Contrary to widespread belief religion is not making a comeback in Europe.
A survey commissioned by the BAT Foundation for Future Development Analysis in Hamburg reveals that religion does not play a major part in the life of most Europeans.
Citizens in nine countries were asked whether they regard religion as important for their happiness and contentment. Even in Italy with the highest regard for religious faith less than one in two (48 percent) agreed that religion is essential.
Finland came in second place with 32 percent, followed by Russia and the UK with 31 percent each. Hungary is in fifth place (28), followed by Belgium (27), France (26), Switzerland, (25) and Germany (24).
Asked about what they regard as sacred, 71 percent of Germans answered "the family". Faith in God (18 percent), religion (14), and prayer and church (10) are least important to them.
Professor Horst W. Opaschowski, scientific director of the foundation, comments: "Instead of a comeback of religion we see a renaissance of the family." The "sacred family" seems to be the new religious institution for German s.
According to Opaschowski highly religious people also show high regard for the sanctity of human life and dignity. By his definition highly religious people are those who believe in God, pray regularly, belong to a church and regard themselves as religious.
Those living without faith attach less importance to human dignity, reliability, tolerance, and the preservation of nature. These values are however, as Opaschowski points out, the glue that binds society together.
Therefore, he argues, political leaders should have a fundamental interest in the preservation of traditional religion.