Christianity in Norway

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The conversion of Norway to Christianity began in 1000 AD. Prior to the conversion Norwegians practised Norse paganism.
The Norwegian Bible, Bibelen.

Christianity is the largest religion in Norway. Norway has historically been called a Christian country. A majority of the population are members of the Church of Norway with 68.7% of the population officially belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway in 2019.[1] At numerous times in history, Norway sent more missionaries per capita than any other country. This changed considerably from the 1960s. In 2004, only 12% of the population attended church services each month.[2] Citizens born in Norway to one or two Norwegian parents are automatically added to the list of Protestant Christians in Norway, and are required to "sign out" of the church. There are two categories kept in the church's books, medlemmer ('members') and tilhørige ('belonging to [the State church]'). Members technically have to be baptised, whereas tilhørige are to be taken out of the books if not baptised by the age of 18. Norwegian citizens' tax funds are given to the Protestant Church until one registers as a member of another religious group, or as a member of the Humanist association.[3]

In 1993, there were 4,981 churches and chapels in Norway.[4]


Shamanism persisted among the Sami up until the 18th century, but no longer exists in its traditional form. Most Sami today belong to the Lutheran church of Norway.
Heddal stave church from early 13th century

The conversion of Norway to Christianity began well before 1000 AD. The raids on Ireland, Britain and the Frankish kingdoms had brought the Vikings in touch with Christianity. Haakon the Good of Norway who had grown up in England tried to introduce Christianity in the tenth century, but had met resistance from pagan leaders and soon abandoned the idea.

Anglo-Saxon missionaries from England and Germany engaged in converting Norwegians to Christianity, but with limited success. However, they succeeded in converting Olaf I of Norway to Christianity. Olaf II of Norway (later Saint Olaf) had more success in his efforts to convert the population, and he is credited with Christianising Norway.

The Christians in Norway often established churches or other holy sites at places that had previously been sacred under the Norse religion. The spread of conversion can be measured by burial sites as Pagans were buried with grave goods while Christians were not. Christianity had become well established in Norway by the middle of the 11th century and had become dominant by the middle of the 12th century. Stave churches were built of wood without the use of nails in the 13th century.

By county[edit]

Sogn og Fjordane våpen.svg Sogn og Fjordane 90.4%
Møre og Romsdal våpen.svg Møre og Romsdal 90.2%
Nordland våpen.svg Nordland 89.9%
Oppland våpen.svg Oppland 89.6%
Finnmark våpen.svg Finnmark 89.2%
Hedmark våpen.svg Hedmark 89.1%
Trøndelag våpen.svg Trøndelag 88.9%
Troms våpen.svg Troms 88.8%
Aust-Agder våpen.svg Aust-Agder 87.5%
Telemark våpen.svg Telemark 86.6%
Vest-Agder våpen.svg Vest-Agder 85.6%
Rogaland våpen.svg Rogaland 85.4%
Vestfold våpen.svg Vestfold 84.8%
Østfold våpen.svg Østfold 84.6%
 Norway 84.2%
Buskerud våpen.svg Buskerud 83.0%
Akershus våpen.svg Akershus 81.4%
Oslo komm.svg Oslo 65.8%

The above numbers reflect the percentage of the population that are members of a church, typically from being baptized as infants. According to study collected on a sample of 706 Less than half of these define themselves as Christian.[7]

Compared with other countries[edit]

Church attendance[edit]

As of the early 21st century, Norway has one of the lowest church attendance rates in the world. Below is a table that compares Norway with other governmental divisions in regular church attendance for the early 21st century (2004–2006). In contrast to 250,000 regular churchgoers in the whole of Norway in 2004, 43,500 attend Lakewood Church in the United States each week, and 23,000 attend Hillsong Church in Australia each week.

The U.S. state of Alabama has a population roughly equal to that of Norway, but church attendance in Alabama is as much as 11 times higher than in Norway.

Country / State Regular church attendance (%) Regular church attendance (number)
Alabama Alabama 58%[8] 2,700,000
Poland Poland 56.7%[9] 21,600,000
Texas Texas 49%[8] 12,140,000
United States United States average 42%[8] 120,000,000
California California 32%[8] 11,830,000
Canada Canada 25% 7,800,000
Vermont Vermont 24%[8] 140,000
France France 15% 9,800,000
United Kingdom United Kingdom 10%[10] 6,000,000
Australia Australia 7.5%[11] 1,500,000
Norway Norway 5%[12] 250,000

Importance of religion[edit]

Below is a table that compares Norway with other countries in importance of religion.

Country People who say religion is important[13] Percent Christian of total population (%)
Democratic Republic of the Congo Congo DR 98.5% 95.1%
Philippines Philippines 95.5% 92.4%
Brazil Brazil 86.5% 90.4%
Iran Iran 82.5% 2.0%
Cyprus Cyprus 75% 98.1%
Greece Greece 71.5% 98.0%
Republic of Ireland Ireland 53.5% 92.3%
South Korea South Korea 42.5% 34.6%
Albania Albania 32.5% 20.0%
Finland Finland 28% 82.2%
Norway Norway 20.5% 85.6%
Denmark Denmark 18% 89.4%
Sweden Sweden 16.5% 79.9%
Estonia Estonia 16% 27.8%

Public opinion[edit]

World Values Survey[edit]

Religious Affiliation/Identification 1982 1990 1996 2005
Percent belonging to a religious denomination 95.9% 90.2% 90.7% --
Percent identifying as a religious person 48% 47.5% 46.9% 41.3%
Percent raised religious -- 45.7% 41.4% --
Religious Behaviors 1982 1990 1996 2005
Percent attending religious services at least once a month 15.4% 12.7% 12.5% 10.8%
Percent that meditate or pray 61.6% 64.4% -- 33.2%
Percent active in a church or religious organization -- -- 8.3% 8.3%
Religious Beliefs 1982 1990 1996 2005
Percent believing in God 75.5% 65% 68.8% --
Percent believing in heaven 51.9% 43.8% 46.7% --
Percent believing in hell 23.5% 19.2% 19.7% --
Percent believing in life after death 50.7% 44.7% 47.3% --
Percent believing that there are clear guidelines on good and evil 31.4% 31.6% 29.1% --
Percent believing that politicians who do not believe in God are unfit for public office -- -- -- 3.8%
Percent believing that religious leaders should not influence people's vote -- -- -- 8.9%
Percent believing that things would be better if there are more people with strong religious beliefs -- -- -- 6.2%
Percent believing church gives answers to people's spiritual needs 64.3% 55% -- 48.2%
Percent believing church gives answers on family life problems 36.5% 29.1% -- 16.1%
Percent believing churches give answers to moral problems 47.5% 40.9% -- 28.7%
Percent believing churches give answers to social problems -- 18.5% -- 11.7%
Percent believing that religious leaders should influence the government -- -- -- 79.4%
Percent believing that people have a soul 59% 54.4% 59.6% --
Percent believing in the concept of sin 59.2% 44.2% 45.4% --
Percent believing religious services are important for deaths -- 81.1% -- --
Percent believing religious services are important for births -- 66.3% -- --
Percent believing religious services are important for marriages -- 70.4% -- --
Percent believing in a personal God 39.2% 29.8% -- --
Percent believing in re-incarnation 38.4% 15.2% -- --
Percent believing in the devil's existence 30.2% 24% 28% --
Percent that think that religious faith is an important quality in children -- -- -- 8.6%
Percent that agree: We depend too much on science and not enough on faith -- -- -- 25.8%
Percent that do not trust people of other religions -- -- -- 20.4%
Percent that often think about meaning and purpose of life -- -- -- 20.2%
Religious Experiences 1982 1990 1996 2005
Percent finding comfort and strength from religion 48.5% 35.6% 39.5% --
Attitudes 1982 1990 1996 2005
Percent considering religion important -- 40.3% 38.2% 32.8%
Percent considering that God is not at all important in their life 19.6% 24.8% 22.1% 27.9%
Percent confident in religious organizations 49.6% 44.6% 53.5% 50.5%


Born again Christian[14] 1997 2010
Percent who report Born-again Christian 19% 26%
People who report Born-again Christian 835,000 1,263,000


Statistics Norway[edit]

Religion (in 31.12.2019)[1][15] Members Percent Growth (2014–2019)
Christianity 4,059,366 75.63% -2.0%
Church of Norway 3,686,715 68.68% -4.1%
Catholic Church 165,254[16] 3.08% 72.8%
Pentecostal congregations 40,725 0.76% 4.0%
Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy 28,544 0.53% 63.3%
Evangelical Lutheran Free Church 19,313 0.36% -1.0%
Jehovah's Witnesses 12,661 0.24% 2.9%
Baptists 10,823 0.20% 5.1%
The Methodist Church in Norway 10,000 0.19% -5.4%
Other Christianity 85,331 1.59% -6.8%
Total[17] 5,367,850 100.0% 3.9%

The Association of Religion Data Archives[edit]

Denomination Percent[18]
Christian 92.0%
Agnostic 3.5%
Muslim 2.8%
Buddhist 0.7%
Atheist 0.6%
Baháʼí 0.1%
Neo-pagan 0.1%

Operation World 2001[edit]

Denomination Percent[19]
Christianity 93.7%
Protestant 89.4%
Other Christian 2.0%
Independent 1.2%
Catholic 0.8%
Non-religious 5.0%
Islam 1.0%
Buddhism 0.2%



Church of Norway[edit]

The Church of Norway (Den norske kirke in Bokmål or Den norske kyrkja in Nynorsk) is the state church of Norway. The church confesses the Lutheran Christian faith. It has as its foundation the Christian Bible, the Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Luther's Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confession. The Church is a member of the Porvoo Communion with 12 other churches, among them the Anglican Churches of Europe. It has also signed some other ecumenical texts, including the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification with the Catholic Church.

Most Norwegian villages have their own church like this.
A service in Stavanger Cathedral.

The constitutional head of the Church is the King of Norway, who is obliged to profess the Lutheran faith. The Church of Norway is subject to legislation, including its budgets, passed by the Norwegian parliament, the Storting, and its central administrative functions are carried out by the Royal Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs.

The Church has a congregational and episcopal structure, with 1,284 parishes, 106 deaneries and 11 dioceses, namely:

As of 2008[20] Percent
Members 3,874,823 81.8%
Participation in worship services, Sundays and holidays 5,069,341
Baptism 42,599
Confirmation 41,655
Consecration 10,536
Funeral 38,832

The following membership numbers are from Statistics Norway's data from 2016–2020:[21]

Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway[edit]

The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway (Den Evangelisk Lutherske frikyrkja i Noreg in Norwegian) or the Free Church as it is commonly known, is a nationwide Lutheran free church in Norway consisting of 81 congregations with 19,313 members in 2020, up from 18,908 in 2016.[22] It was founded in 1877 in Moss. It should not be confused with the Church of Norway, though both churches are members of the Lutheran World Federation. The Free Church is financially independent.

The Swedish Church in Norway[edit]

13,108 members in 2020, down from 21,689 in 2016.

Mission Covenant Church of Norway[edit]

11,223 members in 2020, up from 10,598 in 2016.

Brunstad Christian Church[edit]

(previously known as Den Kristelige Menighet, 'the Christian Church')

8,726 members in 2020, up from 8,177 in 2016.

The Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Congregation[edit]

2,180 members in 2020, down from 4,117 in 2016.

Free Evangelical Congregations[edit]

3,127 members in 2020, down from 3,318 in 2016.

Christian Centres[edit]

2,968 members in 2020, down from 3,001 in 2016.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church Community[edit]

3,139 members in 2020, down from 3,177 in 2016.

The Icelandic Evangelical Lutheran Congregation in Norway[edit]

6,008 members in 2020, down from 6,830 in 2016.

The Christian Community[edit]

2,428 members in 2020, down from 2,550 in 2016.

Pentecostal Congregations[edit]

40,725 members in 2020, up from 39,431 in 2016.

The Norwegian Baptist Union[edit]

10,823 in 2020, up from 10,367 in 2016.


4,642 in 2020, down from 4,778 in 2016.


The Methodist Church in Norway[edit]

10,000 in 2020, down from 10,531 in 2016.

Catholic Church[edit]

The Catholic Church in Norway is part of the worldwide Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and the Curia in Rome. Per 1 January 2020 the church had 165,254 registered members.[21] The number has more than doubled since 2010 from approximately 67,000 members, mainly due to high immigration.[23] There may be approximately 170,000–200,000 people of Catholic background in the country, most of them immigrants.[24][needs update]

The country is divided into three Church districts – the Diocese of Oslo and the prelatures of Trondheim and Tromsø and 32 parishes. The Bishop of Oslo participates in the Scandinavian Bishops Conference. The Catholic Church in Norway is as old as the kingdom itself, dating from approximately 900 A.D., with the first Christian monarchs, Haakon I from 934.

At first, the bulk of Catholic immigrants came from Germany, the Netherlands, and France. Immigration from Chile, the Philippines, and from a wide range of other countries began in the 1970s. This development has further increased in the last few years with economic immigrants from Poland and Lithuania. Ethnic Norwegian Catholics are now greatly outnumbered by the immigrants, although the former tend to be far more observant and conservative, being a self-selected group largely of ex-Lutheran converts.[citation needed]

Eastern Orthodoxy[edit]

28,544 in 2020, up from 20,202 in 2016. The Orthodox Church has experienced a 235% increase in membership from 2010 to 2020.[23]

Oriental Orthodoxy[edit]


Jehovah's Witnesses[edit]

Jehovah's Witnesses is the largest nontrinitarian religious organization in Norway, with a membership of 12,661 in 2020, up from 12,413 in 2016.[21] A branch office is located in Ytre Enebakk. Jehovah's Witnesses receive public grants in the same manner as other registered religious communities in Norway.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Church of Norway Statistics Norway 17.5.2020
  2. ^ "Norsk samfunnsvitenskapelig datatjeneste – Få nordmenn i kirken, men ikke færre enn før". Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 26 January 2010.
  3. ^ "Startside".
  4. ^ "Hvor mange aktive kristne finnes i Norge?". Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  5. ^ Statistics Norway – Church of Norway.
  6. ^ Statistics Norway – Members of religious and life stance communities outside the Church of Norway, by religion/life stance. County. 2006–2010 Archived 2 November 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Flertallet av kirkemedlemmene er ikke kristne
  8. ^ a b c d e "San Diego Times, May 2, 2006, from 2006 Gallup survey".
  9. ^ "Polish lead EU in Sunday church attendance".
  10. ^ "'One in 10' attends church weekly". BBC News.
  11. ^ [1] NCLS releases latest estimates of church attendance], National Church Life Survey, Media release,
  12. ^ "NorgeIDAG – Hvor mange aktive kristne finnes i Norge?". Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
  13. ^ GALLUP WorldView – data. Retrieved 17 January 2009
  14. ^ "Sterk økning i personlige kristne". Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  15. ^ Members of Christian communities outside the Church of Norway. Statistics Norway 8.12.2020
  16. ^ In 2015 the bishop of the Diocese of Oslo, Bernt Ivar Eidsvig, and his financial manager were charged with fraud for adding up to 65,000 extra names to the Catholic membership list over the previous several years.Gaffey, Conor (2 July 2015). "Catholic Church accused of defrauding Norway of €5.7m". Newsweek. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
  17. ^ Population Statistics Norway
  18. ^ The Association of Religion Data Archives
  19. ^ Joshua Project – Religions
  20. ^ Kirkedatabasen
  21. ^ a b c "06339: Medlemmer i kristne trussamfunn som mottek offentleg stønad og som er utanfor Den norske kyrkja, etter trussamfunn 2006 - 2020". PX-Web SSB (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 8 February 2021. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  22. ^ "Statistics Norway". Archived from the original on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  23. ^ a b "Meir enn dobla medlemstal i den romersk-katolske kyrkja på ti år". (in Norwegian). Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  24. ^ Andreas Slettholm: Nå er det flere katolikker enn muslimer i Norge Aftenposten, 3 December 2012

External links[edit]