For many Finns, Christian traditions are cultural practices, but not necessarily indications of personal faith.A SURVEY by the Church Research Institute reveals that atheism is rapidly increasing in Finland. Only 27 per cent of Finns continue to believe in the God of Christianity, and the percentage of believers has fallen by 10 per cent in only four years. Those who believe in God are few in number, considering that 77 per cent of Finns are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

Although ever fewer people believe in God, 60 per cent of Finns approve of the teaching of Christian religion in schools, and of church traditions. For example, 84 per cent of Finns approve of singing the traditional Suvivirsi or Summer Hymn in schools. The research findings reflect how church membership and church traditions are aspects of Finnish culture, but do not necessarily imply personal faith.

The survey shows that there are a record number of atheists in Finland today, as one in five Finns does not believe in the existence of God. The worldwide trend is similar. A University of Chicago study published in April shows that in the past decade, belief in God has waned in most countries, although the decline has been slow. The study looked at people’s religious views in 30 countries around the world. Only in Israel, Slovenia and Russia are the ranks of religious believers growing.

Religious belief is strongest in Catholic countries such as the Philippines, where 94 per cent believe in God. The lowest numbers were measured in Western Europe. In former East Germany, for example, only 13 per cent believe in God.

The research data from the University of Chicago is based on surveys conducted in 1991, 1998 and 2008. Finland was not included in the study.

Aleksis toro – HT