Less than half of people believe in God in 2021, French poll finds

Older people aged 65 and over are most likely to believe, but faith is also high among 18-34s. We also look at how to find an English-speaking church service in France

23 September 2021

47% of people asked thought that “the message and values of Christianity are still relevant” in France today Pic: Thoranin Nokyoo / Shutterstock

By Joanna York and Hannah Thompson

Just over half of people do not believe in God, a new poll in France has found.

The 2021 poll* asked participants whether they personally believed in God, with 51% answering “no”. Similar polls in 2004 and 2011 found that 44% of respondents said “no”, suggesting that the number of people who do not believe in God is rising.

In contrast, a similar Ifop poll in 1947 found that 66% said that “yes”, they did believe in God. 

In this year’s poll the largest numbers of believers were found among older adults, with 58% of people aged 65 and over saying “yes”. The percentage of believers among younger adults (18-34s) was smaller, but still significant, with 48% saying “yes”, they did believe.

Covid and other crises have little impact on belief 

The poll revealed that significant current events had a minimal influence on whether or not people believed in God.

Asked if the Covid health crisis has brought them closer to religion, 91% of respondents said “no”. Similarly, 79% said the 2019 Notre-Dame cathedral fire did not awaken “spiritual feelings”.

Perhaps inevitably, people in France are also speaking about religion less among family and friends.

In 2009, 58% of people spoke about religion with their family and 49% with friends, compared with 38% and 29% today.

Despite this, 68% thought that religions could “contribute to teaching young people positive values: respecting others, tolerance, generosity, and responsibility”.

All religions ‘of value’

Just over half of respondents (54%) said all religions were of value, compared with 62% in 2007.

The poll did not ask whether those who disagreed with the statement were against specific religions, or religion in general.

Just under half (47%) thought that religion played a useful role in debates over social issues such as bioethics and economic morals, compared with 51% in 2009.

Asked specifically about Christianity, less than half (47%) agreed that “the message and values of Christianity are still relevant”.

*Poll conducted online by Ifop for the l'Association des journalistes d'information sur les religions (Ajir) among 1,028 people representative of people in France aged 18 and over on August 24 and 25.

Religion in France

The most common religious affiliation in France is still Catholicism, even if figures tend not to show how many people consider themselves to be practising or church-going.

Figures from statistics website Statista showed that in 2020, religious affiliation in France was as follows (for the question, “What religion do you feel bound to?”).

  • Catholicism: 47%
  • Islam: 4%
  • Protestantism: 2%
  • Buddhism: 2%
  • Judaism: 1%
  • Orthodox Christianity: 1%
  • Another religion: 1%

A third of people (33%) said ‘None’.

Research over the past decades has found that the percentage of people identifying as religious, especially Catholic, has been steadily declining; and the percentage of people saying they are not religious has been rising. 

A study from the Institut CSA found that in 1986, 81% of people in France said they identified as Catholic, and 15.5% not religious. By 2016, research from the Institut Montaigne found that these had declined to 51.1% and 39.6% respectively.

Finding English speaking churches in France

There are many churches, including Anglican, Roman Catholic and more, that offer English-speaking services in France. 

For example, the website A Church Near You allows you to search by town or city, including places in France, and then offers a list of English-speaking Church of England services close to your search location. 

Results include, for example:

Paris: St Michael, rue d’Aguesseau; St George, rue Auguste-Vacquerie

Strasbourg: Saint Alban’s, Boulevard de la Victoire

Bordeaux: Anglican church services in Aquitaine and Bordeaux (more information on the website)

Toulouse: English Speaking Anglican Church of Toulouse, rue Larade, Minimes

Nice: Holy Trinity, rue de la Buffa

Marseille: The Luberon, Sacré Coeur church, Oppède; All Saints, rue de Belloi

The website AnglicanFrance.fr also offers a list of Anglican services in Europe, including in France.

If you know of an English-speaking church or religious centre near you that you would like to let other English-speaking readers know about, please email details to news@connexionfrance.com.

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