Religion in Sweden
Sweden was Christianized from Norse paganism in the 11th century. Since the 16th century, Sweden has been predominantly Lutheran. From the Protestant Reformation in the 1530s until 2000, the Lutheran Church of Sweden (Swedish: Svenska kyrkan) was the state church. As of 2012, about 67.5%  of Swedish citizens are members of the Church of Sweden, compared to over 95% in 1970, and 83% in 2000.
Despite that, religiosity in Sweden plays a limited role compared to the European average. In a Eurobarometer Poll in 2010, just 18% of Swedish citizens responded that "they believe there is a god". In a 2009 Gallup poll, 17% answered yes to the question "Is religion an important part of your daily life?". Less than 4% of the Church of Sweden membership attends public worship during an average week; about 2% are regular attendees. Some scholars consider the nation to be a place where religion is regarded with “benign indifference”.
The history of the Jews in Sweden can be traced back to the 17th century. Due to immigration in the later 20th century, there is today a sizeable minority of Muslims (4% of population ) and Roman Catholics (2%).
Before the 11th century, Swedes adhered to Norse paganism, worshipping Æsir gods, with its centre at the Temple in Uppsala. The shape and location of this temple is sparsely documented, but it is referenced in the Norse sagas and Saxo Grammaticus' Gesta Danorum, and is also described by Adam of Bremen. It was probably destroyed by King Ingold I in 1087 during the last known battle between the pagans and the Christians.
While Norse mythology as a distinct religion was officially deserted following the Christianization of Scandinavia, belief in many of its mythological creatures such as "tomtar", trolls and dwarves lived on for long time in Scandinavian folklore.
As of 2009, there exists a small number of practicing Germanic Neopagans adhering to the faiths and customs of Norse paganism (Forn Sed "Old Custom" or Nordisk Sed "Nordic Custom" as it is known today), including the nonprofit organization Swedish Forn Sed Assembly and Community for Nordisk Sed.
The earliest campaign to Christianize the territories that form what today is the country of Sweden was made by the monk Ansgar (801–865). Making his first visit to Birka in 829, he was granted permission to build a church. In 831, he returned home and became Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, with responsibility for Christianity in the north. Around 850, he came back to Birka, where the original congregation had been shattered. Ansgar tried to reestablish it, but it only lasted a few years. During the following hundred years, attempts at Christianization would largely fail.
Christianity first gained a hold in Västergötland, some time shortly before or around the turn of the millennium. According to Adam of Bremen, the Christian king Olof Skötkonung, who ruled from c. 995 to c. 1022 was forced to limit Christian activities to the western province. When King Stenkil ascended to the throne in 1060 Christianity was firmly established throughout most of Sweden, although the people of Uppland resisted the new religion.
The last king adhering to the old religion was Blot-Sweyn, who reigned 1084–1087. A national church of Sweden was not organized until the middle of the 12th century, during the reign of Eric the Saint (1150–1160). According to legend, Erik also undertook the First Swedish Crusade, a military expedition aiming to convert the Finns to Christianity and conquering Finland as Swedish territory. (However, no archeological data or written sources seem to support the legend. The diocese and bishop of Finland are not listed among their Swedish counterparts before the 1250s.)
Pre-Reformation Swedish religious leaders – including Bridget of Sweden, founder of the continuously functioning Roman Catholic abbey at Vadstena – continue to be held in high regard by the population as a whole. Her nunnery at Vadstena is one of Sweden's pre-eminent tourist attractions.
The Protestant Reformation in Sweden is generally regarded as a political tool used by the king to secure control over the church and its assets. Shortly after Gustav Vasa was elected king in 1523, he requested that the Pope would confirm Johannes Magnus as Archbishop of Sweden, replacing Gustav Trolle, who had supported the Danish king Christian II and was convicted for treason. When the Pope refused, Gustav Vasa started to promote the Swedish Lutheran reformers Olaus, Laurentius Petri, and Laurentius Andreae. Gustav Trolle was eventually forced into exile, and soon all ecclesiastical property was transferred to the Crown. In 1531 Laurentius Petri was appointed by the Crown to become the first Lutheran primate of Sweden, and was ordained by five Catholic bishops without papal assent. The ties with Rome were irreversibly cut in 1536, when Canon Law was abolished.
Originally, no changes were made to official church doctrine, and the episcopal organization was retained. Gradually, in spite of popular protests against the introduction of "Luthery", teachings were aligned with continental Lutheranism. Calvinism was, however, refuted as heresy at the synod of Stockholm in 1565. In order to appease the Holy See, king John III of Sweden, one of Gustav Vasa's sons, took measures to bring the Church to a theological position influenced by George Cassander, but, in the heat of controversy, such a compromise position did not achieve it's intent of reunion. However, after his death, his brother, Duke Charles summoned the Uppsala Synod in 1593, which declared Holy Scripture the sole guideline for faith, with four documents accepted as faithful and authoritative explanations of it: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530.
The move put Charles at odds with the heir to the throne, his nephew Sigismund, who was raised in the Catholic faith. Although Sigismund promised to uphold Lutheranism, Duke Charles aspirations to power led to the War against Sigismund, a power struggle that was effectively decided at the Battle of Stångebro in 1598, in favour of Charles – and Protestantism.
During the era following the Reformation, usually known as the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy, small groups of non-Lutherans, especially Calvinist Dutchmen, the Moravian Church and Walloons or French Huguenots from Belgium, played a significant role in trade and industry, and were quietly tolerated as long as they kept a low religious profile. The Sami originally had their own shamanistic religion, but they were converted to Lutheranism by Swedish missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. Citizens of foreign nations, mainly Russians, were granted freedom to practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity since the Treaty of Stolbova in 1617. Anglican and Reformed foreigners were granted freedom to practice their religions in Stockholm (1741) and Gothenburg (1747). Similar liberties were granted Roman Catholics in 1781, and an apostolic vicar was sent to Sweden in 1783.
Liberalization and other faiths
In order to curb Pietism several Royal Decrees and Acts of Parliament were proclaimed in the 18th century, which forbid Swedish citizens to practice any religion besides mandatory Lutheran Sunday Mass attendance and daily family devotions. Without the presence of a Lutheran clergyman public religious gatherings were forbidden. It remained illegal until 1860 for Lutheran Swedes to convert to another confession or religion. From then, and unto 1951, it was legal to leave the Church of Sweden for the purpose of becoming a member of another officially recognised religious denomination. From 1951, it is legal to leave the church, without giving a reason. From 1951 and unto 1977 religious communities (i.e. abbeys, priories, convents and such) were not to be established without the permission of the Crown, but that clause was abolished in 1977.
Religion in Sweden today
|Church of Sweden
The constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice. The Government at all levels seeks to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The rights and freedoms enumerated in the constitution include the rights to practice one's religion and protection of religious freedom. The laws concerning religious freedoms are generally observed and enforced at all government levels and by the courts in a non-discriminatory fashion. Legal protections cover discrimination or persecution by private actors.
In 2000, 82.9% of Swedes belonged to the Church of Sweden. By the end of 2009, this figure was 71.3%. The percentage of Swedes belonging to the Church of Sweden is decreasing yearly by more than one percent.
The Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended (hovering in the single digit percentages of the population). The reason for the large number of inactive members is partly that until 1996, children became members automatically at birth if at least one of their parents was a member. Since 1996, only children that are baptised become members. In 2009, nearly 72,000 Swedes left the Church of Sweden, considerably more than in 2008 when 50,504 Swedes left the Church of Sweden. Some 275,000 Swedes are today members of various free churches (where congregation attendance is much higher), and, in addition, immigration has meant that there are now some 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Sweden. Due to immigration, Sweden also has a significant Muslim population. As many as 500,000 are Muslims by tradition and between 80,000–400,000 of these are practicing Muslims. (See also Islam in Sweden)
Eight recognized religious denominations, in addition to the Church of Sweden, raise revenues through member-contributions made through the national tax system. All recognized denominations are entitled to direct government financial support, contributions made through the national tax system, or a mix of both. Certain Christian religious holy days are national holidays. School students from minority religious backgrounds are entitled to take relevant religious holidays.
No recognition or registration is required to carry out religious activity. Religious groups that want to receive government aid may apply for it. The Government considers the number of members in the group and its length of establishment, but applies no specific criteria.
Education about all major world religions is compulsory in public schools. Parents may send their children to religious charter schools, all of which receive school vouchers, provided they adhere to government guidelines on core academic curriculum.
The Office of the Ombudsman against Ethnic Discrimination investigates claims of discrimination "due to race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, or religion." Discrimination on religious grounds is illegal, including discrimination in the work place and in the provision of public and private services.
- 18% of Swedish citizens responded that "they believe there is a god".
- 45% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force".
- 34% answered that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, god, or life force".
- Protestants 41%
- Orthodox 1%
- Catholics 2%
- Other Christian 9%
- Buddhist 1%
- Other 3%
- Atheist 13%
- Agnostics 30%
Phil Zuckerman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College, writes that several academic sources have in recent years placed atheism rates in Sweden between 46% and 85%, with one source reporting that only 17% of respondents self-identified as "atheist".
Sweden ranks aside with France, South Korea, Japan, Czech Republic and the Netherlands on having a large number of citizens who have no religion. An article on Sweden's official website asserts that that just three out of 10 Swedes state that they have confidence in the church. The article lists the following facts about religion in Sweden:
- Only 1 in 10 Swedes thinks religion is important in daily life.
- Around 7 out of 10 children are christened in the Church of Sweden.
- Just over 5 out of 10 weddings take place in church.
- Almost 9 out of 10 Swedes have Christian burials.
- Islam has around 130,000 adherents in Sweden (more according to Muslim sources).
Church of Sweden
The Church of Sweden (Swedish: Svenska kyrkan) is the largest Christian church in Sweden. The church professes the Lutheran faith and is a member of the Porvoo Communion. With 6,751,952 baptized members, it is the largest Lutheran church in the world, although combined, there are more Lutherans in the member churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Until 2000 it held the position of state church. As of 2011, 68.8% of Sweden's population belonged to the church. However, only approximately 2% of the church's members regularly attend Sunday services.
The Church of Sweden, by law, is organized in the following manner:
- It is an Evangelical Lutheran community of faith manifested in parishes and dioceses. The church also has a national organisation.
- It is an open national church which, working with a democratic organisation and through the ministry of the church, covers the whole nation.
The 19th century saw the arrival of various evangelical free churches, and, towards the end of the century secularism, leading many to distance themselves from Church rituals. Leaving the Church of Sweden became legal with the so-called dissenter law of 1860, but only under the provision of entering another denomination. The right to stand outside any religious denomination was established in the Law on Freedom of Religion in 1951.
Today, the Swedish Free Church Council (Swedish: Sveriges Frikyrkosamråd) organizes free churches in Sweden, belonging to various Protestant denominations: Baptists, Methodists, Reformed, Pentecostal etc. In total the member churches have around 250,000 members. The largest member church is the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden, with approximately 65,000 members
The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities estimates about 20,000 ethnic Jews in Sweden pass the halakhic criteria. Of those, about 7,000 are members of a Jewish religious congregation. Stockholm has the largest community and boasts a primary school, kindergarten, library, a bi-monthly publication (Judisk Krönika) and a weekly Jewish radio program, but Malmö, Gothenburg, Borås, Helsingborg, Lund, and Uppsala all have Jewish communities as well. Synagogues can be found in Stockholm (which has 2 Orthodox and 1 Conservative synagogue), Göteborg (an Orthodox and a Conservative synagogue), Malmö (an Orthodox synagogue) and in Norrköping (although the Norrköping community is too small to perform regular services).
The Baltic Tatars were the first Muslim group in modern Sweden. The faith arrived in the country primarily through immigration from countries with large Muslim populations (such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Iraq, Morocco, Iran and Somalia) in the late 20th century. Although there are no official statistics of Muslims in Sweden, estimates counts 300,000 – 350,000 ethnic Muslims in the year 2000 (i.e. anyone who fits the broad definition of someone who "belongs to a Muslim people by birth, has Muslim origin, has a name that belongs in the Muslim tradition, etc."), roughly estimated close to 100,000 of whom are of second-generation.
In 2009 a report made a statement that there are 450,000 to 500,000 Muslims in Sweden, around 5% of the total population, and that the Muslim Council of Sweden reported 106,327 officially registered members.
According to the 2010 year book of Jehovah's Witnesses, there are 22,418 active members in Sweden. Total witnesses including those who are active and inactive are thought to number more than 65,000.
- Christianization of Scandinavia
- Bahá'í Faith in Sweden
- Buddhism in Sweden
- Religion in Europe
- Religion by country
- Demographics of atheism
- Irreligion in Sweden
|Part of a series on the|
- Swedes depart church in droves
- Eurobarometer Biotechnology report 2010 p.381
- Crabtree, Steve (August 31, 2010). "Religiosity Highest in World's Poorest Nations". Gallup Global Reports.
- Church of Sweden statistics
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- Religion - SWEDEN.SE
- N.F. Lutheran Cyclopedia, article, "Upsala, Diet of", New York: Schrivner, 1899. p. 528-9.
- Svenska Kyrkan Statistiek pagina Medlemmar 1972-2008 excel file (Swedish)
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- Svenska kyrkans medlemsutveckling år 1972-2009
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- "Liturgy and Worship", Church of Sweden
- "SFS 1998:1591", Riksdagen
- "Antal judar" Judiska Centralrådet (in Swedish), visited 21 feb 2010
- Åke Sander (2004), “Muslims in Sweden”, in Muhammad Anwar, Jochen Blaschke and Åke Sander, State Policies Towards Muslim Minorities: Sweden, Great Britain and Germany, Berlin : Parabolis; pp.218-224
- Åke Sander (1990), Islam and Muslims in Sweden, Göteborg : Centre for the Study of Cultural Contact and International Migration, Gothenburg University, pp. 16-17
- Åke Sander (2004), “Muslims in Sweden”, in Muhammad Anwar, Jochen Blaschke and Åke Sander, State Policies Towards Muslim Minorities: Sweden, Great Britain and Germany, Berlin : Parabolis; p.224
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- "2009 Report of Jehovah's Witnesses Worldwide". Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 2012-09-05.