Religious diversity in France


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Religious diversity in France

  1. 1. Communication connects culture through Comenius Religious diversity in FranceThe religious panorama of France During the last century, especially since the law of separation of the Church and the State, the religious variety in Franceconsiderably increased. If the Catholicism remains the majority religion, we notice that the Islam became the second religion of thecountry. In 1905, four cults were recognized in France (Catholicism, reformed Protestantism and Lutheran, Judaism). Nowadays, newreligions are established on the territory: the Islam and the Buddhism but also other forms of Christianity as for example theorthodoxy or the evangelic churches. Since the last official census in 1872 on the practice of the cult, it is forbidden to integratequestions concerning the religious membership in a demographic investigation. Thus, we do not have public statistics and the expertshave to base their studies on estimations provided directly by the religious groups. By this way we can raise there the followingpicture:- Catholicism remains widely majority, evenif it knows a decline since the seventies. In The distribution of the religions in France2006, according to a sounding IFOP-LaCroix, 65 % of the French people declaredthemselves catholic, while they were, at thebeginning of the seventies, more than 80 %.- The agnosticism is developping. Thenumber of persons identified with noreligion (more than 25 % of the Frenchpeople) increases, particularly among youngpeople. However, the fact that theyredeclaring themselves as "without religion "does not inevitably mean that they areatheistic.- The Islam globally became the secondreligion of France. We consider currently atapproximately 4 millions the number of Source: Study of the family and intergenerational relations, National institute of thepersons of Muslim tradition, that is 6 % of demographic studies (2005).the population, bound for many in theMaghreb.- The historic Christendoms. To the Orthodox Church (estimated at 300 000 members), and in the Armenian apostolic Church ( thesame order of height ), it is necessary to add the believers linked with the diverse oriental Churches independent or united in Rome.- The Judaism. It counts approximately 600 000 believers who have, for a notable majority, Sephardic origins following the arrival inmainland France of Jews of North Africa in the sixties.- The Buddhism left the marginality in which it was confined for a long time in France. We estimate the number of its believers at 300000, native for the main part of Asia.- The atypical religious movements know, in spite of the debates they activate and whatever is the status we attribute(award) them, acertain vitality. We notice it, for example, for the Jehovahs Witness, who claim 140 000 believers.The secularism in debate The secularism is a fundamental principle of the French Republic. Secularism is based on two conditions. In the first placethe neutrality of the State : the Republic "recognizes, no salarie, nor subsidizes no cult". Secondly, the respect of the freedom of cultwhich allows every individual to practice his religion freely. If the laic major principles are not questioned, the statutory modalitiesregarding the organization and application of the separation between the Church and the State are sometimes discussed. Indeed, evenif we should not exaggerate the questioning of the principle of secularism, numerous recent events leads us to bent over themodification of the law of 1905 : the contesting of certain contents of eduction in schools, the ostentatious religious signs, thediscriminatory attitudes towards the women, the attacks because of the religious membership. These attitudes have multiple originsand do not concern a religion in particular. In front of these new debates the republic answered by a series of laws and measures inorder to reaffirm the principle of secularism. The law of March 15th, 2004 enters in this frame by forbidding the port of signs or dresses showing a religious membershipin public schools. We thus see that instead of re-establishing or modifying the limits of the law of separation of the Church and theState the Republic chose to reaffirm the foundations of the secularism guaranteeing the respect of the principle " of equality in front ofthe law of all the citizens without distinction of origin, purebred or religion". At the same time, the French Republic, has chosen tostrengthen the study of the religious fact in schools and thus supports the idea that the teaching of religious cultures are as necessaryas our literary, artistic or political heritage.