Swedish Language Blog

Religion in Sweden Posted by on Mar 28, 2012 in Culture, Living in Sweden

Up until the century 1000, the people of Sweden believed in Norse paganism, but the country was then Christianized, forcing everyone to convert to Roman Catholicism. This lasted until the 1500’s, when Protestant Lutharanism took over after what is known as the Protestant Reformation. Lutheranism was then the official religion of Sweden, though foreigners visiting Sweden were not imprisoned for differing beliefs, as long as they were low-profile.

In the 1700s, it became legal to practice other religions in Sweden, however not until the mid-1800’s could Lutherans convert to another faith, and when they finally could, it had to be another Christian one. Not until 1951 did full freedom of religion become legal, and at the turn of the millenium the Lutheran Church of Sweden (Svenska kyrkan) was finally separated from the state.

(Note: The religious history of the Sami people in midwest and northern Sweden, however, was much less complicated. They had a sort of shamanistic religion, but this was replaced by Lutheranism in the 1600’s and 1700’s by Swedish missionaries.)

Today, around 70% of Sweden’s population are members of the Church of Sweden, but according to research, only about 2% actively attend Sunday mass. This is in part due to a rule in place until 1996 that made all children born of parents who were members in the Church of Sweden, members themselves. Every year the percentage of the Swedish population in the Church of Sweden sinks between 1-2%.

Other than Christianity, the population of believers of Islam is ever increasing due to high levels of asylee immigration from Islamic countries; approximately 5-6% of Sweden is Muslim, but according to surveys and other studies, less than 1% practice fully (by attending Friday prayer, etc.).

The number of people who actually believe in the religion they associate themselves with, however, is proven to be very low, especially within the Church of Sweden. Many see the Church as a national identity rather than a faith. Depending on what different people call faith, somewhere between 46% and 85% of Sweden is non-religious.

(Sources: WebArchive for Pitzer College, Sydsvenskan, Wikipedia.)

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About the Author: Stephen Maconi

Stephen Maconi has been writing for the Transparent Swedish Blog since 2010. Wielding a Bachelor's Degree in Swedish and Nordic Linguistics from Uppsala University in Sweden, Stephen is an expert on Swedish language and culture.


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