of Spain, It already provides a special value in national identity for three out of five Spanish respondents. But, even though it is a minority, the weight of faith is greater than in several Western European countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. Only in two neighboring countries, Italy and Portugal, there is a majority of citizens who have in the Christian creed a key element of their italianity or its portuguese.
This phenomenon changes as one travels east: with some exceptions, most Eastern countries have a majority of citizens who think that faith is a key element of their identity. And the highest figures are in countries like Greece, Serbia, Armenia or Georgia, that border with areas of Muslim majority.
The past is still present
The decline of belief in Spain contrasts with the rise in some former communist ex-republics. Both phenomena have a common origin in the State, although, while the socialist regimes persecuted the faith, the national Catholic imposed it.
And that imposition led to satiation. "During the 40 years of dictatorship an affinity between religion and politics was forced", describes the professor of sociology of the religion Josetxo Beriain, of the Public University of Navarre. For another sociology professor, Rafael Díaz-Salazar, of the Complutense of Madrid, during those years there was "a strong association between anti-Francoism and anti-Catholicism", although "not because people were against God or the Gospels". That negative connotation of the Church led to an intense secularization in the seventies and eighties. A process that reaches today: "In recent years, many parents have already had no socialization in religion, nor have they taken that subject," explains the expert.
He has also contributed to the loss of faith that Diaz-Salazar describes as "ultramontanism" of the Spanish Church. Remember episodes like the protests against homosexual marriage when society I was already accepting it. He also believes that, in parallel with this distance from the hierarchies, atheism advanced. Of course, he considers that it is not always "very elaborate, but often ends with declaring against the representatives of the Church." Do not forget in that process, says Alexandra Ainz, professor of sociology at the University of Almeria and expert in religious phenomena, the cases of sexual abuse of the Church. "They contribute to the disenchantment", sentence.
Others distance themselves from Catholicism, but not from all faith. "Before we had clear the way to be religious: in Spain, used to be equivalent to be Catholic", advances Ainz. "Now not anymore: for example, we take elements of Buddhism, Sufism or even rituals that are attractive to us like those who use ayahuasca in the Amazon. We wave and we have our individual religion. Syncretism is booming, "he says.
64% of Spaniards believe in God, although a majority of them 60% have doubts about that belief. 31% of Spaniards do not believe in God. Religion is important in your life for 22% of citizens. 23% go to Mass every month or pray every day. And a large majority (75%) ands support to separate the church from the State; solo exceed Spain in support of the separation, and slightly, Czech Republic, Denmark, Bosnia, Finland and Sweden, the country where that position prevails more: reaches 80%.
Plus neonationalism equal to more Christianity?
The revival of the nationalism that several European countries live can provoke, in Diaz-Salazar's opinion, a resurgence of Christianity, although not of the Christian faith. How? "There is a far right in Europe that, without being religious, uses the Christian identity to supposedly "beat" emigration and globalization, "the expert explains, in other words, these ultras Catholics, Protestants or Orthodox advocate a" Westernist "idea. and very xenophobic "of the continent, and they use religion as an identity feature for an ambition that is not religious, but" political and cultural ". "There is a reflection of that use also in Trump's America: he is not religious at all, nor is he a puritan, but he uses the religious element in his favor," the expert wields.
And in Spain? "There are relevant sectors among young people with a conservative mentality who can go for more, and not because of religiosity or mysticism, but by putting in the package conservative the practice of religion for identity reasons ".
A complementary vision provides the other specialist, Josetxo Beriain. "The underlying cultural realities have much more ground and remain much more in time than the political reality, which is enormously changing," says the expert, who divides his research work on religion between Navarra and Harvard. He sees no link between a rebirth of belief and the possible clash with the emigration of people from other faiths: "Religions do not substantially affect the elements of political mobilization. neopopulism is that they transfer the failures of the crisis to the political sphere: there is a crisis of legitimation of power that, in the personal sphere, translates into a crisis of motivation. "To solve it, he says," it is trying to politically inject ambivalent elements, such as the one that affirms that the one that arrives from outside is dangerous ".
"There was a time when Catholic unanimity in Spain was broken, long before Manuel Azaña said that Spain had ceased to be Catholic," says Professor Díaz-Salazar, who highlights the historic moment of the First Republic in that process ( 1873-1874). That regime inaugurated "a strictly non-Catholic cultural tradition that wanted to create a Spanish identity not linked to religion." This culture coalesces in very diverse movements, from anarchism and communism to the liberal bourgeoisie, but also in the masses. "There are testimonies from popular missionaries who speak of that Spain had a 'mass apostasy' and in the late twenties and early thirties of the twentieth century, "says Diaz-Salazar.So, in his opinion, he delegitimizes "that idea of Francoism and the Episcopal Conference of the Catholic soul of the Spanish nation, but that some Bolshevik and Frenchified minorities broke it." However, the expert points out that during the Franco regime there were "very important" Catholic figures and movements opposed to the dictatorship. "There were priests in prisons, even basic elements in the creation of Workers' Commissions, and even an extreme left party, the FELIPE, they were Christians. "" But in the end, "he clarifies," what remains of that time is the story of the relationship between Francoism and Catholicism. "
"I talk on the phone almost every night with a cloistered monk to talk about football and life"
(Begoña Luengo, 52, saleswoman in a large area, Madrid)
"I'm an atypical case, nobody talked to me about religion in my house, I did not go to a religious school, but when I was eight years old, I started going to church alone, I felt very warm, I liked to pray, to sing in the choir … Now People have very bad experience with priests in general, but I have never had any since I was a child, they always clothed me in. My faith has never been in doubt, even when my parents died with little time difference. and strength in the face of adversity, I tell the whole world that I am a believer, without feeling shame, and I do not belong to any movement of the Church, in my work most of my colleagues do not believe, and there is no problem with me. "I pray for you" (I have a list of people for which I ask God) and they thank me, I put a Virgin of the Pillar next to the place where we charge in the mall, and not even a fellow witness of Jehovah has ever put me objection, about twelve years ago I started to spend some days in monasteries. In the Santa María de Huerta (Soria) I found my place. I talk almost every night with Father Ignacio, a very old monk who entered there when he was 14 years old. We are both very Real Madrid and discuss the games or talk about life. I am very classical, but I recognize that if the Church does not open her hand in some things, such as giving communion to the divorced, and thus there are people, they are going to leave. "
"As a young girl, the priest scolded me in public for wearing a blouse with my sleeve to the armhole, it took me away from the Church"
(Pepa Ruiz Martín, 70 years old, retired, Fuentevaqueros, Granada)
"As a child I lived a hard religious discipline in school, I saw how those who refused to read the doctrine were punished." As a young girl, the priest called attention to my sister and me for going to the armhole with manga. At the New Year mass, he denied communion to young people who had come to take communion, for the simple fact of having gone the night before the grape dance, and since I was struck, I refused to return to church. The priests are the example of 'do what I say, but not what I do.' I could not have studies, but I love reading As I expanded my culture, I confirmed what I already thought. Now I still believe in God, but I practice a religion in my own way: visiting the sick or lonely people, helping the needy, collaborating with NGOs One of my best friends is a believer and a practitioner, I am progressive and she has other political ideas, but that is never a reason for discussion ".
"To become an atheist and to stop believing in superstitions meant accepting first that my parents had instilled in me a string of lies"
(Víctor Brito, 50 years old, employment counselor, Santa Cruz de Tenerife)
"In my family we are nine brothers, with the older ones, who doubted, there was so much age difference that they did not talk about religion, my parents forced us to go to Mass. With the hope that nothing would happen to any of us, They instilled all kinds of false beliefs, for example, we could not go out until an hour after having a bath with hot water or, if we were drinking milk, we could not eat anything else, they made me very scared and they turned me into a hypochondriac. In college, I began to question everything, but it was hard: I had to accept first that what my parents had taught me was a bunch of lies, it took me many years, and that process was parallel to freeing me from the belief in God, It also served to frighten, I met atheists, I read books by authors who spoke of magical thinking, of everything we accept without questioning it, it produced a certain clash with my family, but I preferred to stop doing 'apostolate' at eo, I argue, because the ideas are debatable, but I do not go beyond my publications on Facebook to avoid creating a bad mood, although I also believe that belief in God can not be a kind of blank check that prevents rebutting it. I ended up apostatizing in 2017. I asked my father, who was already more than 90 years old, where I had been baptized to get the baptismal certificate and do the paperwork, and he evaded the issue with jokes. But then he told me: 'how important this is for you, when the letter of apostasy comes to you, you tell me'. And so that 'family' part of my atheism was closed, in a wonderful way, with the respect of my father. "
Non-religious as a girl, "converted" and an adult practitioner:
"Studying medicine I realized that the human body had to be the work of a superior intelligence"
(María del Mar Merino, 57 years old, doctor, Jaén)
"My father's family was not a practitioner and my mother's family did not believe in it, I went to a secular school, I had what is called a stray teenager, I did not practice at university, but I was fascinated to see that the human body was a perfect machine, unattainable engineering, the work of a superior intelligence, with something over thirty years old I had a car accident that left me in a wheelchair for months.A friend came to visit me, her charity and her joy attracted me. Then, she fell ill and I saw how her illness lived in a special way. He had something different from other people. His contact led me to become, to ask for forgiveness, and with 34 or 35 years I made the confirmation among a group of young people. My family was a little surprised. I experienced my conversion as the return of the prodigal son, as a joy. Now I try to receive most of the sacraments that I can, I go to the parish, I do apostolate. It is not that others do not have faith, it is that sometimes it is easier to live without God than with a God who requires you to do things 'as God commands'. There is a prejudice against the Church, and the media are partly to blame, because pederasty cases that are just some are put on the front page. The church is not only the priests, we are the ones in front of and behind the altar. And I think there are more believers than meets the eye. "