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Attachment to institutions in decline

According to the ISSP survey of 1998, at present, 52% of the French think that the "fundamental truth can be found in different religions" while only 6% believe "truth can only be found in one religion". The latter was held by 50% of the French in 1952 and by 15% in 1981. This means that the attachment to religion has changed considerably.

The CSA survey entitled the portrait of Catholics has confirmed this trend. 39% of Catholics think that "all religions are of equal merit", 50% believe that "there is truth in different religions, even though they are not of equal merit". Only 7% of Catholics hold that "Catholicism is the only true faith".

As observed by the CSA/La Vie/Le Monde survey of March 2003, 77% of the French (and up to 82% of the French within the age range of 18-24) reckon that "nowadays everyone has to define their own religion without the influence of Churches". The French have therefore become less attached to religious institutions.

Jean-François Barbier-Bouvet used data from the CSA surveys of 2005 to study people without religious affiliations in France. He draws a conclusion that the difference between believers and non-believers is not clearly marked. Among those without affiliations, one out of five believes in God and 34% of them believe in life after death.

Source: Jean-François BARBIER-BOUVET, "Les sans-religion en France", Le Monde des Religions 15, January-February 2006, p. 28-29.

This study can be linked to other results. According to the CSA survey entitled the portrait of Catholics of 2006, only 52% of those who claim to be Catholics believe that God exists. Half of them believe that it is "probable" that God exists while the other half is "sure" of God’s existence. 26% hold that there is nothing after death. It is observable that Catholics are dissociating themselves from their traditional affirmations.
Finally, the personal path changes as 46% of the people without religious affiliations claim to have had one before. Despite that, 47% of them believe it is important to pass religion onto their children.
On the other hand, in the same period, the portrait of Catholics reveals that only 65% of Catholics believe that it is important to give their children a religious education. This encompasses 19% of people who find it very important and 46% who think it is important. The CSA survey on transmission of religion carried out for Bayard Presse on 6 and 7 June 2005 shows that about two-third or 67% of the parents and grand parents interviewed think it is very important or relatively important to transmit religious knowledge to children. However, only a small half - 49% - believe that it is very important or relatively important to transmit personal faith to children or grand children.

D 25 September 2012    AAnne-Laure Zwilling

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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