Religion in Denmark

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Helgenæs Kirke, a typical parish church.

Of all the religions in Denmark, the most prominent is Christianity in the form of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark, the state religion. However, pockets of virtually all faiths can be found among the population. The second largest faith is Islam, due to immigration since 1980. In general, however, Danes are secular, and church attendance is generally low.[1]


According to a Eurobarometer Poll conducted in 2010,[2] 28% of Danish citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", 47% responded that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and 24% responded that "they do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God or life force". Another poll, carried out in 2008, found that 25% of Danes believe Jesus is the son of God, and 18% believe he is the saviour of the world.[3]

While a vast majority of Danes are technically agnostic or atheist, few choose to identify as such. It is speculated[by whom?] that this is because religion is such a non-issue that not believing in it does not require a specific label. Phil Zuckerman, an American professor of sociology, after spending 14 months in Sweden and Denmark talking to hundreds of people about religion, reported that they were “often disinclined or hesitant to talk with me about religion, and even once they agreed to do so, they usually had very little to say on the matter.”[4]

Religious communities[edit]

Church of Denmark
year population members percentage
1984 5,113,500 4,684,060 91.6%
1990 5,135,409 4,584,450 89.3%
2000 5,330,500 4,536,422 85.1%
2005 5,413,600 4,498,703 83.3%
2007 5,447,100 4,499,343 82.6%
2008 5,475,791 4,494,589 82.1%
2009 5,511,451 4,492,121 81.5%
2010 5,534,738 4,479,214 80.9%
2011 5,560,628 4,469,109 80.4%
2012 5,580,516 4,454,466 79.8%
2013 5,602,628 4,430,643 79.1%
2014 5,627,235 4,413,825 78.4%
2015 5,659,715 4,400,754 77.8%
Statistical data: 1984,[5] 1990–2015[6] Source: Kirkeministeriet


According to official statistics from January 2015, 77.8%[7][8] of the population of Denmark are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark (Den danske folkekirke), the country's state church since the Reformation in Denmark–Norway and Holstein, and designated "the Danish people's church" by the 1848 Constitution of Denmark.[9]

This proportion is down by 0.7% as compared to the preceding year and 1.4% down compared to two years earlier. However, in similar fashion to the rest of Scandinavia, and also Britain, only a small minority (less than 5% of the total population) attends churches for Sunday services.[1][10] In addition, the number of people leaving the Church has been on the rise: in 2012 21,118 Danes left the Church, an increase of 55% in comparison to 2011.[11]

Other Protestant groups[edit]

A small Baptist community has existed since the 1840s, and is represented by the Baptist Union of Denmark. The Union claimed 55 churches and 5,412 congregants in 2011.[12]

Reformed Protestantism is represented by four churches united in the Reformed Synod of Denmark. These are mainly ethnic congregations, including two Huguenot churches and a German Reformed church, founded in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries,[13][14][15] as well as the Korean Reformed Church founded in 1989.[16] The German Reformed church also includes some Dutch, Swiss, Hungarian and American members, as well as Danes.[14] There is an Anglican church and fellowship in Copenhagen and smaller congregations of Anglicans and Episcopalians in many Danish cities.

Roman Catholicism[edit]

After the separation of the Church of Denmark from the Roman Catholic Church in 1536, Roman Catholicism remained illegal in the country for over three centuries. The Church was able to reestablish itself after the Constitution of 1849 granted religious freedom to the Kingdom. Currently the country is covered by the Diocese of Copenhagen with 48 parishes in Denmark proper and two more in the Faeroe Islands and Greenland. There are nearly 40,000 Catholics in Denmark, though nearly a third are foreign born and others are born of foreign parents (for example, Denmark's Polish community, of which the current Bishop of Copenhagen is a member). Nevertheless, ethnic Danes are still the largest group among the Church's congregants.[17]


"Mormons visit a country carpenter" (1856) by Christen Dalsgaard, depicting a mid-19th century visit of a Mormon missionary to a Danish carpenter's workshop. The first Mormon missionaries arrived in Denmark in 1850.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has been sending missionaries to Denmark since 14 June 1850.[18][19] Most of the early converts emigrated to the United States. There are currently over 4,500 Mormons in Denmark.[19] There is a LDS temple in Copenhagen, known as the Copenhagen Denmark Temple.[20]


A Jewish community has been present in Denmark since the seventeenth century, when the monarchs began allowing Jews to enter the country and practice their religion on an individual basis. Emancipation followed gradually and by the end of the nineteenth century most Jews were fully assimilated into Danish society. In the early decades of the twentieth century there was an influx of more secular, Yiddish speaking, Eastern European Jews. Nearly 99% of Danish Jews survived the Holocaust by reason of the actions of the Danish resistance.

Today there are approximately 10,000 ethnic Jews in Denmark, and three synagogues located in Copenhagen.


An Ahmadiyya mosque in Hvidovre just outside Copenhagen. The first[21] and, so far, only purpose-built mosque in Denmark.

Denmark's Muslims make up approximately 3% of the population and form the country's second largest religious community and largest minority religion.[1][22] As of 2009 there are nineteen recognised Muslim communities in Denmark.[22][23] Ahmadi Muslims constructed the first mosque in the capital, Copenhagen. There are approximately 600 Ahmadis all over Denmark today.[24]

Other groups[edit]

According to a survey of various religions and denominations undertaken by the Danish Foreign Ministry, other religious groups comprise less than 1% of the population individually and approximately 2% when taken all together.[25]

Baha'i Faith[edit]

The Baha'i Faith arrived in Denmark in 1925, but it did not make much impact until the arrival of American pioneers in 1946. A National Spiritual Assembly was formed in 1962. In 2005, it was estimated that there were about 1,251 Baha'is in the country.[26]


Main article: Buddhism in Denmark

Buddhism in Denmark was brought back from expeditions that explored the Indian subcontinent. Initial interest was mainly from intellectuals, authors, Buddhologists and Philologists. In 1921, Christian F. Melbye founded the first Buddhist Society in Denmark, but it was later dissolved in 1950 before his death in 1953.[27][28] In the 1950s, there was a revival in interest towards Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism and Hannah and Ole Nydahl, founded the first Karma Kagyu Buddhist centers in Copenhagen.[27][28] The third wave of Buddhism came in the 1980s, when refugees from Vietnam, Sri Lanka and China came to Denmark.

In 2009 Aarhus University estimated that there were 20,000 practising Buddhists in Denmark.[29][30]


A neopagan religious group, Forn Siðr — Ásatrú and Vanatrú Association in Denmark, describes itself as a revival of the Norse paganism prevalent in Denmark before Christianization. It gained state recognition in November 2003.[31] Also, there are about 500 registered heathens (0.01% of the population) adhering to the old Norse beliefs.

Politics and government[edit]

Politicians in Denmark will not generally be found making use of any religious rhetoric or arguments in their declarations, and this is especially the case for government ministers, with the possible exception (sometimes) of the Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs in the course of his or her duties. Four of Denmark's prime ministers have identified themselves as atheists.[32]

The Christian Democrats is the only major political party to regularly employ religious rhetoric and arguments, and they have not been represented in the Folketing since 2001, as they have not been able to acquire the minimum 2% of the votes needed to secure a seat.

Danish Constitution[edit]

The Constitution of Denmark contains a number of sections related to religion.

  • §4 establishes the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark as the state church of Denmark.
  • §6 requires the Danish monarch to be a member of the state church.
  • §67 grants freedom of worship.
  • §68 states that no one is required to personally contribute to any form of religion other than his own. As state subsidies are not considered personal contributions[33] the Church of Denmark receives subsidies - according to §4 - beyond the church tax paid by the members of the church. The Church of Denmark is the only religious group to receive direct financial support from the state. Other religious groups can receive indirect support through tax deductions on contributions.[34]
  • §70 grants freedom of religion by ensuring civil and political rights can not be revoked due to race or religious beliefs. It further states race and religious beliefs can not be used to be exempt from civil duties.
  • §71 ensures no one can be imprisoned due to religious beliefs.


Most people in Denmark are Christians (79%) The rest are mainly irreligious or follow other minority faiths,[35][36][37] although many people define themselves as irreligious but spiritual.[38][39][40][41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Denmark – Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor". International Religious Freedom Report 2009. U.S. Department of State. 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  2. ^ "Special Eurobarometer, biotechnology, page 204" (PDF). Fieldwork: Jan-Feb 2010.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  3. ^ Poll performed in December 2009 among 1114 Danes between ages 18 and 74, Hver fjerde dansker tror på Jesus (One in four Danes believe in Jesus), Kristeligt Dagblad, 23 December 2009 (Danish)
  4. ^
  5. ^ Church membership 1984 Danmarks statistik (Danish)
  6. ^ Church membership 1990–2015 Kirkeministeriet (Danish)
  7. ^ Fler lämnade kyrkan i Danmark 3.1.2013 Kyrkans tidning
  8. ^ Statistics Denmark
  9. ^ § 4, "the Evangelical-Lutheran Church is the Danish people's church and is supported as such by the State" ("den evangelisk-lutherske kirke er den danske folkekirke og understøttes som sådan af staten")
  10. ^ Manchin, Robert (21 September 2004). "Religion in Europe: Trust Not Filling the Pews". Gallup Poll. The Gallup Organization. Retrieved 23 August 2012. 
  11. ^, "Kraftig stigning i udmeldelser af folkekirken", February 28, 2013
  12. ^ Statistics
  13. ^ Den reformerte Meighed i Fredericia
  14. ^ a b Deutsch-Reformierte Kirche zu Kopenhagen
  15. ^ Eglise réformée française
  16. ^ Korean-Reformed Church in Denmark
  17. ^ The Catholic Church in Denmark
  18. ^ "Country Profile", Newsroom (LDS Church), 2 April 2011  |contribution= ignored (help)
  19. ^ a b "Kirkens begyndelse i Danmark (Church beginnings in Denmark)", (in Danish) (LDS Church) 
  20. ^ "Temples", (LDS Church)  |contribution= ignored (help)
  21. ^ Ahmadiyya Muslim Mosques Around the World, pg. 184
  22. ^ a b Denmark country profile- [] and – Retrieved 8 June 2012.
  23. ^ Facts about Islam in Denmark[dead link] – Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Published/Last edited 10 May 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  24. ^ Mikkel Rytter. Family Upheaval: Generation, Mobility and Relatedness among Pakistani. Berghahn Books. p. 14. Retrieved February 23, 2014. 
  25. ^ Religion in Denmark – From the Danish Foreign Ministry. Archive retrieved on 3 January 2012.
  26. ^ Most Baha'i Nations (2005)
  27. ^ a b "Article on (''in Danish'')". Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  28. ^ a b "DR (Danish state news-agency), article about the History of Buddhism (''In Danish'')". 10 August 2006. Retrieved 2009-08-03. 
  29. ^ "Danske børn vil være buddhister". Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  30. ^ Journal of Global Buddhism, Article by Jørn Borup, Department of Study of Religion at University of Aarhus, Denmark. 2008, based on research from 2005
  31. ^ Torben Sørensen (19 April 2007). "Forn Siðr – the Asa and Vane faith religious community in Denmark – Forn Siðr". Archived from the original on 24 August 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  32. ^ List of atheists in politics and law#Denmark
  33. ^ Grundloven på let dansk, Folketinget, 2001
  34. ^ Kirkeministeriet
  35. ^ "Sorry God, Danes are just not that into you". Copenhagen Post. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  36. ^ "14 Copenhagen churches slated for closure". Copenhagen Post. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  37. ^ "Happiness tops in Denmark, lowest in Togo, study says". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-07-02. 
  38. ^ "Scandinavian Nonbelievers, Which Is Not to Say Atheist". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-07-02. 
  39. ^ "What Alabamians and Iranians Have in Common". Gallup. Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
  40. ^ Atheism and Secularity - Google Books. 2009-12-21. Retrieved 2013-08-16. 
  41. ^ "Beliefs about God across Time and Countries" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-08-16. 

External links[edit]