What is the religious climate in your country?

cathedral italy What is the religious climate in your country?

UPDATE: Check out the summary of responses I posted here!

Back in 2008 I asked readers from outside the United States to tell us about the religious climates in their countries. It ended up being one of the most fascinating discussions we’ve had here on the blog, and so I wanted to bring it up again:

If you live (or have recently lived) outside the U.S., we want to hear from you! Some questions:

  1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)
  2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
  3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?
  4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example,  here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?
  5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
  6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
  7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

Please feel free to add any additional thoughts or comments as well — long comments welcome.

As you can tell, my interest is primarily in countries that are historically Christian, but anyone is welcome to reply. I’m looking forward to reading your answers!

Also, last time around I had requests to post a linky list for people who preferred to write up their answers on their own blogs. If anyone would like to do that, here ya go! Just remember to link to the URL of your specific post, not your blog’s main URL.

New here? Come say hi on Twitter at @jenfulwiler!



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116 Responses to “What is the religious climate in your country?”
  1. Rebekka says:

    1. Where do you live?

    Copenhagen, Denmark.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    Around 80% of the population belongs to the Danish Folk Church (Lutheran) and pays church tax. There are churches all over the place, but only a very small fraction of members actually go to church and they are typically the elderly.

    The Catholic churches are typically filled up on Sundays. The one I go to is standing room only every Sunday.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    It would be extremely unexpected and make the other person very uncomfortable to learn that you are a believing Christian unless you specifically were talking about religion. It would be so unusual to talk about prayer or the Bible that it’s almost inappropriate.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice?

    They don’t claim anything. The royal family is Lutheran, though, and on marrying in you convert.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Two kids is normal. Four kids is unusual but not unheard of. If you have six kids, you’re probably a Muslim.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    I live in an “immigrant quarter” – there are lots of Muslims, women in hijab, and so on. Other than that it’s probably atheism/could-care-less.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Hard to say – occasionally there is a media freak-out about young people of Danish ethnicity converting to Islam. There are lots of atheists or members of the Danish church who don’t care and just want a church wedding. Happily, though, people keep joining the Catholic church in a small but steady stream.

  2. Puffin Hen says:

    Hi,

    Going through your questions one by one:

    1. I live in Wales in the UK.

    2. I personally know only 1 other person my age (38) or younger who goes to church. On average, the local church (Anglican) and the local chapels are attended by those over 60. And not many of them. Some parents drop off their children for Sunday School but do not stay to attend church themselves – it’s just free child care for an hour or so, and they don’t go if there is an alternative activity for the time slot. Our Catholic Church has a broader spread, but the younger adult members are generally from overseas.

    3. Mention prayer, the Bible or God at a social event? Wouldn’t happen. If it did, it certainly wouldn’t happen again. God is only mentioned in Church on Sunday, and then only by the priest or vicar. And then only during the accepted parameters of the sermon. You can mention that you attend church in a, “When I was on the way to church the other day…” kind of way, so long as you don’t say anything more about it than that.

    4. To openly admit to having any active faith (as opposed to “being a member of our local church,” which – not including our local Catholic church – is an establishment club rather than a body of believers in communion) would be political suicide. Weird, bigotted, out of date and unable to represent a multiculteral community, apparently.

    5. We have four children and are worthy of mention as being a large family. I know one other family with 5 children but most have 2 or 3 at most.

    6. The dominant belief system in our area? None that I can think of. Life boils down to making and spending money, having stuff, and – at all costs – not letting anyone know you cannot afford something. Our older children are appalled by us.

    7. During my lifetime, “religion” has gone from being socially normal to irrelevant. The only times I really met FAITH was during two years I spend growing up in the States and during my secondary school days, with my Religious Education teacher who was an Orthodox Christian and occasionally took me to her services. You were allowed to know things like that in those days. Now, I’m not sure if even RE teachers are allowed to say what their personal beliefs are.

    Religion is rapidly progressing towards being treated with utmost suspicion and contempt, the source of all conflict, etc. In the large urban areas of England there is a growth in large, evangelical, event type churches but this is not typical of the general population and certainly not in the provinces.

    [By the way, I am not a Catholic, nor did I specify the differences between the Catholic church and the others as a way to curry favour with your majority audience. I was brought up an Anglican with Methodist/United Reform family members, sometimes attend our local Catholic church – though I cannot be received into the Church – and have great respect for the Orthodox and many Protestant traditions. I am simply stating what I see with no other agenda.)

    Before writing these responses I had noticed the points above individually and tucked them to one side. Having to put them all down together in one place paints a really bleak picture, doesn’t it? Do I sound bitter in what I have written? I don’t think I am. But I do feel incredibly isolated and very sad. It’s lonely over here.

  3. Andrei says:

    1. Where do you live?
    New Zealand

    2. Presbyterian Church at the bottom of my street recently demolished, unused in years. In our town many Churches have been converted to profane use, restaurants etc, one a once thriving Baptist congregation is now a Night Club, shudder

    3. Depends on the circle I suppose but unusual in most circumstances.

    4. Politicians do not usually mention religion we are aggressively secular.
    Current Prime Minister is agnostic, his predecessor was Atheist.

    5. Average number of children is 1.9 according to official statistics, lower in the middle and upper classes, the under classes may have six or more. I have four as does one of my sisters, we are unusual in our circles.

    6. Indifference

    7. Falling away from the faith. As with the previous commenter the Catholic Church is holding its own though with more functioning Parishes in our town than any other denomination despite being nominally a minority Faith – in our town Presbyterianism is supposedly the major denomination and certainly was fifty years ago. The Catholic Church probably has more people in Church on a given Sunday than the others combined but in actual numbers they are probably in the same place as they were fifty years ago.

    The scary thing here is that in the name of multiculturalism public events like opening buildings or the conferring of degrees are opened with a prayer, not from a Priest or Christian Minister but a Maori um shall we say shamen so as not to be too politically incorrect?.

    Indeed when a fellow I know was killed at work, a Catholic, no Priest was called but the Maori fellow was bought in to “lift the tapu” and drive away the evil spirits. You can’t say anything that would be intolerant but this is one way how the secularists are separating us from the Faith of our Fathers. They are really keen on stone age superstition while vigorously protesting public display of Christianity

  4. Tami says:

    1. Where do you live?
    We just moved to the United Arab Emirates about four months ago. We live in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, but the city of Al Ain. The city of Abu Dhabi is very much a big city, but Al Ain, while not a “desert town,” is much smaller and quieter.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
    We are members of the church of Christ. There are many Christian denominations near where we live, but we have not found a church of Christ. So, we travel a little over an hour away to Dubia to worship with the church there. Sunday is a work day in the UAE (Friday and Saturday are the weekend). So the church meets at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday evenings. Sadly, because of this (and us living over an hour away) there is not a lot of opportunities for face to face fellowship. The Sunday worship service has about 100 people, mostly an expat population of men from India (the service is in two languages). Just to note in the UAE about 80% of the population are expat immigrants, with only about 20% being UAE nationals (citizens). Being born here doesn’t make you a citizen.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?
    The UAE is a Muslim country and Muslim women cover their heads (some with only their face showing, some with only their eyes showing). So if you don’t cover your head, it’s obvious you’re not Muslim and people just assume you’re Christian. I believe if you are a citizen you have to be Muslim, but if you are an expat, you can freely practice your religion. There are restrictions on overtly evangelizing (honestly, I’m not sure of the specifics legally), but talking about what your family does in regard to your religion is not a big deal.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? Muslim (but a more “moderate” interpretation)

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    Larger families are very common here, but mainly among the non-western Muslims. Western expat families still typically have only about two children. However, because the country is predominately Muslim, that means that stores, restaurants, etc. are very used to seeing larger families and are very welcoming to them. No one freaks out when you walk your four kids (all 6 and younger) into a sit down restaurant. The staff is always very helpful and accommodating. It’s a very family oriented culture.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    It’s a Musllim country. It is weird being a minority religion, but at the same time one thing I have really enjoyed is living somewhere where the cultural modesty standard is more covered. Even among expats. Occasionally in Dubai or Abu Dhabi you’ll see some girl walk by with a skirt that’s way too short and too tight, but that’s pretty rare in the smaller city of Al Ain. There are no laws about dress (although depending on what your job is there is likely to be a professional dress code for your work, of course), it’s all cultural, but most people embrace it.

  5. Marija J. says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Croatia.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    According to the 2001 census, 88% of the population claims to be Catholic (the rest are atheist (5%), Orthodox (4%), Muslim (2%) and Protestant (0.3%)). Mass attendance about 20%, perhaps less, depending on the region. Many active parishes. The Catholic church here is funded from the state budget due to direct contract with the Vatican, which causes some resentment from other religious groups and non-religious people.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    That would be seen as awkward and inappropriate in most circles.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    The right-center party members usually claim to be Catholic (no evidence of that in any of their decisions). The left-center party members don’t usually claim anything and are perceived as mostly atheist. The current president announced he is agnostic.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Two children is common, four very rare, six considered way too much.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Cultural/lapsed Catholicism. Most people would say they believe in God, but anyone who takes the Church seriously is considered weird. The actual belief system would probably be materialism. Most people go to church for baptisms, weddings and funerals.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Hard to say. I’d guess that on the whole people are becoming less religious.

    • Tracy says:

      That is sad to read. Before I was Catholic I witnessed the most beautiful Mass at the Cathedral in Zagreb on public holiday that was a feast day (in May 2008). It was one of the experiences I had in Europe that made me want to become Catholic. I thought Catholicism was alive and well in Croatia!

      • Marija J. says:

        Tracy,

        it may have been Corpus Christi, which is indeed a public holiday and in 2008 fell on May 22 (Thursday, as always). Other public holidays are Christmas, St Stephen’s (Dec. 26), Epiphany (Jan. 6), and The Ascension of Our Lady (Aug. 15). All of this is the result of a direct contract made with the Vatican in 1994 (actually, Corpus Christi was added later, a long story in itself). Vatican was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Croatia.

        For many people, being Croatian and Catholic is intertwined similarly as it is for the Serbian or Greek or Russian Orthodox. But national identification is not faith! Many people see it as “good old customs” and support public celebration of holidays – but in the general population regular church attendance is not common, least of all any serious regard of the hard teachings. Some examples: birth-rate is low, contraception and premarital sex are the norm, abortion is legal and there are no anti-abortion protests, and any opposition to this makes one a “nut” in just about every group of people.

        The Church is visible in the society and there is still a segment of the population active in the Church, including many young people. However, the committed Catholics are way outnumbered by the cultural Catholics, and I tried to answer the question from the point of view of the general population.

  6. Sue says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    I live in Saitama, Japan – just outside Tokyo

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    Only about 1% of the population is Christian, with a little more than half of that Catholic, the other Protestant (I am not sure whether or not other groups like Jehovah’s Witness are included in that percentage – they might be). We do have churches around. Most are small, but the members are very faithful and, for the most part, pretty active.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    I can’t imagine that those comments would go over well at all mixed with business. In a group of fellow mothers I have found that type of comment to get brushed over for the most part, unless someone has a particular interest in Christianity, which is pretty rare. Japanese are non-confrontational in general, so it is uncommon to be met with hostility. I once had someone tell me outright at our first meeting that they wanted to be friends, but did ever want to talk about God. That has only happened once in over 16 years.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Generally, religion is a non-issue, unless you are Sokka Gakkai, which is a Buddhist sect that has a fair amount of political influence. I think most Japanese are wary of outspoken or passionate religion, though, so they are kept in check – so far. I don’t think there are many Christians involved in politics over here, really.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    We definitely stick out with our four, but we stick out in general as well. We have one family at our church with six kids, and I have known a few others with five or six kids – even one with eight – but they are a rarity. Most families in our area, including at church, have one or two. We get lots of positive comments about our family at church, but outside of church the most common comment I hear is, “wow, that’s tough!”

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Most Japanese say they don’t really have a religion, but they practice various Shinto/Buddhist customs to cover the bases. Mostly consumerism and education rule, but the high suicide rate betrays the desperation many people feel.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Unfortunately, things are pretty stagnate, or worse. Many churches are filled with elderly people. Not a few Protestant churches are without a pastor, and some Catholic parishes even are without a regular priest. I was talking to a Franciscan brother not long ago about young men choosing a religious vocation. He said that the low birthrate has made it so hard. Especially if someone comes from a non-Christian home, and is an only son, he is going to face an awful lot of opposition if he decides on a religious vocation. He said that a lot of young men end up leaving due to the pressure from their families. We need lots of prayer over here!
    Sue recently posted..Doing His Best

  7. RI says:

    Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)
    East Africa

    What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
    About 80% pple attend church of some sort though it is a predominatly catholic society. there are many churches with active memebership – think pple filling the church and spilling over onto the road

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?
    Very normal , no one would bat an eyelid

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?
    Politicians are quiet open about their beliefs , catholic , muslim etc

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    Almost all . The national average is 6.5 . Though in the capital the trend is growing towards only two . A family of four would fir right in and no one wold bat an eyelid if they continued to have children

    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    A lot of people are catholic – though many are attracted by the pentecostal churches still christianity dominates .

    • Margaret says:

      This comment was interesting to me–I would say many similar things about my husband’s country, Ethiopia. The two primary religions are Orthodox Christianity and Islam, so if you’re an Evangelical Christian, you might have the potential to get in serious trouble being open about your faith in certain circles. Regardless of the brand of faith though, church (or Friday prayers) and faith in general is a huge part of every day life.

      Regarding families–Ethiopians I have met are very positive about large families, but the trend is towards smaller families, and people have found me somewhat odd. A white American woman who *wants* to have a large family?? Unheard of, lol.
      Margaret recently posted..Home again- home again- jiggety jig

  8. 1.Where do you live? Luxembourg, a small european country in between Germany, france and Belgium.Officially almost 90% baptised catholics.
    2.What is church attendance like in your area? Very low, about 5 to 10 Percent.
    Are there many churches? Yes, almost every village has its own catholic church. Do they seem to have active memberships? Most have only small attendances and mostly elderly peaople.
    3.At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? It would be most unappropriate, people would label you immediately as sectarian, intolerant, unmodern and seriously weird.
    4.What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice?
    The most influentiel political party has a “C” for christina in their name, but they are about to vote for a abortion to be legalised. They claim to be christinas, but it is only to get the votes from the elderly ladies that are still attending church. All other political partys are opnely declared atheists or at least agnostics with a very positive view on euthanasia, abortion and homosexual marriage.
    5.How many families do you know who have more than two children?
    There are quite a few, but none of them practicing catholics.
    6.What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Agnosticism and a critical distance to the catholic church.

    7.Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    Less religious
    Rosenkranz-Atelier recently posted..Hl Pierre Julien Eymard Rosenkranz

  9. I’ve posted on my own blog, because I thought my answer would be too long, but now I see most people write pretty long comments. Oh well. I enjoy reading these!

  10. Sarah says:

    I am excited to be able to comment on this! I am a 20-year-old college student studying in Oviedo, Spain and have grown in my faith a lot in the past few years. I was excited to be moving to a country that I believed was predominantly Catholic, but I have been here four weeks now and one of my most fascinating observations and “culture shock” experiences has been the faith – or lack thereof – of the Catholic population. I am living with a wonderful 62-year-old woman who describes herself as “Catholic, but not practicing,” a title that applies to much of the population here.

    Though the different churches I have attended for Sunday and weekday Masses have almost always been at least half full, this pales in comparison to the entire “Catholic” population. There are beautiful Catholic churches around every corner, yet at Mass with three friends yesterday, we were easily the youngest people in attendance by 15 years and 95% of the attendees was over 65. From what I have learned in the past month, it seems that of the roughly 75% of the Spanish population that identifies as Catholic, about a quarter of them go to Mass each week. Additionally, usually about a quarter to one-half of those attending Mass receive Communion, as most of the older population still believes they must have attended Confession first in order to receive the Eucharist.

    I do not think it would be uncommon to hear Catholicism discussed in a social setting, but unfortunately it would probably be a derogatory discussion. Just last night my host mom informed me that the wealthier population can “buy” their way out of fasting and abstinence from meat during Lent through generous Church donations, and she knowingly said that “every priest has a woman at home or on the side.”

    I believe part of this can be attributed to the political climate in Spain during the last century. Because the Church was aligned with the Franco dictatorship until 1977, many people seem to associate bad memories and oppression with the Church. It seems that the lack of faith or emphasis on practicing one’s religion has been passed on to my generation by parents who have views similar to my host mother’s. The monarchy in Spain and many politicians are Catholic, though that does not seem to prominently guide or govern their decision-making in the political atmosphere.

    Regarding family size, the young people are almost nonexistent here, both in the Church and in the country at large. Spain has one of the most problematic declining populations, and last week my host mother went out of her way to point out a woman walking down the street with three children. This is the most I have seen in any one family since my arrival; even two children is rare. Many locals that I have met have expressed shock at my “large” family (I have three siblings).

    Catholicism is definitely the dominant belief system, and the country stops for countless religious holidays each year – Epiphany, various saints’ feast days, Holy Week, and Christmas among others. I have yet to see any churches or places of worship of other religions, though I have heard that there is a Mormon church and a very small population of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Overall, the faith of the country definitely seems rooted in its aging population, and I worry for the future of the Church here in the decades to come if there are no youth to carry it forward.

    • Jonathan says:

      I live in Gijón, Spain, just 30 minutes from Sarah. I agree with her assessment of religious life in Spain, although I would also point out that it depends somewhat on the region. Asturias (the region we’re in) is not very religious in general, but other parts (like Castilla) are more traditionally devout.

      I definitely recommend leaving Asturias for Holy Week, if you can, and go to a city like León that has elaborate processions. It will cheer you up a bit to see people showing their faith in the streets.

      As for family size, our 3 kids go to a public school. The reason we stand out isn’t because we’re Americans – it’s because we are “una familia numerosa”. We’re the only family in the entire school with more than 2 kids.

      • Sarah says:

        Hi Jonathan – small world! I visited Gijón a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it! Thanks for the advice about Semana Santa!

  11. Erin says:

    1.Where do you live?

    Country NSW, Australia

    2.What is church attendance like in your area?

    2 Catholic Churches, both pastored by the same priest.
    numerous Protestant denominations, including 3 different types of Presbyterian denominations.
    Attendance varies from church to Church. The charismatic churches tend to have lots of young people. Some Evangelicals have a mixture of age groups, some are simply dying out.
    The Catholic Church we attend is predominately the over 60 set. There are only two other regular attendance families with children besides ours. The other Catholic Church does have more younger people.

    3.At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?

    It would be okay to casually mention this, but this is Australia;) okay to have your beliefs but you do not push them onto anyone else. ‘Politics and Religion’ are really taboo to debate.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice?

    Many do not use religion as a platform unless they belong to the Christian Party. Some have beliefs but we wouldn’t know them necessarily. And unfortunately our Prime Minister is now an atheist.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children?

    Lots, this is the country so many families have 3-4 children. And I know a number of families with an average of 6. Just depends on what circles you move in though. With no. 9 on the way we would be one of the biggest families in town now, I know of 3 other larger families than us. (population 25, 000)

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    This is the country so demographically mostly Anglo-Saxon background. Many might say Christian or Catholic, but many would not practice. Also a growing number of atheists, some New Age.
    Shops still do close though for Good Friday and Christmas Day.

    7.Do you notice any trends?

    Less religious:(
    Erin recently posted..Koala Has Her License!!!

  12. 1. Where do you live?

    I live in Moscow, Russia (but am from the U.S.). I’ve lived here for about a year and a half.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    I think church attendance is quite low, but there are many restored Orthodox churches. They don’t seem to have active memberships in Moscow, but there are still several monasteries, and any tourist coming to Russia would see basically see church after church after church I think. I heard at a homily that for Orthodox Christmas, only about 70,000 people attended services – in a city of near 10 million (plus another 2-3 million between suburban commuters and unregistered workers).

    I teach English, and we do discussion questions, etc. One unit in an intermediate adult book had things about routines, etc., and one question was if anyone attended church regularly. I had 6 or 7 students that evening, and I was the only one. By contrast, the Cathedral here, while it certainly takes care of foreigners and immigrants, also has a decent Russian attendance (enough for I think atleast 3 or 4 Sunday Masses, and a weekly Novus Ordo Latin and a monthly Tridentine in the small chapel). I think this matches the overall trend I see in other comments- the majoritarian church, whichever it is, hasn’t managed to retain people, although there are other elements at play in Russian history, of course.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    I don’t think anyone would be offended, but it’d be unusual. Most people identify with Orthodoxy but don’t practice. I do it sometimes; I used to be wary and then I decided I wasn’t forcing anyone to do anything, and it’s a part of my life, so I hope people can view religion more positively through having a friend who practices without being preachy necessarily. This and prayer have had some results, I think – praise God, of course, because I was a bit gutless for a while.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    I don’t think people care or are that aware – they all basically know the basics of how to act in church (not very participatory services anyway) and it’s a non-issue. I don’t think atheism is very common, just apathy. I think being atheist could be viewed negatively.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    To be honest, I have a hard time answering this because of a linguistic trip up. Most of my friends are fellow teachers, who are mostly expats and don’t have families, and my students don’t usually have more than 1 sibling, but with the kids it’s hard to tell, because the way you say “cousin” in Russian is “cousin brother” or “cousin sister” – so they try to translate this and I had a kid tell me he had 4 brothers when he really had one and 2 male cousins. A family with four children would be considered quite large. A family with six children would be viewed as highly abnormal unless one was from a less developed, Asian area, non-Russian-ethnic, for example a Muslim family of Uzbek ethnicity, etc. I’m one of 8, and the administrator at one of my schools was shocked and told me it was simply impossible in Russia, because it’s too expensive. Moscow is quite expensive, but I doubt it’s impossible so much as untried. Russia also has one of the highest abortion rates in the world.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Cultural association with Russian Orthodoxy – largely non-practicing. I think Orthodoxy has a lot of requirements that just aren’t going to get most people in a country where the adult population grew up under state atheism into churches. For Lent, Orthodox believers are expected to be vegan, for example, and services can be quite long, without pews, etc. I’m not saying that’s a good excuse, but a sense of inertia can come into play.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    I think people are more openly identifying with religion. Also, there is state support for Orthodoxy. On Orthodox holidays, the metro system here stays open later to accomodate people coming home from services that go late into the night. Also, nowadays, many restaurants and grocery stores feature menus and foods that are approved for Lent, for example. Some traditions are coming to the fore, such as a cold dip last month for the Baptism of the Lord, and some are very popular such as Maslenitsa (butter week – before Lent begins). Overall I think there is an increasing association with it, and more children are being baptised, people wear crosses sincerely, but don’t practice much.

    The Orthodox Church suffered a lot under communism, and I don’t know if it can really recover. There were many many martyrs of all faiths, but Orthodox the largest part. They were briefly allowed to function fully openly during WWII, but were basically controlled by the state after that. This can make difficulties for them with other Orthodox, because they considered the legitimate church to be the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which has since melded back in with the church here, thus undermining everyone’s legitimacy.

    For non-Orthodox Christians, it varies. Russians have some basic ideas about Catholocism that, while they would tend to side with their half of the schism, are respectful. There has been some interesting talk about unity, but not without a lot more talk would it ever happen. The fact that the latest Nuncio here is not Polish is a good move (I love Poland, and the archbishop is Polish, but there are too many historic issues between them for it to be the best path towards unity).

    My friend who is Presbyterian, however, can’t go to a Presbyterian church here – they’re banned I think. So she goes to a Baptism church, and to be Baptist in Russia is hard. There are a lot of negative associations with them, and some were given refugee status and allowed out of the Soviet Union (kind of like some Jews were – a “don’t let the door hit your backside” sort of farewell). She said she was Baptist when a student asked, and the student was shocked, and asked her why she didn’t believe in God.

    Most Muslims in Russia also don’t seem to be devoutly practicing – it’s only since the polarisation of the Chechan war and scholarships to Russian Muslims from Muslim countries which practice more devout (and in some cases extreme) Islam that it has seen a resurgence.

    Jews are historically not a favorite in this country. I know there are some small communities of devout Jews, but like everyone else in Russia they were largely secularised under communism. A few synagogues were allowed to remain open but they were observed, possibly infiltrated, etc.

  13. Lizzie says:

    Where do you live? London, UK

    What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    High attendance as I’m in such a big city and a large proportion attend Mass with young families to ensure their children get into the state Catholic schools. Some churches draw a more specifically ‘young’ crowd. I belong to a group who meet on Thursday nights and many of the members of the group then go to Sunday mass together at a Central London parish. The priest is an amazing preacher so this particular church is standing room only on Sunday mornings! My own parish is also packed with young families although I’m often surprised by the high turnout as it’s not a particularly ‘involved parish’ and there is not that much pastoral input. Good preparation for sacraments though for the children.

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    I personally do this a lot but usually among close friends who know I am a practising Christian. I’m quite bold about quoting sermons/books I’ve read. I had a conversation with someone yesterday who has just come back to their faith who said that he had dropped into conversation the fact that he was going to a Church group – he was met with quite an incredulous response! ‘s In London, it’s fine to mention it – it’s so diverse – but the attitude is very much ‘each to his own’.

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Apparently, 20% of our Members of Parliament are openly Christian – this impacts on their statements/speeches regarding social justice, poverty but when it comes to pro-life issues, there are very few who speak up for fear of political suicide (Tony Blair being the classic example – his head of PR famously said ‘we don’t do God’.) There is a growing movement to integrate Church members into discussing policy with MPs. I work for a theatre in education company and we deliver resources connected to Sex education – we have been asked to contribute to Government discussions about Sex education in schools so there is a willingness to have these conversations about how faith and beliefs can impact policy.

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    I know many families with at least 4 children. I taught in a primary school for many years and came across a good number of families with 4 or 5 children. I do know a few families with 6 children. I also know a family with 8 children and another friend has 5 children and they are very much ‘open to life’. Some people would definitely think this was strange – mostly because of selfishness. ‘Why would you want so many children – how would ever have any time for yourself?’ type comments.

    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    The particular area of London I live in has a very high number of Jewish and Muslim residents. There is definitely a culture of tolerance for different faiths but alongside this, an attitude of ‘whatever is right for you’ – I find people are very willing to listen to my experiences of faith but they don’t feel any need to challenge themselves over these beliefs – it’s my ‘choice’.

    The climate in the UK (as a Catholic) has definitely changed since the Pope’s visit last September – I know many Catholics who now feel we have a legitimate place in society and we aren’t seen as crazy people with strange beliefs. The Pope was such an incredible example of dignity, respect, kindness when he was here and the national press moved from outrage over his visit to respect by the end of his time here. Among some quarters there was almost an awe over how holy, intelligent and dignified he is.
    There is an extremely strong and vocal humanist/atheist voice here (Richard Dawkins et al) but there seems to be a rising discomfort with their intolerance among people of faith and also of no faith. They are rapidly being seen as fundamentalists themselves – becoming the very people they are trying to denounce.

    For me, it’s an exciting time to be a Catholic in the UK – 40 days for life was launched last October with large numbers responding and we have another starting this Lent. I’m hopeful for the future although unity within the Church is an ongoing reason for prayer and fasting – there is quite a bit of infighting between ‘left and right’ which is definite spiritual attack. Just this weekend, I was at a retreat for ‘Life in the Spirit Seminars’ for young people – the attendance last year was 70. This year, there were more than 100 people in their 20s and 30s wanting to deepen their faith, commit their way to the Lord and experience a new life in the power of the Holy Spirit. It was a privilege to lead a small group and witness people’s openness to God becoming an active part of their life. Obviously, as it’s London, this group was incredibly rich culturally from Filipinos to Australians to Nigerians to Spanish etc etc.

    My hope isn’t naive and I know that my task is to pray and fast for an increase in faith. I’m very proud to be Catholic in the UK!!

    Good question Jennifer – thanks for giving me the chance to articulate how I see the Church in the UK.

    • Christine says:

      Lizzie,

      Your spirit and faith is obvious by your post! As a recent theatre grad, I have a question about your theatre-in-education organization–is it Catholic based?

      • Lizzie says:

        Hi Christine- thanks for your comment. Yes it is a Catholic theatre company – we work in schools and prisons with plays that are rooted in Church teaching and many have themes and ideas from theology of the body at their heart. We’re called Ten Ten Theatre after John 10:10 ‘I have come that the might have life and have it to the full’. Feel free to take a look at http://www.tententheatre.co.uk
        God bless x

  14. Cath says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I just want to apologise for putting myself on that Mr Linkie when there is nothing related on my blog – it was an accident! I meant to click the comment button and did the mr linkie instead. I was going to post about my experiences here in Sydney, but Erin has already covered country New South Wales, which is fairly similar. I would only add that in my suburb specifically, it is very multicultural, with a majority of Hindus or Chinese Buddhists/ Atheists.
    We have recently moved from Canberra, where the government and the public service is largely run from. We can definitely say that atheism is on the rise there, which is a definite change from the agnosticism of previous years. As this is the seat of the decision making and law making, this is concerning.
    Also, I would differ from Erin in my experience of family size. In Canberra and here in Sydney, people cannot BELIEVE that we have 4 kids – and that is just 4!
    Thanks for this great discussion – very interesting!

  15. Larissa says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    I currently live in London, England.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    There are about 25 churches in my local area…and about 40 mosques. Most churches have a core membership, there are a few large ones with a significant amount of active members but these aren’t large groups of people by any stretch of the imagination. Certainly not as many as there are at the mosques.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    I’ve done it before…and gotten strange looks. It just wouldn’t be the norm at all here, outside of the Christian “bubble”.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    It’s very much the opposite here. People can be whatever they want; atheist, Christian, Muslim and nobody makes a very big deal about it. Although, there is a law saying the Prime Minister can’t be Catholic. Hence, Tony Blair converted after he’d left office.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    There are a lot of large families but they’re Muslim families. A typical “Christian” family here has 2-3 children.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Islam or atheism. As in, I live in an area with a high Muslim population but outside of that most people are atheists with some cultural Christianity whacked in for good measure.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    I think there are a lot of very religious people but they’re not Christians. Christians tend to exist in very small numbers, the numbers of Catholics are even fewer. And most people my age (I’m twenty-one) are agnostic/atheists.

    • Lizzie says:

      Just a quick note- the monarch cannot be Catholic but the prime minister can. Tony Blair waited til he left office due to the fear that people would think he was a head case…!

      • Elizabeth says:

        Reading this, I’m thinking maybe we should have a meetup for all Jen’s London followers!

      • Larissa says:

        From Answers.com:

        “While there is no express legal bar the election of a non-Anglican British Prime Minister, such a situation would be constitutionally awkward given the prime minister’s role in appointing senior members of the Church of England. While theoretically, the soverieng has the ultimate power in making ecclesiastical appointments, he or she acts on the advice of the prime minister.

        Under the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829, sect. 17, and the Jews’ Relief Act of 1858, sec 4, no Roman Catholic or Jew may advise the sovereign on ecclesiastical matters. Were the prime minister to be a Roman Catholic or a Jew and alternate system of ecclesiastical appointment would have to be devised.”

  16. 1. A couple of people have commented about Australia, so I will comment about Egypt, where I lived from 2006 to end of 2008.

    2. Egypt is predominantly Muslim, but Coptic Christians make up 9% of the population. Copts are treated very poorly (many around Cairo are garbage collectors and live in “garbage city” which is what it sounds like). Converting religions is very dangerous, particularly converting from Islam. Religion is by birth and is recorded on government documents. Conversion is dangerous both for the person leaving Islam and for anyone who encourages/enables such a move. Egyptian jails are deeply unpleasant. There are a few protestant expatriate churches, with 50 or so nations represented at any given service, though Egyptians were noticeably absent. There was also a small Catholic church in our suburb, catering to expatriates.

    3. Prayer is very accepted. The Bible is not. Except among fellow Christians, of course!

    4. Islam. However, President Mubarak came under fire repeatedly for appointing Coptic Christians to government offices. He pointed out that it is the Arabic Republic of Egypt, not the Islamic Republic of Egypt.

    5. Large families are very normal – often Egyptian Muslims will keep having children until they finally have a boy. Egyptians love children. :)

    6. Islam. However, we lived in a wealthy suburb filled with expatriates and wealthy locals and there was a (heavily guarded) synagogue. Historically, many Jews lived peacefully in Egypt, but most migrated to Israel when they had the chance. We had Jewish neighbours – they set out a tent on their apartment balcony next to ours for the “feast of booths”. We thought this was awesome. Our Egyptian housekeeper did not. There were a few Christian Egyptians around as well. It seemed that wealth brought some measure of religious tolerance.

    7. More and more Muslim women began covering their heads while we lived there – making it all the harder for Coptic Christian women to avoid notice/harassment. I’m concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood taking over from a moderate President Mubarak. Things will be much worse for Christian missionaries (already illegal) and Coptic Christians if that happens. The entire power structure and stability of the Middle East will be affected as well. Pray for Egypt!
    Elisa | blissfulE recently posted..a view of our Saturday morning

  17. Michelle says:

    I think I would prefer to do this in a blog post! Thanks for the opportunity!!!
    Michelle recently posted..What Kind of Light Am I

  18. Anne says:

    1. Where do you live?
    I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
    I can only speak for my church…church attendance is pretty decent. We are in an area that is growing up all around where our church is, so we are getting lots of new people out every Sunday, and are in a pinch with regards to outgrowing our facilities (a good problem to have!).
    I live in Kanata (west suburb of Ottawa), and there are ~23 churches here.
    The ones I know of have active memberships.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    In my circles, most of the time social events are with other churched people, so it would not be inappropriate to talk about the things mentioned above. However, in other contexts, I’ve mentioned that we attend church, pray, etc., and I’ve received mixed responses. Most of the time, on average, it barely gets acknowledged, or if it does, gets a positive response. Sometimes, it’s been not outright disapproval, but more like “whatever” for the response.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Canadian politics is kind of odd, that way. Anyone who acknowledges an active belief in God, as the practicing Christian sort, gets the snarky treatment, or the “well, we know THAT is an outdated and odd belief system.” Politicians in Canada don’t trot out their Bibles and beliefs in God and have it received as a good thing, put it that way.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    I know quite a few families with more than 2 children. Four children in our subdivision wouldn’t seem out of place at all. Six might get some “oh wow, that’s a large family” remarks, at least from folks I know, but not the snarky “that’s too many kids” comments, at least not from my circles!

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    My area of Kanata, is very multicultural. There are a lot of immigrants here, and the dominant belief system seems to be shifting to probably a split between Christianity (professed & practiced) and Islam. There is a large Muslim community here in Kanata North.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Our church is growing and getting a lot of new people weekly…many are unchurched. That is a trend I notice in my own church/area. However, across the rest of Kanata or Ottawa, I really don’t know what the trend is like.

  19. Cathleen says:

    My American family has lived in The Netherlands (aka Holland) for nearly 5 years. We live in the southern tip of the country, sandwiched between Belgium and Germany. We are a Roman Catholic family, and my husband teaches at an International/U.S. Dept of Defense School here.
    My perception of religion in this area is pulled from my observation attending periodic services at the (gorgeous) Catholic Church in my tiny village of Jabeek, from discussing faith in depth with several Dutch friends, and from my interactions with neighbors. I would describe this area as culturally Catholic; with beautiful churches the center of every town. Crucifixes and statues and small shrines are everywhere, but are little more than parts of the décor. There is a beautiful crucifix not too far from where we live, but Jesus’ arm has been shattered for some time and there seems to be no one interested in repairing it. It saddens me every time I see it.
    This “Limburg” region is agricultural and more conservative than Northern NL, yet church attendance is sparse and is largely an aged population. We were snowed in for Christmas Eve and could not attend our American Mass on the NATO base, so opted to walk to church at the the center of our village. There were maybe 40 people at the Mass in our local Parish, counting our family of five.
    Many of the schools are Catholic – in fact the “public” schools are Catholic and the private schools are not. Across the border in Germany, people pay a mandatory tax which funds religious classes within the school system. The children are divided between Protestant and Catholic and receive weekly religious education.
    In the middle of writing this comment, I had a Dutch repairman come to my door to repair my washing machine. His English was excellent and he was gracious enough to entertain my questions on this subject. His perception was that, as a child, churches were very full of families every Sunday. Since the scandals within the church, however, attendance has dropped off significantly. He and his wife are Catholic, both went to Catholic schools, and attend Mass only occasionally. His impression is that people are Catholic historic and culturally, but not practicing.
    A Dutch friend of mine goes Mass on a regular basis, but attends to a church in a larger town because it has a younger people in the pews and a better choir. She told me a story about her neighbors being puzzled by the fact that she took her daughters to Mass every week, even to the point of ridiculing her because she “believes in all that Christian nonsense.” My landlord is a very cosmopolitan, educated Dutch man, was raised Catholic and went to Catholic schools, yet doesn’t see the point of going to Mass. Like most Dutch men, he holds a “live and let live, tolerance is best” type of point of view (for everyone except Muslims and people who don’t keep their yards up, that is).
    Having said that, there is a small convent family of “The Work” in the town next door, and their interaction with their community is amazing. Every time I attend services there, the (very large) church is filled to the seams.
    A Jehovah ’s Witness came to my door a while ago and launched into their track by saying “isnt’ it a shame that so many young people are falling away from their faith?” I said in reply: “there’s a difference between falling away from your faith and never having been given it properly in the first place.”
    So, it’s a bit of a mixed bag here. Interesting subject. Faithful reader here…and love that others outside of the U.S. have found Conversion Diary as well!
    Cathleen recently posted..Overheard in the car

    • Jenny says:

      Cathleen,

      Have you heard of SQPN? There is a Dutch priest who does a lot of podcasting in English about all types of stuff. I really enjoy listening to him. http://sqpn.com/

    • Cléo says:

      Cathleen, your description of the(gorgeous) Catholic Church in Jabeek makes me want to go there and see for myself! I’ve got family living on the Flemish side in Limburg (Hamont-Achel). What a beautiful environment to live in (green, agricultural, great cycling paths) And how nice that the catholic legacy is still visible in the streets. A mixed bag is the right way to describe the religious climate in Belgium too. Lots of ‘culture catholics’, who have no idea what their faith is about, and who are losing interest in or teven urning hostile (because of the scandals) towards the Church. I love what you said to the Jehovawitness, it’s true. And oh yes, we were snowed in as well this Christmas Eve : ) (Our church – a chapel in a Benedict Abbey – is located on a very steep hill looking over Leuven. You couldn’t even get there by foot!)

      And Jennifer, I’ll make sure to check out SQPN too, thanks for the link.

      • Cathleen says:

        Cleo,

        You’re always welcome to come visit. We could have coffee and talk about how much we love Conversion Diary, and find other things in common as well! I’ve been to Leuven because our Parish Priest attends school there for his Doctorate. (He’s a lovely, lovely priest from India). Would love to explore it more fully!
        Cathleen
        Cathleen recently posted..Overheard in the car

        • Cléo says:

          Cathleen,

          This is what I start to love about the blogosphere too, you can connect to people (even in real life) you’d never connect with if it weren’t for being online in the same (interesting) place : )
          Visiting Jabeek. I might just do that when spring or summer gets here.
          I’d take the train (or my tiny little old car) and cross the border to pay you a visit. Me and my husband (we just got married last april) are new converts from protestantism (Flemish Evangelicals) and hardly know any practising catholics (yet), as this post showed, they’re pretty rare! The evangelicals are very closeknit in Belgium, so we’re leaving a comfortable and ‘safe’ social group of friends and acquaintances behind. (Most of them are very anti-catholic) It’s always nice and encouraging to talk to other people who know and love the Church (ànd Conversion Diary) And you already know Leuven too! I was born in Leuven and recently finished university there (history major) I’m sure we’d find lots to talk about. Hear hear for Jen and her conversion diary! Groetjes,
          Cléo

    • Hello Cathleen,
      I looked up Jabeek on Google Maps and noticed you live very close to Merkelbeek. Radio Maria often broadcasts from the “Geestelijke familie Het Werk” in Merkelbeek. They’re a new movement and I don’t know much about them, but maybe it’s interesting?
      Kind regards from Belgium,
      Ciska

      • Cathleen says:

        Hi Ciska,
        I know the sisters of Het Werk very well, in fact. We LOVE them! They’ve come to my children’s first communions and to various Parish events. This is such an interesting post to respond to, especially since it helps us find folks with mutual interests!
        Cathleen recently posted..Overheard in the car

  20. Sarah says:

    1. Where do you live?

    – Lancashire, England

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    – Our church (non-denominational) is considered large at 150 members. There are quite a few other churches in the area, but I don’t know what attendance is like.

    My mother in law’s church (pentecostal) in a nearby town is mostly attended by immigrants from Africa and not a huge amount of English born people. Our local town’s Catholic church usually looks busy.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    -It would seem very odd. I would make people uncomfortable. I do mention church and my beliefs, but very often people don’t really want to talk about it. I usually get comments like, “I hate church”, “Religion causes wars”, “Religious people are bigots”. My daughter was called ‘weird’ by the father of one of her friends when my daughter invited that friend to church.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    -God is never mentioned in campaigns in my area. Politicians like to say they are ‘multi-cultural’ or ‘tolerant to all belief systems’.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    We have a few families on our street who have 4 or more children. Round my way it is usually benefits claimants (who are unemployed) who have the most amount of children. It is not through religious conviction.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    -Apathy.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    – A lot less. I don’t know anyone outside my friends from my own church who go to church, except my husband’s parents and people from my husband’s work (a Christian charity).

  21. Alison T says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    – I live in Southwestern Ontario, Canada.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    – I’m not entirely sure about actual church attendance. There are quite a few churches. There are many Catholic churches here, but unfortunately a lot of them have been closed.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    – It would probably seem odd and a bit awkward, unless this was some kind of church gathering, or otherwise included a lot of people of faith. Most people here aren’t particularly vocal about religion.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    – I would guess that most of them would claim to be Catholic, with a fair few claiming to be Anglican, or some sort of protestant. I don’t think that many politicians here (at all) would openly state that they’re atheists; however, politicians here really do not talk about religion. It’s just not the issue it is in the States. The voters (and I’m speaking in general, of course) don’t really care, unless they’re given some pressing reason to care.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    – Actually a fair few. I think there are two reasons for this: first, there are a lot of Catholics in my area, and second, I regularly attend church, and I think even liberal protestants might be more likely to have more than one or two children than the general population. But don’t quote me on that! I also want to make clear that the majority of Catholics in my area are not the type to have large families. Still, if a family with four children moved into my area, I don’t think that their family size would be considered too usual. A family with six children would be considered rather large, and might garner some “are they Catholic” comments. ;)

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    – I’d wager a guess that most people in my area subscribe to at least a vaguely Christian belief system, whether they realize it or not. I think that most people do believe in God, but there definitely isn’t a large, vocal population of Christians like I’ve seen in the southern U.S.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    – Yes, I think the evangelical church is growing. People say this is at the expense of the Catholic and Anglican churches, but I’m not so sure about that. I’m a university student, and there seem to be a lot of young people involved in their religion. Also, I’m a convert to Christianity from agnosticism, and I know several other people my age (early 20s) like this.

    p.s. I’ve been reading your blog for a long time, but this is my first time commenting. I just want to thank you, because your blog played a big part in helping me on my journey to Christianity.

  22. Maria says:

    (Whoops, I accidentally posted this in the old thread! I hope you don’t mind me re-posting it here.)

    Hi Jennifer!

    I just want to say that I enjoy reading your blog very much and this is a such fascinating thread! Here’s my contribution:

    1. I live in Manila, Philippines. Historically, and up until today, we’re the most predominantly Catholic country in Asia. I’d say about 70-75% of the population is RC.

    2. Churches are virtually everywhere in my country, especially in the city. They’re always packed during Sundays and certain feast days. The best part is that the age-range of mass-goers is pretty broad. This is because it’s traditional for all members of the family to go to Mass together–from newborn infants to aging grandparents.

    3. It’s also perfectly normal to make statements like the ones you mentioned in social gatherings. Religious expression is not just tolerated here, it’s very much part of our cultural identity. You should see the way we celebrate our major feast days!

    4. Filipinos are generally polite, but we’re not as “neighborly” as Americans. Nonetheless, Christians will have no problem moving in to a new neighborhood. People usually pay no mind to a family’s religious affiliation, probably because it’s always assumed that they’re Christian just like everyone else.

    5. I think the better question to ask is, “How many families do you know have LESS than two children?” Because believe it or not, there’s not a lot of those at all. I’d say the average number of children per Filipino family is 3-4. Two generations ago, it was probably twice that. I guess you could call us blessed, and I would agree! But recently, the government’s been weary of these numbers, calling it “overpopulation”. The hot issue now is a new House Bill that they’re trying to pass called the “Reproductive Health Bill”. The CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) has been staunchly opposing it because this “RH Bill” requires the government to subsidize contraceptives and make them readily available in poor communities.

    6. Almost all the people I know are Catholic, but though there are genuinely devout members among them, most are only “Cultural Catholics”. I think this is pretty representative of the Philippine population in general. It’s a blessing and a curse, I suppose.

    7. While I’m proud of my country’s Catholic heritage, I’m less so of its social structure. There is, unfortunately, a pretty significant gap between the well-to-do and the poor. The upper middle class is composed of highly-educated people who are very much influenced by Western culture and thought. Unsurprisingly, Atheism and Agnosticism is fast become fashionable among them. The “RH Bill” issue that I mentioned earlier has become their rallying point. They fully support the subsidization of contraceptives, convinced that the cause of our country’s poverty is overpopulation. Because the CBCP has been the bill’s most vocal opponent, it has somehow become acceptable for these upper-middle class crowds to be aggressively Anti-Catholic (the abuse scandals haven’t been much help, either). I wish I could talk more about how truly horrible this growing Anti-Catholicism is, but I don’t want to stray too far from the topic. Just to give you an idea of what it’s been like: A couple of months ago, an activist named Carlos Celdran interrupted a religious service inside the Manila Cathedral to protest against our Bishops. To this day, many RH Bill supporters consider him a hero.

    Aside from Atheism, Agnosticism, and even Anti-Catholicism, another trend I’ve noticed is Catholics defecting to Protestant and Evangelical denominations. This trend is especially popular among the lower classes who can’t afford to send their children to Catholic schools. Public schools offer zero religious instruction, while local parishes lack the resources to provide catechism classes. As a result, more and more people are easily lured from the Church by zealous Christians.

    So this is basically where the Philippines is at, in terms of its religious climate. It’s an incomplete picture, to be sure. There’s still the matter of Muslims in the Southern part of the country, but that warrants a separate discussion–one which, given my cultural background and general lack of knowledge, I am not qualified to elaborate on. I also tried to make my description of the Catholic/Christian situation in my country as concise as possible based on your questions. But you should know, especially given the rich history of the Philippines, that the situation is more nuanced than it appears.

    I hope this helped :D

    God Bless!

  23. Hi, JEN!
    A Big HELLO from………. BRASIL!!

    1 – I am from a city called BELO HORIZONTE which is in a state called MINAS GERAIS, here in BRASIL (with “S”, instead of “Z”).

    2 – As you certainly heard about, I live in the biggest Catholic Country in the world. So the religiousness is strong, is in the blood of the brazilians. We pray a lot and we go to the church a lot. Each neighborhood here has a church and people attend.

    3 – Unfortunately, we are catholic almost all the time in our bedrooms and inside the church. When we are out of these places, we do not seem “catholics”, cause so many times we do not act or talk like a christian should do. Our conversations are full of nothing and many of us appreciate a lot saying bad things about each other. And it is hard to maintain or even start a conversation about religiousness, cause people will think you are “crazy”. (But I am always trying!)

    4 – Once again: unfortunately, Jen, many brazilian politicians act JUST LIKE over there, in Texas. We brazilian people, with a christian faith, are trying SO HARD to avoid the abortion’s law (there is a threat that the abortion can be legal over here.) The politicians call themselves a truly believers in God, but like former Presidente Lula, who gave condoms (!!) to people during carnaval some years ago, they are catholic just to say it and some of them only to get some votes in the next elections.

    5 – It is rare a family with most than two children. The new families who have most of two, usually is a poorest one, who live in the borderline of the society. Families are going to be smallest over here. The thought is: “If I have only one child, I will be able to give him or her My Best: I will be able to pay a good school, I will be able to send my child to the United States, to see Disneyland, etc.”). Unfortunately…

    6 – As I said, almost everybody here in BRASIL have a religion and believe in God, Christ and Saints. We have faith in our blood. The atheism is rare or it is too hiden. (Thanks, God!)

    7 – Once again: we are religious? The answer: Yes. We act as if we were? The answer: More or less. We go to the church, etc., BUT if you observe the way we talk, dress, think or act, you can not say that many of us are a truly believer in God.

    By the other hand: many catholic truly believe that they really act as catholic, cause they read the Bible, go to the church, participate in the activities of their parish, choose clothes with modesty and even maintain a catholic Blog…
    … BUT, they have a heart of stone, incapable to love, to understand and to feel compassion for the other: they tell words or write Posts to attack homosexuals and other people who think different of themselves. It is sad.

    Then… I hope what I just have wrote may help you, JEN!
    And remember: I am NOT talking as a representative of the brazilian people: what I told you is the way I, ~Ana Paula~A Católica, see the whole situation over here.

    Stay in the Peace of God!!
    You, Your Family and All your Readers!!

    Visit: http://www.acatolica.com
    (You can use Google translate to read my Posts in the Blog A CATÓLICA! Feel Very Welcome!!)

    ~~~
    ~Ana Paula~A Católica recently posted..Você tem medo de ser diferente

  24. Amy says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    New Brunswick, Canada

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    I live in a very small town at least an hour from the nearest city and in our immediate area there are, I believe, 20-something churches. For the most point I think these churches are attended fairly well, although I know some are multi-point parishes that have small memberships.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    Within most circles it probably wouldn’t be seen as terribly odd, simply because so many people have some affiliation with a church. No one will shun you or anything, but you may get the occasional odd look, depending on what you say. For example mentioning prayer is fine, but if I were to say something about the Holy Spirit, that might be confusing.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    I would say that most of them are Christian. I know for a fact that our mayor is Catholic and helps at church functions, and many of the bigger names in town attend church.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    I would say that the average around here is probably three or four. It’s higher because there are several large churches that are large-family friendly. I know of a local doctor with 7, and there are several families in my circle with four.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Oh, Christian for sure.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Probably less because the teens tend towards secularism.
    Amy recently posted..Cultivating a servants heart

  25. Tammy says:

    1) I live in St. Louis, MO

    2) Church attendance here is very vibrant. My parish is the second largest here and we have 1 mass Saturday eve, 5 on Sunday morning and 1 more Sunday eve. All usually full.

    3) My experience is that there are really two different groups of catholics here, practicing and catholics in name only. At a social event with my closest friends having a conversation about something spiritual or offering to pray about something is quite the norm. With most of my acqaintances/friends from my daughters parish school that would never happen. I know I am the odd man out because I do things (faith-wise) than the parents of my children.

    4)Most politicians here have some faith they practice. Like Texas, it would be political suicide to be an atheist.

    5) I know an equal amount of families with both large and small families. Again, the larger families are practicing their faith to the best of their abilities and the smaller ones show up on Sunday’s when their children are altar serving, Christmas or Easter. Very sad but also true.

    6) St.Louis is predominately catholic.

    7) I have not seen a trend, but I would like to believe that there are many conversions taking place.

    • Beth Bullock says:

      The comment regarding small families showing up when their children are altar servers is incredibly ignorant. Do you personally know the reason for the number of children in each family? There are families who are quite faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church who do not have a large number of children. I certainly hope you have not expressed that judgemental and false impression out loud.

      • Tammy says:

        You are right, I do not know every single family and it was wrong to lump everyone together that way. I did not mean for it to come out as it did.

  26. ~ Nona says:

    Oh! How I loved seeing the photo of Florence, Italy’s Duomo. It broght back memories: I once lived down the street from the Duomo for nearly a year.

  27. Allie says:

    1- I live in Manitoba, Canada

    2- Church attendance seems to be pretty good. In our area there is a church every few blocks, although we attend a church that’s about a 15-minute drive from our house. Some of the older churches have faltering membership, but there are also new churches that are blossoming, as well as several house churches that I know of that have outgrown the houses.

    3- While that sort of thing wouldn’t be entirely unusual to come up among my Christian friends, it would be very unusual to say something like that if you weren’t sure of the beliefs of all the people in the group.

    4- In the recent election I didn’t hear anything about religious beliefs at all, but I wasn’t very in tune with the political platforms either.

    5- Most families I know have 2-3 children. Four children would not be unusual, but six would raise some eyebrows.

    6- We have various brands of Christianity, mostly Mennonite, Anglican, and Catholic. I’m very involved in the Mennonite Church, so it’s my perception that a good portion of the area is Mennonite, but that could be false. There are also growing Islamic and Hindu communities, as well as a large and very vocal atheist/universalist group.

    7- Many churches seem to have higher numbers of members in the over-50 age category, but there are also churches, like ours, which have high numbers of ‘young people’ (under 30) attending and taking strong leadership roles. While I see many people actively opposing religion of all kinds, or trying to mash them all together, which seems to amount to the same thing, I also see many people growing stronger in their faith.

  28. berenike says:

    I live in Poland, and while it might be normal to say “I was reading the Bible the other day” to say “I was praying about that” would be a bit weird and ostentatiously pious, unless you were having a seriousish conversation with a friend you knew to be Earnestly Pious too. It’s a cultural thing, not a religious one!

    (it would be weird in Britain too – people might look at you oddly if you say you were reading the Bible, but that’s cos not many folk do, not because it’s a weird thing to mention per se. Unlike saying “I was praying about that the other day”.)

  29. Maiki says:

    I’m Peruvian but currently living in the US. Will answer questions as best I can.

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    I’m from Peru. I don’t live there anymore, but visit often.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    Yes, there are many churches in Lima — probably not as many as there should be for the population, but I don’t know. Most church buildings are significantly larger than churches in the US, I think, except for Cathedral buildings in the US — those seem similar in size. They seem very active (churches are quite full, all the time — forget about it on major holidays), but considering that 80-90% of the population claims to be Catholic, I don’t think it is all that true — in a city with millions of people. At the same time, I might not be calculating this correctly based on # of services/parish size.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    I don’t think it is all that odd to mention something from the bible or mention prayer — it is pretty common. Being someone with many regular devotions can be a bit odd, or if you mention it all the time. At the same time, if you never mention these things, it wouldn’t be odd, either.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Most politicians are Catholic or lapsed/non-practicing Catholic. Occasional Evangelicals and Jews also run, I think there is the odd Muslim, too. An atheist candidate would be weird, but not unheard of. I think there are a couple. Religious items are used in swearing in ceremonies (as appropriate), and candidates sometimes attend religious services on important state occasion days. I don’t think being an atheist is political suicide, unless your proposed measures were largely contrary to Catholic values.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    I would say 2-4 is common. More than 4 would be quite large and unusual (unless an older generation, 5-10 was more common then), but a family of 4 would not be seen as weird at all. A family of six would be seen as very odd. OTOH, I think people intending childlessness or having single children is uncommon, except for late-in-life marriages or infertility.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Catholicism by in large. Evangelicalism is becoming more common among upper-class people, but for a long time it was seen as a populist phenomenon. Jews are also sort of common. Non-practicing Catholics are also very common.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    There seems to be more religious pluralism (as opposed to being Catholic or Jewish, or “not-practicing”). I think there is a rise in Catholics that are not practicing admitting they are atheist/agnostic, when before I think that was unheard of. Also a rise in Evangelicalism and Mormonism. I think as a result, those who *are* Catholic are becoming more informed and solidified in their faith — there seems to be more theological discussion in Church.

  30. 1. Where do you live?

    I am another Canadian living in Ottawa, the Nation’s Capital. I live on the Eastern side of the city, which is historically more francophone, so I have an interesting view of both Anglophone and Francophone Catholics. I should also note that Ottawa is in Ontario, but on the border with our predominantly francophone province, Quebec. Quebec is historically Catholic but the church attendance in that province greatly resembles that in many parts of traditionally Christian Europe – only the elderly.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    Three are quite a number of parishes in our diocese. Our parish is thriving with a great number of young families and retirees as that’s the demographic of our neighbourhood. Many of the other suburban parishes, both English and French are similar (interestingly, Francophone Ontarians haven’t abandoned their faith in as large numbers as their Quebecois contemporaries). That said – church attendance is FAR lower than it must have been in the early part of the 20th century. There have been a few decommissioned churches in the downtown core (where there were churches every few blocks) and church attendance in Quebec – as previously mentioned – is low. As for other Christian denominations, it varies. Some of the mainline Protestant Churches (Anglican, etc.) are struggling.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?

    It would be unusual for someone to say “I was praying about that the other day” in a broad social setting. Admitting that you’re a practicing Christian is generally fine, but most people I know would only talk about prayer, etc. after feeling out the group first.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice?

    We’ve had a number of Catholic prime ministers over the years. Our current PM is an evangelical Christian (not sure if he’s practicing) but 5 of our previous PMs were Catholic. They may or may not have been practicing; this doesn’t get discussed much during elections. Our current premier (Ontario’s gubernatorial equivalent) is a Catholic, coming from a large Catholic family.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Many families in this area, even those who are non-believers, have more than 2 children. More than 4 is rare. I have two friends who have 7 children each and they certainly do get comments about the unusual size of their family, but families with up to 4 children are generally accepted without comment.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    I’d say agnostic, or culturally Christian. Secularism is all over the place.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Less and less religious, unfortunately. I see so many people searching for “authenticity” or “striving to be one with nature”, or SOMETHING to find meaning. It makes me so sad for them, as they have such a God-shaped hole in their lives.

    Thanks, Jen, for allowing us to post!

  31. berenike says:

    Blair waited because he didn’t think it would help his political ambitions. Not that he’s shown many signs of conversion before or since being received, which is a continuing source of scandal – I find this even in conversations with people with little or no interest in religion.

    I wrote a post about Warsaw, Poland, but it seems to have disappeared into the depths of the interweb :(
    berenike recently posted..Priorities- rank hypocrisy and self-knowledge

  32. Kmo says:

    1. Western Norway (not anymore, but lived there for a time).

    2. Not very good. There were many very old, small Lutheran churches, but no Norwegians I knew attended church. The only people I knew who attended church were foreigners, as there was an English-speaking Catholic church in town. Granted, these were all people in their 20’s. There are also Islamic mosques, as Norway has a large Muslim immigrant population. I have no idea about the attendance at those mosques.

    3. It would be considered very inappropriate to talk about religion from such a personal level. I think that many church-related functions were considered more traditional/cultural than religious.

    4. The official state religion is the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway. It is administered by the government, so the head of the church is King Harald V. He even appoints the bishops. Thus, the Norwegian Royal Family is required by law to be Lutheran, but there is general freedom of religion otherwise. I don’t know enough about Norwegian politics to know what most politicians claim for religion, although I expect most would say they are Lutheran. An interesting sidenote – the next head of the church (Prince Haakon) married a single mother (who had the child out of wedlock), and they moved in together before becoming engaged. Many people were upset – but it had more to do with her ability to lead rather than religious concerns.

    5. Not many large families. Norway is an extremely expensive place to live, although many social services are provided by the government. However, most women work, in my experience. Norway has a very strong history of gender equality in the workforce.

    6 & 7. I’m not sure, but I think many people consider themselves Agnostic or Humanist. Norway is a very secular country, despite there being a state-run religion of which most are officially members. Wikipedia describes a poll that found that only 20% of Norwegians considered religion important to their lives and only 5% attended church on a weekly basis. That sounds about right based on my experience. Among teens and young adults, there is also a percentage that consider themselves Pagans or Satanists, which is closely tied to a particular musical scene (black metal). The black metal scene was linked to a number of church burnings in Norway in the 90’s, mostly of very old wooden churches that were historical landmarks (so sad!).

  33. Calah says:

    Hey Jennifer! I wrote about my (brief) experience living in Rome with my daughter. It may not be a fair portrayal of the whole of Italian culture or even the whole of Roman culture, but it’s what I saw when I was there.

    Great idea for a post! The replies are very interesting.
    Calah recently posted..By the Banks of the Tiber

  34. Barbara says:

    Since no west-coast Canadians answered, here´s the view from out here.

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Currently in Victoria British Columbia Canada, also have lived in or commuted to Vancouver which is five times as big and in Lillooet BC which is 10x as small.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    My parish in Victoria is quite large with a varied membership, because its a tourist town many people are out-of-towners, international students, weekenders, immigrants and then the rest of us locals. Lots of people at Sunday mass, all ages. In Vancouver the parish I attended was in a predominantly Filipino neighbourhood with five masses each sunday, all stuffed to the gills. The church in Lillooet had a much smaller parish of dedicated regulars, mostly elderly or middle aged, many first nations people.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    In Lillooet the majority of people attended one Christian church or another, there are five in a town of 2,000 people so it would seem quite normal. In Vancouver where I am studying at UBC its looked upon with a certain suspicion. Any sign of dreaded conservatism of thought usually leads one to lose friends quick. In Victoria, most people don´t care one way or the other. If it´s mentioned it´s just another one of those relativist “cultural quirks” that we as a “tolerant society” must not say anything for or against.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    The more a politician discusses his religious affiliations in public the more suspect he is. He may be considered too “American” (Stockwell Day comes to mind) Catholic politicians –there have been many– are criticized for listening to the pope at all(Chretien for example) and must keep their religion to themselves. It´s fine to have a burial mass in Notre Dame Cathedral, but don´t question the sacredness of abortion, gay marriage or contraception.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    In spite of CBC trying to promote Childfreeness as the new black, having lots of kids doesn´t usually get much negative attention. I grew up in what might be considered a large family by today´s standards and never heard a peep about it. Mind you, Canadians hold politeness as such a value that most would refrain from commenting, even if they had something to comment on. This of course excludes Quebec. Quebeckers went from having 10 kid families to having no kids at all, now the government in that province is trying to pay women to have them, while the quebecoise feminists are freaking out at the merest suggestion that women have babies.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    West Coasters are still all about the new-age. Even Christian churches are infusing their messages and practices with “new earth consciousness” hippie BS that dilutes faith to nothing except you can pray, do yoga and have all the sex you want. however this is seen more in Vancouver and in some ways Victoria.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Actually its moving in both directions at once. Orthodoxy is finding new blood out here, the Catholic community in Vancouver is vibrant and active, the Evangelical community as well. Both denominations seem to have quite a lot of young members. The Anglican church is graying at an alarming rate, but secularism and new-atheism is also building among 20 and 30 somethings. It´s going to be an interesting country in a decade or so.
    Barbara recently posted..Cowardice and Courage

  35. Emily says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    East London, England (right near where they’re building the Olympics. Oh, and I’m totally up for a London Jen’s readers hook up!

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    There are plenty of churches in our area, but they tend to be of the Pentecostal, Evangelical, one-off variety. There are also a couple of mosques and a Sikh temple.

    My family (me, husband and toddler) go to the local Catholic church around the corner. Most Masses are probably a third full, unless there are confirmations in the offing, in which case it is standing room only. I would say about 150 on a good day. That said, I am a convert from the Church of England, and we would have been amazed to get that many people in the one service we had on a Sunday, let alone for four Masses.

    The other churches seem to be very popular and the local Muslim charitable trust is very prominent in the area, fundraising and campaigning.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    Unlike Lizzie, I would find it quite awkward to bring up prayer or the Bible in social conversations. Even with friends, although they know we are Catholic, and ask us about it, my husband and I rarely talk about our faith in any detail. Many people have had negative experiences of the faith (including members of our family) and it just isn’t worth getting into the fights that ensue. We’ve had arguments based on something as innocent as our decision to abstain from meat on Fridays.

    We do tell people that we are praying for them, regardless of their faith, if they are suffering a family illness, for example. This does tend to go down well, although it is often met with bemused silence.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Provided they don’t come across as too keen, politicians here seem to get away with claiming a loose faith. I think Tony Blair was an exception in ‘coming out’ about his conversion. Generally people who have any strong faith are regarded as a bit wierd. Respect for religion is seen as very important, but personal belief is regarded as a private matter. Unless you are standing for a local government position in an area with a particular faith identity. Lots of our local councillors are practicing Muslims.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    In our generation (coming up to 30) we are unusual in that we have one child and one on the way. The other families I know with children our son’s age have only two. My husband is one of four children (a Catholic family) and they were considered large! A family at my in-laws’ church have five children and are always commented on. Larger families in white middle-class areas tend to be the result of second marriages. My mother remarried, and created a family of 5 kids.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Muslim. Although that may well be because their practice is more noticable as many women wear hijab or burkas. There are lots of Eastern European immigrants in this area, but I have seen little evidence of them in our church. As for the ‘indiginous’ population, I would say agnostic. Most British people that I know would call themselves Church of England in the same way that I tick the ‘white-British’ box on forms.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    There seem to be more openly religious people and some churches, for example Holy Trinity Brompton, which appeals to young, wealthy London professionals, are very popular. However, British society as a whole moves more and more towards secularism. A lot of comedians and media commentators are strongly atheist and this is seen as an intellectual achievement. It also seems to be fine to mock Christianity whereas other religions are considered to be off-limits.

    • Lizzie says:

      I think I’m quite unusual in that my place of work for the last 11 years has always been within the Catholic community with the opportunity to speak boldly with friends outside the Church knowing that it’s ‘within my job description’ so to speak. People who know and meet me can see, by default, that my faith is central to my life and so it’s natural for me to talk about it – I realise this isn’t the case for all Catholics in the UK and that maybe I can be a bit naive about people’s openness to matters of faith!

  36. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Vancouver, BC, Canada

    What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships

    Many churches, very active, lots of young families. Archdiocese is building secondary schools, rebuilding old ones. Decades of immigration mean we have a very multicultural church here. People say if it was just the previous white Anglo-Saxon population, we’d be dying, but fortunately for those who are devout, that is not the case. I volunteer in RCIA and most of our recent inquirers have been Chinese.

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    In circles I frequent, ordinary.

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Barbara above has covered this quite well.

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Because of immigration, large families are frequently seen, especially Filipino or South Asian.
    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Generally, aggressively secular.

    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    I see a split–people 30ish and younger seem more religious, middle-agers less so (and among Catholics, I think this group suffered from very poor Catholic teaching in youth; this group badly needs evangelizing.) Oldsters are hanging in there.
    Judy @ Learning To Let Go recently posted..Challenge To Service – Week 4

  37. C says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Southern Ontario; I’ve spent most of my time in the GTA and KW

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    Both the parish I attend in the GTA and the parish I attend in KW are usually full to standing room only; in general, however, I’d say that the minority of people are *regular* attendees at church/other religious services (lots of Christmas-and-Easter or High-Holidays-only types, though)

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    The statement about prayer would be odd, that about the Bible wouldn’t be (I run in circles that tend to consider being well-read a virtue). In general, religion is considered a rather private matter to be discussed with your close friends, not people you’ve just met.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    They don’t. I mean, yes, one can usually figure out their personal beliefs, but they don’t go around trumpeting them. To do so would be both weird and vulgar.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Hardly anyone has two children (in fact, I can think of only three families I know of that have two children, and in one case the parents married very late in life and were lucky to have more than one). You either don’t have children, or you have three (occasionally four). Six would be considered large, but not shockingly so. Definitely most families I know have three.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    In both cases, my immediate neighbourhood was predominantly Catholic. Otherwise, a fair number of Anglicans, United Church of Canada (a combination of Presbyterian & Methodist),plus lots of people who are Jewish, and more recently, a lot who are Muslim. I know a few people who are Orthodox of one variety or another, mostly Greek or Coptic. I know only one person who would self-identify as “Evangelical Protestant”. Also, there are lots and lots and lots of agnostics, and a few actual atheists. I think agnostics are the largest single group outside of Catholics.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Among those I know, definitely more religious (most of my friends are between 20 and 30, if that means anything)

  38. karyn says:

    Jen, I’ve been really enjoying reading these comments. But I’m so sad – I thought America was “home of secularism”. This has been quite a sobering discussion.

  39. deltaflute says:

    I love this post. I think there should be some about religion in individual states. Would it be rude to post something along side? I noticed a post about St. Louis.

  40. Theresa in Alberta says:

    Alberta Canada eh! God is treated like a “four letter word”. Donot even SAY you are a christian, let alone a Catholic. Religion is for crazy old people (yup, that is me) The Catholic schools/hospitals are Catholic in name only (IMO)
    I went into a “Christian” (non Catholic) bookstore 2 weeks ago. LOTs of books with stories about the Rapture, and so called christian romance books. ZERO books written by good christian authors. When I enquired about them, all I received was a blank stare, and the clerk said “who”. It is political suicide to ADMIT you are a christian. lots of supersized protestant church’s preaching about the gospel of properity.

  41. Theresa in Alberta says:

    p.s. if a family has more than 1.2 children, they are moslem

  42. Emily says:

    Also living in Alberta, Canada!

    It really depends where you live in the city.

    I live in what one person I know calls a ‘transitional neighbourhood’ (translation- lots of immigrants) so my multi-cultural Catholic parish tends to be fairly full on Sundays with lots of young families (currently around 40% of immigrants to Canada are Catholic, the next largest group are non-religious). The Mormons and JWs bordering my neighbourhood also seem to be doing quite well.

    Overtly religious comments in public are considered odd. Even the JWs going door to door haven’t done much more then issue an invite and hand over a magazine. It can be very different in private depending on company.

    I agree with the other Canadian commentators that religious affiliation doesn’t matter that much in Canadian politics but religious fervor is a disadvantage. My Member of Parliament happens to be Hindu. [He’s also an immigrant which is very appropriate to our riding.]

    I know of lots of families in our parish with four or five children, six is less likely. HOWEVER we may be the only young family with more then three children who are of European ancestry (we have five children).

    As my husband found out at work, recent immigrants (particularly from Africa) are much more likely to see a large family as a positive good (a wealth of children). He says that it’s not that those born and bred in Canada have made negative comments but rather that they tend to be completely bewildered at the very idea wanting a large family.

    Dominant belief system? As I stated earlier we live in a rapidly changing area of our city, a city which is one of the country’s destination points for immigration. 40% of these immigrants declare themselves Catholic, 20% non-believers and the other 40% are spread among everything else. There is no strongly dominant belief system.

    People becoming more or less religious? I don’t know. Statistics suggest that children of immigrants are likely to be less religious then their parents, but our parish R.C.I.A. and R.C.I.C. programs tend to be fairly busy.

  43. Cheryl says:

    1. Where do you live?
    Waldersbach, France (the western part of Alsace, Vosges Mountains)
    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
    Every village has its church. Some villages are catholic traditionally, so the local church is catholic, and some are protestant (around here that means Lutheran). My husband is a Lutheran pastor.
    I don’t think either of those traditional churches would have what we as Americans consider “active memberships.” Some practice (mostly women). Many more do not, but have been baptized, confirmed, married in the church. My husband typically leads two services on Sunday morning for a total of maybe 30 people (two different villages/church locations). Sometimes there’s only 3 or 4 people present.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?
    Here in France that would seem very odd. Just read about a new survey that’s been published : only 1 in 3 French people believes in God.
    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice?
    I think in France, to talk publicly about your faith is political suicide, whether you are a Christian, a muslim or an atheist. For the French, religion and matters of faith are part of one’s private life. Even within the church, it often takes a long time to become intimate enough to pray with each other, for example. And you can know someone for a long time without knowing anything about their faith, unless you ask directly. So in politics, it is considered that someone’s personal faith doesn’t have a direct bearing on what kind of politician they will be. Faith must be kept out of the public square. They call this “laïcité”.
    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    I know perhaps 3 or 4 families around here with 3 or more kids. It’s not incredibly unusual here to find large families. But it’s certainly not the norm.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Christianity as a tradition. Sort of a fading, historic protestant faith.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    We notice a trend toward less religion in general. People definitely practice their religion less. My husband met a man the other day who said, “I’m not religious, but I believe in God.” When he asked him what he meant, he defined God as the source of everything, an impersonal God. This is a common conversation. However, we are encouraged by the significan number of baptisms each year in our area. The survey results I referred to above also show the slow progression of atheism in France in general. In 4 years it has progressed from 34 to 36%. (Here’s the link–in French : http://blogdesebastienfath.hautetfort.com/archive/2011/02/06/36-des-sondes-declarent-croire-en-dieu-france-2011-sondage-h.html

  44. berenike says:

    Allora, Warsaw again:

    At least 4 Catholic parish churches within 20 mins walk of my house. Dominicantes in this diocese – 31% of those bound to attend (not counting children below 7 or the old and sick). 80% of Poles countrywide confess at least once a year, 50% at least a few times a year (this diocese is towards the lower end of religious observance – one diocese has 70& Mass attendance).

    Most parishes will have assorted prayer groups, mine is more happening than most, I think – Caritas, neons, as well as the usual prayer groups, breafeeding mothers group, … Only a tiny proportion attend things like the young adults group: perhaps 20, in a parish of several thousand. But the Sunday evening Mass, de facto (though never referred to as such) the young adults Mass, is hoaching.

    Four children – depends where and what social class you are talking about, which I think is something to bear in mind when reading these replies – most blog readers are middle class and move in middle-class circles.

    Declarations of religiosity – depends on politician’s party: post-communist left won’t mention it, or only to assure everyone it’s a private opinion, others use it in different ways as a campaigning point, depending on the image the party cultivates. Almost all give up religious allegiance when it comes to issues they think may damage their image with voters (amendment to constitution to add “from conception” to the protection of life paragraph, bill to outlaw IVF). But oddly, Epiphany has just been declared a statutory holiday.
    berenike recently posted..Priorities- rank hypocrisy and self-knowledge

  45. Elizabeth says:

    Hi, I’m Elizabeth. I am originally from California, and currently live in St Albans (near London) but as so many people have talked about London, I will talk about Scotland, where I went to university.

    1. St Andrews, Scotland (near Edinburgh).

    2. There were at least 10-12 churches in a town of 18,000 (which shrinks to 11,000 when the students are away). However, attendance at most (based on friends attending and my experience as an Anglican before I converted) was not good at all – even on a Sunday, the huge Church of Scotland and Church of England parishes were never more than 1/3 full. The only time a non-Catholic church filled up was the carol service for the students (to which at least a few turned up drunk). The Catholic church was standing room only for every weekend mass, and had a very well attended (85-90 percent full in the smaller chapel) Wednesday night mass.

    3.Outside of the Catholic Society or Christian Union, it would have been beyond bizarre to mention praying or any indicator of personal belief. As someone else said, mentioning the Bible would be less of an issue as it would be chalked up as being well read. I took a class on Religion and Politics, and was the only person who was a member of any religion at all, although there were a couple of people who vaguely believed in some sort of God. My friends were very accepting of my religion-talk, and over time I think some of their perceptions may have changed, as most of them had never heard someone explain the Church’s teachings or why they believed.

    4. Politicians in Scotland are often affiliated with either the Church of Scotland or Catholic Church, but that has a lot to do with sectarianism and not with strong faith. The Church of Scotland doesn’t seem to have much consensus on moral issues (my mother-in-law-to-be told me they are about to have a council to vote on whether gay people can be ministers/married in the next few years) so there is a huge amount of diversity in the opinions and votes of Church of Scotland politicians. Generally, I would expect that local counsellors in the north and on the islands would be more likely to be practicing Christians as both the Protestant and Catholic communities there are very strong and traditional.

    Nationally, politicians aside from Blair or Brown might claim to believe in God (like Cameron) but aren’t regular attendees. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, and Ed Milliband, leader of the opposition, are both openly Atheists, which caused a polite stir. Milliband also has got quite a lot of bad press for not signing his first son’s birth certificate and not being married to the mother of his 2 children, but this has more to do with propriety and not wanting senior politicians to behave like chavs (a derogatory term used to describe the ‘underclass’ who tend not to work and live on benefits, and who frequently do not marry and have children by multiple partners – the class system here is alive and well), rather than religion.

    5. It seems like most families have 2-4. I haven’t seen any with 5, but there are lots of young families at church so who knows. I think there is a strong perception among people I know that if you had more than 2 or maybe 3 you would not be able to provide for them well; it seems less like people being selfish and more like they genuinely feel that having 4 would mean your children would starve.

    6.I would say the dominant religion in terms of numbers is the Church of Scotland, in that most people claim it as their religion, but in fact it would be a combination of cultural Christianity, apathy and agnosticism, with a dash of alcoholism. The largest faith in terms of people actually practicing is definitely Catholic.

    7.Generally, religious apathy is on the rise. The Catholic Church is definitely growing well – St Andrews typically provides something like 1/4 of Scotlands priestly vocations (3 boys I knew were seriously considering seminary, and one has now gone). This is is a bit specific to Scotland, but I think there is a bit more integration and less sectarianism between Catholics and Protestants, at least where I was. When I first met my boyfriend’s family, they had never met a Catholic before, and they still ask me loads of questions (including, courtesy of his younger brother, what would happen if the Pope got nuclear weapons?) but they are very welcoming, and I think his mum is so pleased he is dating a Christian that it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

  46. Catherine says:

    1. I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada (and have been living here for ten years), but I grew up in Manila, Philippines and spent most of my childhood there. (I can write about Manila another time…there, it’s pretty normal to hear the Angelus blasted through a shopping mall’s speakers at noon…)

    2. In Vancouver, our parishes are typically full on Sundays, and each parish has several ministries going on. Mine has the standard ones: Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women’s League, Legion of Mary, a Parish Religious Education Program for Grades 1-7 (kind of like CCD), Liturgy of the Word for children (for Sundays), a Youth Faith Formation Program, Young Adult ministries, a family-centered Prayer Group, etc. There are also groups for people who speak other languages, like Chinese.

    There are also other active ministries across the Archdiocese that work with particular age groups but outside parishes. For instance, Catholic Christian Outreach (http://www.cco.ca) works really well with university students; there are also Catholic community groups like Couples for Christ, Agape Street Ministries, and others.

    3.It would not be appropriate at all. While it’s okay for me to do that with family, close friends and in church circles, I would not be comfortable speaking about my faith at work, even to my co-workers (and I work at a Catholic hospital). It was the same at the University, although there were definitely a lot of non-Catholic Christians wearing their faith on their sleeves, so to speak.

    I do happen to be friends with many non-Catholic Christians, atheists, and non-practicing Catholics. We do occasionally have respectful conversations that have “religious” topics, but a lot of deeper things are taboo. Everyone I know (even those who don’t “talk religion”) do generally know that I am a practicing Catholic and am very active in the Church (and in fact help teach the faith in my own little ministries)… a few have asked me more about it deeper out of curiosity (and I’ve had really good conversations with them), but I do not bring it up much except when it comes naturally to me. (By that, I mean that I don’t drop lines like the ones you wrote, but I wouldn’t restrain myself from saying something like “Oh, I won’t be able to make it to lunch on __ as I’ll be having Mass with my family / I have to prepare my lesson plan for my PREP class / I want to attend a Bible study. Maybe dinner?”

    4. Not at all. In fact, my general impression is that the average Vancouverite is apathetic to politics, and that politicians are apathetic to what most people think as long as they’ve got the few interested stakeholders who DO vote looking their way. Having said that, now and then a petition may come up regarding laws that are contrary to the faith…but Catholics and Christians are clearly outnumbered: abortion and same-sex marriages are legal in Vancouver.

    5. I know a lot of families with more than two children (and many above five), and all of these are Catholic families. Beyond that, family sizes are considerably smaller: maybe two or three kids. Four is considered plenty, but I think that’s average (I come from a family of four)! People would raise their eyebrows at families larger than that. One awesome parish I know, however, seems to have very devout families with AT LEAST four children…It’s a very traditional, orthodox parish, too. I think it is attractive to faithful (and fruitful!) Catholics because it’s a breath of fresh air from the general liberal-but-really-lukewarm or apathetic environment in this city. :)

    6. Atheism. And Vancouverites are known to be very cynical in general, so it doesn’t help…

    7. Definitely less religious. Obviously I am speaking from my own experience, but I am very disappointed that I do know many Catholics who become indifferent to the faith, or who have started seeking their faith in Protestant churches without trying to relearn the truth of our faith first. I do know parishes where there is strong and visible pastoral leadership, and that seem to be thriving though…and I find it encouraging that every parish (even the quieter ones) seems to have a core group of dedicated people that do keep parish life vibrant and relevant to daily life. But, in general, I still think evangelism and adult faith formation is lacking (at least in marketing, if anything).

    I’m a little pessimistic about the formation of children in lukewarm Catholic households. It is a sad reality that children after Grade 7 PREP (and, ironically, after Confirmation), many youths do not seem get involved in any other church activity. Often, their parents do not know much about the Catholic faith, either, even if they might do some pious practices out of habit. (There ARE many youths who do, mind you, and they are amazing, but it’s because their parents do encourage them. The majority still don’t.)

    There are glimmers of hope – our Archbishop recently started initiatives like Jeff Cavins’ Great Adventure Bible Study, and that has had a great response in all the parishes that have implemented it. Lifeteen is also another popular program. I am sure there are also several other good adult programs and RCIA programs across the Archdiocese–and that these are growing–but I do fear the general apathetic environment in the city still does not make them attractive to most people, and many people perceive them to be inaccessible or intimidating, even when they are neither. (I had a hard time finding a group I could grow with at first, too…but I think that what I really needed was someone to “pastor” me back into the faith, which, thankfully, did happen. We need more individuals who are good at that!)

    But…yeah. I think it’s been generally hard to keep Catholics in the Church, especially with many other non-Catholic groups pulling lukewarm ones away, and with the rest of the world painting a bleak and unattractive picture of Catholicism for those who are already away. :( Pray for us!

    • Marl says:

      Glad you mentioned the Angelus being blasted over speakers at malls in the Philippines! I think it’s an awesome and still a great tradition, although seemingly a dying one. I remember I took my American friends on one of my trips back home and it totally freaked them out (they weren’t Catholic) that the entire mall would go quiet and stop to pray for a few minutes. It also amazed them that even people in the middle of their transactions would pause and say the prayers. The following day they got used to it and even knew the sound of the call to worship bells that precede the Angelus. Then the following year I took a couple of friends who were Catholic who had heard about this practice and they were anxious to experience it and sure enough they weren’t dissapointed!

      I don’t remember them doing it at noon tho, just 6PM every night during my visits and also when I was a kid. I wonder if they still do it 2x a day.

  47. Catherine says:

    Whoops, I meant to write “Catholics and other Christians” up there instead of “Catholics and Christians” – I usually try to use the right term but I missed it there! I think you all know what I mean.

  48. Renee says:

    1. Lowell Massachusetts

    2. Low. Parish closings in the area and consolidation. A few older parish members protest, even holding vigil 24/7 to prevent closings. They get a lot of media attention and people then complain ‘The Church’ didn’t do enough to change.

    3. To say you’re Catholic is OK, but as long as you’re spiritual not religious. Most people say ‘My grandparents are Catholic, but I’m spiritual.’

    4. Politicians? Only on Saint Patrick’s Day and funerals. Even that is purely cultural.

    5. Few. None in my immediate area (on my street), quite numerous in the parish school though.

    6. Secular Democrat, with Catholic ancestry.

    7. Fewer kids, even in the public schools. Public schools are even closing. Religious buildings, Catholic or not, are being rehabbed for tourists. Most recently an older congregational church will be turned into a cultural music hall, that celebrates Jack Kerouac.

  49. Towanda says:

    Where do you live?

    East Spain

    What is church attendance like in your area?

    I believe it’s pretty low

    Are there many churches?

    Yes, beautiful (old) churches almost 100% Roman Catholic

    Do they seem to have active memberships?

    No, except for some parishes that are run by enthusiastic (and generally young) priests in which you can see more people. Generally most of the attendants would be people of 60+

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    Very odd. You’d see either like a lunatic or probably a potential member of a so-called “ultraconservative” catholic group. You may make such a comment in family or very close friends though and they’d still think you’re OK :)

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    No reference to any belief or practice at all. Politicians avoid to be identified with any religious belief. No approaches to pro-life movements or similar either unless you want to ruin your political career (or you’ve already ruined)

    How many families do you know who have more than two children?

    Some, but it’s rare

    If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual?

    Quite unusual. Spain has the lowest birth rate in the world or we’re almost there.

    What about a family with six children?

    Eyebrowns, funny comments on its birth-control methods, though at the same time I tend to think there is certain envy as these families look very happy after all. Have some friends visiting us in summer they have 5 beautiful girls and a boy and you should see the faces of the people when we got in to the beach or restaurant…it’s like you see someone from Mars -though a lot of smiles too.

    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    No belief or vague catholicism. Religious marriages, Baptisms and firs communions are still celebrated but most of all for the social event or tradition.

    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Less religious except for small groups of committed catholics (the salt of the earth?)

    Many thanks for your blog. It’s wonderful. I love it

  50. Christine says:

    I was born in Montreal & lived there until 1998 until I moved to the US. All I knew about religions was that there were Catholics & Protestants. I had never heard of a denomination of any other name.

    Catholicism is definitely the predominating religion – Quebec was founded by the Catholic Church – sadly few Quebecers know this fact.

    I come from a very large family – my mom had 8 brothers & sisters & all were raised Catholics. All but 2 of my 20 cousins (besides my sister & I) we also raised Catholic. To this day, only one of my aunts (70 years old), goes to Mass a few times a year.

    We didn’t go to church but we were Protestant & we spoke English. If you were French speaking, obviously you were Catholic. Schools were divided in Protestant & Catholic – only the Catholic schools taught religious education. I was never taught anything at school that was even remotely religious.

    My family still resides there. My daughter lives in Ottawa, Ont. & she and her husband are practicing Catholics. They are seeing a rise in attendance in young people with families. YAY!

    My sister & the man that has shared her bed for 20 years (never married), think I’m a Jesus freak & would NEVER been seen anywhere near a Church! They respect my choice but never miss an opportunity to let me know that religion, especially Catholicism is a crazy thing that old, hopeless people cling to.

    Most everyone I know there is a baptized Catholic – they’ve also been confirmed & have fond memories of the making their First Communion (party & gifts!). I doubt anyone attends Church.

    Quebec has hundreds of beautiful, century old Churches that are unused or sold to be remodeled into restaurants or high end condos. Attendance is extremely low – we’ve been to several Christmas Masses where less than 100 people attended in churches that were built to accommodate 5 to 8 hundred.

    My husband & I always pray before eating – even in restaurants. This makes my Quebec family very uncomfortable! Chat about religion? Never! To openly say to someone, “I’ll pray for you” would certainly raise eyebrows!

    Here’s something that I never knew until I became Catholic about 10 years ago. All the cuss words in French are church related. Tabernacle, Eucharist, chalice, Christ, host… all these words are used in French Quebec conversation constantly but in a very negative way. I think most Quebecers have no idea what “the word” actually means!

    Another interesting tidbit.. almost everyone I know (or knew), knew of someone that had been molested or inappropriately touched by a priest. I have uncles (that are in their late 60’s today), that would tell their stories in anger & disdain about the touching that went on in the sacristy. It seemed to be an accepted fact of the time.

    Also most Quebecers see the Catholic Church as a “pay & pray” institution. In rural areas Priests still visit parishioners & encourage them to tithe to keep the Church going. Sadly, few people actually let them in!

    We have tried to encourage our 21 year old nephew to attend church. Sadly he gets no support from his parents & he admitted that he couldn’t deal with being ridiculed by his friends & family. So sad.

    Let me conclude that our experience from the many visits we make to the area, it appears that people are very curious about our Catholic faith & devotion to Jesus & Mary but feel ashamed or embarrassed to participate.

    It is a sad comment but I do believe that practicing Catholics are a dying race in most areas of Quebec.

    PS. Jennifer, you rock & I love reading your posts!
    Christine recently posted..Moving on…

  51. Catrin says:

    What is the religious climate in your country?
    Responding to JENNIFER FULWILER at.

    http://www.conversiondiary.com/

    Where do you live? South Wales,UK.

    What is church attendance like in your area? Not bad. Several Christian Churches in my town, One Catholic, one Mormon, Methodist,Baptist, Evangelical, High Anglican, Welsh language chapel, non-denominational chapels,Pentecostal. We do get together for many events. Churches together started a homeless shelter, which was later taken over by the council. Fair trade events. Lenten lunches and our town’s Good Friday walk of witness, where we many of the denominations meet for prayers, and the procession through our town centre, carrying a cross.

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? Not that uncommon.

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? They don’t usually claim to practice any belief.

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? Many, But I move in homeschooling/Catholic circles. Most people seem to have two, but 3 or 4 is not uncommon. Larger families of 5 or 6 are usually “blended” families.
    If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children? Four would not be too odd. Six would be more unusual.

    6.What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area? Secularism mixed with general Christian secularism.Living in the Welsh Valleys people are more traditionally Christian than in other areas of the UK

    7.Do you notice any trends? People seem very accepting of popular culture and it seems to inform their thoughts. IVF and contraception are seen as good things, and a perfectly normal choice for Christians.

  52. B. says:

    Where do you live?
    Southwestern Germany.

    What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
    There is both a protestant and a catholic Church in every village or suburb. Church attendance is almost nonexistant in both. Only people over 80 years of age attend church. If I go to my local parish, there is not one single person of my age (~30) attending. Demographics are a bit better at the FSSP church I normally attend.

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?
    It would be considered odd. People who are a bit more knowledgeable would possibly consider the person to be an american-style evangelical.

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice?
    Most politicians claim to be Christians. It is normally used as an argument on why they can define what Christianity is. E.g. a few days ago the gay mayor of Berlin said “I’m a Catholic and as such I will tell the pope that the Church has to accept gay marriage when he visits Berlin.”

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    I know several families with four or more children, most from the FSSP church, though. It is considered strange, and also the non-religious had to deal with commentary like “don’t you have a TV”.

    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Agnosticism for people of christian origin, Islam for the rest.

    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    Compared to twenty years ago, I can make two observations:
    The people who go to Church are still the same. Twenty years ago, only people over 60 went to Church, today, it’s only people over 80.
    The muslims are becoming more religious. When I was in school, only old muslim women wore veils. Today, it is common for muslim women of all age to veil.

  53. Maria says:

    I live in Bristol in England. Home of John Cabot, Cary Grant and MTV’s Skins is filmed there.

    I read on a website that the regular churchgoers make up about 6% of the population. I would say that that was accurate.

    It would be serious social suicide to mention religion at a social event. Religion and politics are seen as something one should never discuss in that context. Private beliefs only.

    Don’t know much about local politicians but two of the three main political party leaders are atheist. Religious beliefs are looked upon with much suspicion!!

    1-3 kids are the norm. Don’t know any families with more – but I do read about people with large families in the newspapers.

    Although I do know a couple of evangelical Christians, most of the people I know (twentysomethings) are atheists. Apparently (according to a website I saw), 60% of the population are Christians, but I have never really heard anyone admit it. Religious beliefs are very much something people keep to themselves.

  54. Sue from Buffalo says:

    This is fascinating although quite sad. I am shocked that so many of the world outside of the United States are hurting so bad. By that, I mean that they are hurting for the truth. It makes more sense to me now when I read something that Pope Benedict has said or I hear about messages from visionaries.

  55. Shannon says:

    Jen, this was fascinating. I need two hours to read through it all!
    Shannon recently posted..Cold- Cold- Cold

  56. Eunice says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Singapore! A little red dot in Asia, near Malaysia, Indonesia.

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    Church attendance is actually high in all churches here in Singapore. My parish is always full on Sundays, and this is more or less the same for the other 30 parishes in Singapore. There are also a few dominant megachurches (charismatic protestant churches) which attract a lot of the young people, accounting close to 100000 church attendees each Sunday. Singapore is a multicultural and multireligious country so we also have buddhists and taoist and muslims and hindus. Buddhists/Taoists form the greater percentage in Singapore, followed by the Christians then the Muslims and the Hindus.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    I think it is quite ok because Singapore is a multireligious country, with tolerance and understanding among religious greatly encouraged by the government. But those comments would probably come up among protestants more than Catholics who are all very shy people. But generally, it won’t be very weird.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Singapore was separated from Malaysia on racial and religious grounds where the Malaysian government wanted special privileges and benefits for the Muslim-Malay population. History also saw clashes among religious groups, and hence the government (we are a 1-party dominant state) doesn’t subscribe to any religious views. There are Christian, Catholic politicians but they are not exactly allowed to show it, and they also do not practice anything “religious”. More Confucian and Asian in general rather than religious.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    I come from a family of two. My aunts and uncles all have 3 or more. Many of my friends have at least one other sibling so basically there are quite a number of families with more than two children. A family of 4 won’t be too unusual and would be very welcomed by the government as we’re facing an ageing population also. There are now more families with more than 6 children and they’re usually Catholic so while it may get some stares, many would actually applaud their effort and respect these parents!

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Dominant belief would probably be Buddhism/Taoism. But people are definitely seem to become more religious as I see in my friends especially.

    • Anthony says:

      Hi Eunice,
      Would like to respond to a few points:

      re: Megachurches attract 100,000 each weekend
      Did a quick search. City Harvest and New Creation would get about 50,000 on the weekend. Who else are you including in your estimate?

      re: Religious demographics of Singapore
      Based on the latest census (2010), after Christians, the next group is “no religion”.

      re: Question 3
      Maybe you move in different circles, Eunice. In my workplace, in my neighbourhood, when I report for military service etc. etc., people don’t talk about religion! In my opinion, the unspoken rule in Singapore is: keep religion private.

      re: Question 4
      I should add that there have been incidents through the years which reinforce the secular character of public life in Singapore, e.g. the so-called “Marxist conspiracy” of 1987, the Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act of 1991, the couple which got jailed for spreading anti-Muslim tracts in 2009, the AWARE saga etc.

      re: Question 5
      I have to disagree here, Eunice! Singapore has one of the lowest birth rates in the world, and Catholics as a whole aren’t doing much to help, from what I can see. It’s the Malays, who are Muslims, who have more children. Them, and fervent Christians (including Catholics). But how many % of Christians are fervent?

      re: Question 6
      Sorry, but again, I have to disagree. From my perspective, I don’t see any particular religion being dominant, although, statistically, the Buddhist-Taoist group is still the largest group. My view, backed up with some statistics, is that Singapore is on the whole becoming less religious.

    • Anthony says:

      I think I need to add to my own comments. As many have observed, the decline of religion is accompanied simultaneously with the rise of consumerism. This is certainly true in Singapore. It’s true to the point of being the source of jokes e.g. Singaporeans are Money-theists.

  57. Carolyn says:

    1. Where do you live?

    – Graz, Austria. Very Catholic country (traditionally) compared to others in Europe with so many beautiful churches. (My mom had lunch with you (Legatus Houston) a couple of weeks ago!)

    2. What is church attendance like in your area?

    – Fair. There are so many churches and it’s such a small town, it’s hard to compare numbers of people at the churches. But, it does seem to be more elderly people that attend Mass.

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    -People would find this very odd and possibly label you ‘a bit crazy’. I am not really with Austrians too much, but even with our friends from Sweden…we’ve discussed how they find this ‘weird’.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    -Again, since I’m not completely fluent in German yet and don’t watch or read enough Austrian news, I’m not 100% sure, but I think it’s just not mentioned or considered appropriate to talk about. Most probably aren’t religious.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    – None. Yes, 4 or 6 would be highly unusual. I will say that I do see lots of parents walking babies in strollers and out with kids a lot, so it doesn’t quite seem there’s a shortage of children, but part of it is just that people are outside walking more and not in cars. They also do have a 2 – 4 year maternity leave policy in Austria (most of that time is full pay) and the husband can even stay home for part of that. You also get a stipend per child for up to four years. I do think the American maternity leave of 4-6 weeks is pitiful. People here are amazed at that.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    – None.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    – Less. Young people move in together surprisingly soon and that is the norm. Marriage to most is ‘just a piece of paper’. I had a girl on the train say to me once, “Americans are obsessed with marriage”. I think she meant more the wedding craziness too (which I agree with her), but also that we still believe in marriage as a whole.
    Carolyn recently posted..Two Years

  58. John says:

    1. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
    2. Pretty poor attendance. I know very few other people who attend church regularly.
    3. I would say it would seem odd, and likely to either cause embarrassed glances around or to provoke a discussion about religion, with someone blaming religion as the cause for division and war in the world, etc etc.
    4. No politicians actively publicise their religion, though sometimes you do read in the paper “Joe Bloggs, a practising/devout Catholic” disagreed with the Cardinal’s statement on embryos…”
    5. I actually know quite a few families with at least two children, and a couple with three or four. Whenever I mention I am one of six children people always go “Wow! Big family”
    6. They don’t seem to care.
    7. I see fewer people sitting on the fence, and among young people they either are firmly atheist or firmly whatever religion they adhere to. Fewer people nowadays seem “unsure” or “undecided” than what I remember previously.

    A really interesting discussion. Thanks for asking this!

  59. Paula H. says:

    1.Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    British Columbia, Canada- a coastal area about 1.5 hours north of Vancouver

    2.What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    I have heard that of 30,000 people living in this area there are about 3000 people who attend church. We have 20 churches, 3 Catholic ones and one ‘satellite’ Catholic Mass in a more remote area. My Catholic church is pretty full every week- it is a new bigger church. The other main Catholic church is full as well and they are planning for a new building.

    3.At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!! Ooooooh, that’s funny. Okay, I have to stop laughing now. Holy mackeral, we live in a new age paradise and people DO NOT like Jesus very much at all. However, I have a big mouth (and so do some of my friends) and I feel that we HAVE to let people know that we are practising Catholics/Christians and that we are not the demons they think we are.

    4.What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Only our Conservative Member of Parliament mentions God once in a while. As for the rest of them, not much at all. It would be considered offensive.

    5.How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    Bcause I’m Catholic I probably know more larger families than most people. I know about 8 families with more than 2 children. Most have 3. Only 3 families have more than 3. Two of the families seem to be happy about going for large families. A four child family would be considered unusual and a 6 family family would probably be derided. My husband is a landscaper and was working with a wealthy liberal client this week. They were talking about a terrible accident where a family with 4 kids lost their dad. The client said “You lose my sympathy after 2. I don’t know why in the world anyone needs more than 2 kids.” Nice guy eh? But I’d say that’s the prevailing attitude.

    6.What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Nothingism. With a little bit of new age and a lot of pot smoking thrown in. Oh, and lots of little Buddha statues in people’s gardens.

    7.Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    Hard to say. Our church is slowly but surely growing. We have a solid priest who is loyal to Rome and informed so we are lucky. He is also the parish priest to both major churches so he is seriously overworked.

  60. Christian H says:

    1. I live in Vancouver, BC, Canada. (I have lived in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and in a few small towns and cities in Ontario.)

    2. There are lots of churches with low attendence. (Though Vancouver also has mega-churches, I suppose. I just avoid them.) I would say that less than half of the population wherever I live attends church, but I can’t be sure of that. It might be more in some places. Since I associate primarily with students, my perspective on this will be skewed.

    3. It depends. If it’s people I’m familiar with, it wouldn’t be too awkward. If it’s a larger or less familiar social event that is somehow attached to the university or is populated by young people, it would be odd to mention that you a religious practitioner.
    That being said, in workplace events in Fort McMurray, it would have been fairly normal to mention that you are Christian or went to church. It’s still not normal to talk about your religous life, though. That is, “I went to church” or “After Bible study I did this other thing,” would not be weird, but to say, “I was reading the Bible” or “I have been praying for you” would be.
    I should also say that it would not be odd for a Christian to not mention their religion or anything to do with it to a friend or coworker for months.

    4. Politicians, to my knowledge, are pretty much always Christian, except when they are Muslim, Sikh, etc., and that’s more likely in local government than in provincial or federal. Certainly there are no open atheists.

    5. Family size is usually two, but three or four wouldn’t be seen as abnormal. Any more than that would be.

    6. Predominantly Christian, I think (mainly Protestant, certainly some Catholic), but I don’t know whether Vancouver might be more non-Christian than Christian (that is, taking together all secularists, atheists, Muslims, Unitarian Universalists, Scientologists, Buddhists, etc.). I think I read stats somewhere saying that Canada was still 80% Christian. That seems unlikely to me, but it can be very hard to tell when people don’t discuss their religion. Among my peers in the graduate department, the majority is atheist by a landslide.

    7. Increasingly secular and increasingly anti-religious (these are different things). Again, caveats for my academic context.
    Christian H recently posted..Link to an Open Letter to the Westboro Baptist Church

  61. Bears2Cross says:

    Hi Jen, I’ve been a faithful reader of your blog for the last couple years although I rarely comment. Sorry to post this so late. I really enjoyed reading the other comments—so interesting! Keep up the good work!
    Where do you live?
    We recently moved back to the U.S. after nine years in Beer Sheva, Israel.
    What is church attendance like in your area?
    Ours is the only Catholic church in a city of ~200,000. Attendance on a typical Sunday might be 30-40 people. Besides our congregation, there were several different Messianic Jewish groups. Total membership in all churches is much less than 1,ooo people. It’s a different story in different parts of the country; Jerusalem and the Galilee are full of churches with a good attendance of Christian Arabs.
    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian?
    That would be pretty unheard of. We were tolerated because we were foreigners, but people made no bones about how weird they thought we were.
    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice?
    Faith and politics definitely overlap in Israel; most of the political parties are sort of defined by where the members fall on the religious spectrum, from atheist, to ultra-Orthodox Jewish, to Christian Arab, to Muslim.
    How many families do you know who have more than two children?
    Four children wouldn’t be unheard of; with six, it would be assumed that you were an Orthodox Jew (or a Bedouin!). To me it seems that people like big families, but it’s normal for people to wait until after two years of army and four or more years of University to even think of getting married and starting a family, so infertility is a big problem. My husband’s colleagues in his Ph.D. program were always shocked to learn that he’d already been married for over a decade and had three kids at age 34! Ethnicity also plays a big role in what number of children is “normal” for a family.
    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Most are Jewish in the cultural sense. They believe in God in pretty vague terms, but don’t do much to practice their faith. Sadly, they are also open to any kind of “spirituality” and don’t see any conflict between Judaism and the New Age. Interest in Eastern religions is rampant among the younger people especially.
    Do you notice any trends?
    Definitely towards less religious. From the Jewish perspective, in our nine years one very noticeable change was in how much traffic there was on the Sabbath. Our Christian friends from the North would tell us about how much more religious their villages had been in the past as well. Their churches are still well-attended, but the cultural observance of many Christian traditions has gone by the wayside.

  62. Lesley says:

    1. London, UK
    2. Lots of Churches around, at least 5 Catholic churches within a 5/10 min drive, 4 Anglican churches within walking distance, and various other Christian Churches, also a very large Mosque. Attendance at the Catholic Churches is extremely good, the Anglicans not so good and I don’t know about the others. Mosque attendance is large.
    3. Not unusual in my circle of friends,quite usual to ask someone to pray for you or to offer to pray for them. Not unusual for someone to mention at work that they went to Church at the weekend. I work quite closely with people who are Muslim, Buddist, Sikh and we have had discussions about the differences/similarities in our faith.
    4. As others have said, Politicians are not likely to be very open about their faith.
    5. I quite often get comments about the size of my family (I have four children) from people when I first meet them, but I know at least four other families with four children, one with five and one with six girls!
    6. Predominantly Christian with a large Muslim population, lots of people “don’t bother” with Church” but are not hostile. Our Parish is very ethnically diverse, I would say around 90% of the congregation are of African descent, with a good smattering from around the world, we have Parishoners from every continent, even our priests are African.
    7. we are seeing more and more converts,

    • Lizzie says:

      Where are you based Lesley? I’m glad I’m not the only one with this more optimistic perspective of being Catholic in the UK. I’m in N10. God bless x

  63. Lesley says:

    Hi Lizzie, I am SE25

    God Bless you too

  64. Lauren says:

    1.Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Manchester, England

    2.What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    I would say maybe 2% most of the time. Very very few people. Sundays here are for shopping, not for church. Our 2 Catholic churches are 60% full most of the time, although that’s mainly because 2 other local parishes have closed. Prior to this it was more like 30% at one / 50% at the other.

    3.At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    It would be very, very odd and the majority of people would either move away from you very quickly or respond agressively – when casually mentioning that my weekend plans include Mass, I have been told I am ‘disgusting’ for ‘opposing womens rights and gay rights’, and told that ‘they thought I was more intelligent than that, obviously not!’. Some people in my family have asked me not to mention my faith and have been annoyed when I’ve said something as innocuous as ‘I’ll keep you in my prayers’ to an ill relative. I am very wary of mentioning my faith at all in front of certain people or in certain locations (including work) as I WILL get an unpleasant response.

    4.What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    None at all. It would not be responded to positively. The handful who claim to be Christian seem to present it as a religion of ‘fair trade and liberallism’. Many vote anti-life and are v

    5.How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    6.What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    7.Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

  65. Lauren says:

    1.Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Manchester, England

    2.What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    I would say maybe 2% most of the time. Very very few people. Sundays here are for shopping, not for church. Our 2 Catholic churches are 60% full most of the time, although that’s mainly because 2 other local parishes have closed. Prior to this it was more like 30% at one / 50% at the other.

    3.At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    It would be very, very odd and the majority of people would either move away from you very quickly or respond agressively – when casually mentioning that my weekend plans include Mass, I have been told I am ‘disgusting’ for ‘opposing womens rights and gay rights’, and told that ‘they thought I was more intelligent than that, obviously not!’. Some people in my family have asked me not to mention my faith and have been annoyed when I’ve said something as innocuous as ‘I’ll keep you in my prayers’ to an ill relative. I am very wary of mentioning my faith at all in front of certain people or in certain locations (including work) as I WILL get an unpleasant response.

    4.What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    None at all. It would not be responded to positively. The handful who claim to be Christian seem to present it as a religion of ‘fair trade and liberallism’. Many vote anti-life and are v

    5.How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    6.What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    7.Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

    • Lauren says:

      oops – submitted too early!

      4.What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

      None at all. It would not be responded to positively. The handful who claim to be Christian seem to present it as a religion of ‘fair trade and liberallism’. Many vote anti-life and are very pro-homosexuality/pro-choice.

      5.How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

      Very few – most people have 1-3, even in our Catholic church. Many ‘Catholic’ women are open about their use of contraception and when I have talked positively about being open to life/using NFP, I have had Catholic women respond negatively or tell me that ‘you’re not in the real world’. I have also had a priest tell a close relative who was considering a vasectomy that ‘it doesn’t matter what the church says about it, you have to do what’s best for your family’. I truly think that there is no culture of life in the Catholic churches here at all – I feel very alone.

      6.What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

      Shopping. For devout people, Muslim, smattering of Catholics/Jehovah’s witnesses/independant Evangelicals.

      7.Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

      In my lifetime (almost 30), I have never known more than a handful of people be religious. I’d say the trend is now of growing active agression against the few Christians left.

      • Tinajo says:

        Hey – I left my own comments below, but I’d like to say that this reflects my experience of growing up in the north-west. I am well aware that I’m very lucky that where I live now has some really committed Catholics going to church (as well as others) and I do feel supported in using NFP etc. However, I also know that in most other areas of the country that would not be the case. I feel for you!

  66. Marl says:

    Hi Jennifer. I’m a long time reader but first time posting something. These questions are interesting so I figured what a great time to leave my first “comment”. Here are my answers.

    Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)
    I was born in the Philippines and moved to Chicago when I was 12 (I’m in my 30’s now) and have made several trips back. I feel that I am familiar with both Filipino and American culture. I’ll be talking about Filipino culture.

    What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
    Without looking at the stats, the Philippines is one of the most Catholic countries in the world and definitely in Asia. Something like 80% plus are Catholic with a good portion of them very actively practicing. There are churches everywhere and Masses are held pretty close to every hour. The church down the street from our house had mass every 1.5 hours from 8AM to 6PM. Sunday mass is usually packed with people cramming the parking lot (there are speakers out there) and sometimes the street. Membership is very active with entire families usually going. There are certainly no shortages of choir members, eucharistic ministers, etc. for every mass.

    The above is the case for large cities and small to medium-sized towns. For the very rural areas in the Philippines (I’m talking very rural) the local townspeople usually build their own churches on the spot every Sunday made of bamboo sticks, leaves, and whatever else would protect the people from the sun. A priest usually comes from several towns over to say mass and then leaves and goes up the dirt road to say mass for the next town. Then the “church” is taken down and then rebuilt the following week and the same thing happens again on a weekly basis. Talk about the church being the people and not the physical structure (which is what church is all about)! For the faithful in these parts of the country, mass is their way of getting to know Jesus, this is their catechism. Most are poor and are illiterate so they can’t afford Bibles which is fine because the Bible is read to them every Sunday anyway during the readings and the Gospel. Imagine that, learning about Jesus and what He did through the Gospel every Sunday.

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?
    This is very common. Discussing problems amongst friends or family or even acquaintances may end with some reference to prayer (e.g. “Let’s continue to pray about it.”) or God’s power and God’s will and it’s not awkward to talk about that at all.

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?
    I’ve never heard of a Filipino politician who has openly said that he or she didn’t believe in God. It is assumed they are Catholic and come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a non-Catholic-yet-Christian politician for that matter. Their actions however may be contradictory to their beliefs as there is a lot of corruption in the political realm.

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    Children are considered blessings in the Philippines so the more the merrier! It is very common to have large families. Another reason this is so is because we have house maids (called “yayas”) so couples don’t think twice about having children or keeping count of them. Most middle class families have hired house help to assist in raising the kids while the parents work (or usually the mom stays home with the yaya). You see the yayas at mass too as part of the family (they are usually the ones carrying the baby bag and holding the kids’ hands and running around chasing the kids during the service).

    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Catholicism is the primary belief system but there is also a lot of mysticism and also a bit of animism. Filipinos have Catholic traditions that are uniquely Filipino. One example is the Black Nazarene http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nzEqpP2ngs. Another one is our worship of Sto Nino, the Holy Infant Jesus of Prague. Most Catholics worship Jesus as an adult, Filipinos also worship Jesus as a child and they pray to Sto Nino the infant Jesus with child-like confidence. Filipinos are also big on devotions where once they are devoted to something it’s usually life-long (e.g. usually to Mama Mary, famous saint, Sto Nino, or the Blessed Sacrament). We also like to touch our statues when we pray (admittedly I recognize this as borderline idolatry but a lot do it). These are just some of the varied beliefs from a culture that has been rooted in the Catholic faith for a long time. There are many more.

    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    Certainly there are those who don’t go to church or go infrequently but most people I know go to church on a regular basis. They may not pay attention all the time or only end up going at the urging of friends but they are usually at Mass on Sundays. The trend that I do notice is that when Filipinos come to the States they tend to be less religious and Mass is all of a sudden boring, probably because it doesn’t have the same hoopla that it does back home where mass is truly a celebration. Unless a friend’s baby is getting baptized, church is an option. Another trend I notice is that Protestantism has been making an active push to convert Catholics and have been very aggressive in their preaching. Many have been vocal enough to say that they are anti-Catholic as opposed to just pro-Protestantism. Atheism and Agnosticsm has been creeping up as well mostly because of lack of education or just poor or lack of Cathechism.

  67. Tinajo says:

    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active

    memberships?
    There are a fair number of churches in my city and as far as I’m aware they all have active memberships,

    although you don’t always see it. There are also a good number of people going to mass every Sunday, from

    the statistics that get mentioned every now and then. There’s a strong Evangelical presence as we’re a

    university city with a strong Christian Union. (I remember being surprised when I first arrived that the

    statement of belief didn’t allow a Catholic to sign – I naively thought that a Christian Union would be open

    to all denominations.)

    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in

    casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a

    passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”,

    would that seem normal or odd?
    That would simply not happen. Obviously, it’d be different at a church event, but at work or in other social

    groups? Doesn’t happen. I don’t hide my faith – I’ll often mention going to mass on Sunday, and the day I

    turned up to work with ashes on my forehead I had some interesting conversations with co-workers who were

    genuinely interested – but I would never mention praying/reading the Bible in an average social context

    because it would be weird.

    I do sometimes wonder whether I should make more of an effort to make it clear that faith is reasonable (I

    work in a scientific environment) and I do speak up when ridiculous statements are made about

    Christianity/Catholicism, but it’s really hard.

    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost

    all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in

    private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this

    the case in your area?
    British politicians don’t tend to talk about their faith much – all arguments are expected to be secular, so

    they just wouldn’t mention it, in general.

    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to

    your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    Well, my husband and I both come from families with four or more children, so it doesn’t seem weird to me!

    However, outside Catholic friends, it’s rare to have more than two children – you hear ‘it’s nice to be

    done’ comments quite often, and several of my non-religious friends have expressed surprise that anyone

    would consider having more. I think a family with 2 or 3 children would be fairly normal but four or more

    would seem unusual. That said, I don’t think anyone would really comment on it or make nasty comments to

    them – they’re more likely to just be rather surprised, actually.

    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Most people are either very devoutly religious or don’t really think about spiritual things. I guess,

    broadly speaking, you’re either Christian or agnostic/atheist/humanist. There are Muslims, Hindus, Jews etc.

    but not very many where I am.

    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    The default position of most people seems to be atheism – Dawkins, evolution etc. People really need convincing to believe in God, and more importantly they seem to expect fundamentalists, even though Anglicanism and Catholicism are both relatively well known in the UK, so I find it difficult to explain sometimes that I don’t believe something they think is daft!

  68. Pat says:

    A few years ago, I studied graduate theology in Rome. The culture in the big city is generally horrible, while outlying areas are more religiously accommidating. I lived as a lay person, so I wasn’t insulated by the wonderful walls of the North American College. :)

    Many churches is an understatement. There were 10 churches within a 10 minute walk from my apartment, including St. Mary Major. The priests there are definitely liturgically-focused: every priest did his two daily masses. The parish closest to my house (about a block away), St. Eusebius, had 4 daily masses with its two priests. 7, 8, and 9 AM, and 5:30 PM. The church held probably about 100 people, and I never saw more than 3 or 4 at any one of the daily masses. The Gesu (main church run by the Jesuits) had mass ever 30 minuntes from 6:30 AM until noon. (Mass would take about 27 or 28 minutes. The priest would procss in carrying his cruets with wine and water and a paten with his host to consecrate, say mass and them take them out. A couple minutes after mass finished, another priest would process in and begin anew.) At the same time, speed won over prayerfulness or piety. There was a priest who would finish his daily mass in about 12 minutes. He would read everything himself from the altar as quickly as possible. He’d be in his next line while you were fitting in your response.

    Churches were full on Sundays, but I don’t remember seeing many school-aged children. Perhaps they lived in the suburbs more.

    It would be very odd to discuss religion in Rome, outside of the obvious Catholic sub-culture. The summer I arrived saw the fashion trend of women simply wearing bras for tops. I suppose in typical Italian fare, it’s a very sensual place.

    That being said, there are plenty of engligh-speaking Catholics that live in Rome because of its Catholicism. You could find community easy enough, but you’d be counter-cultural.

    All the politicians are Catholic, but it doesn’t seem to influence their decisions. cf. Berlusconi

    Babies in general were rare in Rome. Near my apartment was a baby supply store, and I never once saw anyone in it. It would be amazing to see a family of 4 or 6 walk down the street.

    The dominant belief system in Rome is “tourist”. Walk into St. Peter’s, and you find people arguing with the Swiss guard that shorts *should* be allowed in because they’re simply looking at the artwork. There’s a dull roar inside, even when during the middle of mass on a side altar. Papal masses are miserable, because people carry on conversations with fellow pilgrims in the chairs next to them during the mass. I ended up finding a small Church that had a wonderfully devoted priest with a virtually empty vigil mass that I would frequent for Sunday.

    As time goes on, it seems the religiousness is becoming more and more ancient history!

  69. T says:

    Opps, accidentally put a link here…delete that…
    T recently posted..Quick Takes Friday 8

  70. Melissa says:

    Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)

    Melbourne, Australia

    What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?

    There are a lot of churches. Some churches have an active membership, others would be primarily the elderly.

    At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?

    That would be odd.

    What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?

    Our prime minister is currently an atheist, the opposition leader is Catholic. A strong christian faith may be considered a point not to vote for someone for most of the population.

    How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?

    It’s probably not the norm but I know quite families that have four, five and six children that are not christian.

    What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?

    Most would maybe believe in some sort of higher power or spirituality in a general sense. Church attenders onyl make up about 14% of the population
    Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?

  71. Felix the Cassowary says:

    I tried to leave a post but it wouldn’t let me. So I’ve put one up on my blog, which I have otherwise abandoned. It’s about Australia and Germany, and in both countries religious is generally taboo. It’s also kinda long.

  72. Tertium Quid says:

    Speaking of living faith, George Weigel has an article this week about dynamic Catholicism at… Texas A & M University. I’ve linked to it on my blog. Go Aggies!
    Tertium Quid recently posted..Business plans and jobs obsolete

  73. Chantal says:

    Hi Jen and others,

    I presently live,(and grew up near) in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I have lived in France (1 year, 13 years ago) and Spain(2 years).

    There are many churches of many different religions in Edmonton. The Catholic churches I go too on Sunday are generally quite full with a wide variety of people and families. (Depending on how my Sunday goes I tend to go to the Spanish Mass, an inner city Mass (at 7:00pm) or the Basilica (they have a 15 minutes Children adoration after Mass on the 1st Sunday.) I was surprised last year when I went to a monthly bishop talk at the Basilica to see the Basilica completely full and someone telling me it is always like this.

    France. When I went to France, I went to go to a Bible school run by a contemplative priest named Daniel-Ange. It was a wonderful and amazing experience but it is certainly not secular experience. France has Catholic Churches all over the the country but mostly seen as art and as most Europeans countries, with very few youth. France does have many new Catholic Christian Communities where families and consecrated can live together and practice the Faith such as the Community of the Beatitudes. Many of these communities are seen or portrayed as cults.

    Spain. I tend to say that there are 2 Spains, the religious Spain and the secular Spain. AS someone mentioned, the church is highly scorned because because of its role with the Franco dictatorship. People are generally Catholic, baptized, have first communion (a great celebration ) ect. Church attendance tends to be mostly older people but I found them still very full on Sundays with a variety of ages. They most certainly DON´T accept most of the Catholic teachings.

    3. SOCIAL EVENTS. I think in Alberta in my circles, Faith is not something someone would talk about even if the event is mostly populated by Christians. It is often a normal accepted thing to say, “I can´t go because I need to go to Church at that time”. This may lead to questions about faith.
    France – I was in a very unique circle where discussing about Faith would be accepted.
    Spain- No it would not be accepted and it would be seen as odd.

    4. POLITICIANS
    Alberta Faith is not promoted or downplayed. There are Muslim politicians, Christians, atheist ect. People tend to be conservative here and many of the issues on the federal level are resisted here. However, Christian values seems more and more attacked.

    France- I don´t know but it seems to be very secular. Religion cannot be part of politics.

    Spain The government is anti’Catholic but puts on a Catholic face.

    CHILDREN
    Alberta – 1,2,3 is normal and acceptable.
    – 4 is not odd (wow you are busy!)
    – more than 4 is a large family (My neighbor has 8 children (4 from each marriage)
    France – I’m not sure
    Spain -1 or 2 . life is too difficult to have more than that. 3+ is a large family. That said I know a secular family who now has 4.

    BELIEF
    Alberta – Christian
    France Catholic by birth but secular beliefs
    Spain Catholic by birth but secular beliefs

    TRENDS
    Alberta – The Catholic Faith in Alberta seems to be strong and growing with young catholic families who want to follow the Catholic teaching. Last year 3 new priests were ordained, with two very young (in their 30s).
    France- I don’t know
    Spain anything BUT catholic

  74. Lucy says:

    1. Where do you live? (Or, if you’re not currently living there, what part of the world is it that you’re familiar with?)
    Central China.
    2. What is church attendance like in your area? Are there many churches? Do they seem to have active memberships?
    We have only three Catholic churches in my city and many protestant churches. All the churches are packed on Sundays. Since the government limits the speed of building more churches, many Chinese Christians gather at private residence for worship. Christians are minority but they are very strong in their faith.
    3. At a typical social event, how appropriate would it be if a person were to explicitly acknowledge in casual conversation that he or she is a believing Christian? For example, if someone at a party made a passing comment like, “We’ve been praying about that” or “I was reading the Bible the other day, and…”, would that seem normal or odd?
    It would be strange but people might listen out of curiosity. The concept of religion almost does not exist in the contemporary mainstream Chinese society and Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity, is considered a Western practice and doesn’t find an expression in the Chinese culture.
    4. What belief system do the politicians in your area claim to practice? For example, here in Texas almost all politicians at least claim to have some kind of belief in God, regardless of what they may think in private — to openly admit to being an atheist would be political suicide in most parts of the state. Is this the case in your area?
    You have to be part of the Chinese Communist Party in order to get involved in politics. I’ve heard that there are some politicians who secretly converted to Christianity, but the Communist Party officially encourages atheism among its members.
    5. How many families do you know who have more than two children? If a family with four children moved to your area, would their family size seem unusual? What about a family with six children?
    Almost all families have only one child because of China’s one-child policy.
    6. What seems to be the dominant belief system of the people in your area?
    Atheism. One reason is that the Communist Party’s atheistic public education and propaganda. Another reason is that the increase of wealth in recent years makes people slip into consumerism and materialism.
    7. Do you notice any trends? Do people seem to be becoming more or less religious?
    People are more and more interested in religion. Christianity is the fast growing religion in China. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good books that properly or sufficiently explain what Christianity really is to the Chinese readers. Two years ago, I was in a bookstore in China, the only Christian-related book I found was Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code.