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Religious Landscape Transformation

Religion or belief is not quite the same as religion. The latter term is mainly used when worshiping one or more gods. In practice it mainly means monotheistic religions, so religions with one God. Religion, on the other hand, relates to all forms of spirituality, of meaning: the belief in ‘something higher. Buddhism, for example, is a religion, but not a religion. Other examples of “non-theistic religions” are Taoism and Religious Humanism. They have a shared belief system without a personal God, which is for example in Christianity and Islam is. You can call the latter two religions as well as religions. In summary, all religions are religions, but not all religions are religions.

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Dutch society went through many changes after the Second World War, not least in the religious field
Dutch society went through many changes after the Second World War, not least in the religious field. The declining participation within the traditional Christian churches and the emergence of new religions and religious experiences radically changed the Dutch religious landscape.

The biggest religions
By far the largest religions are Christianity with 2.2 billion adherents and Islam with 1.7 billion adherents (2010 figures). Both religions are still growing in numbers. The growth of Islam is proportionately faster than the growth of the world population. The third major religion is called Hinduism with about 1 billion believers. This religion is found in India, almost the most populous country in the world. The fourth major religion is Buddhism with about 500 million believers. These 4 beliefs together make up about 84% of the world’s population. The rests are the non-believers and adherents of the smaller religions. The number of non-religious people is estimated at over 1 billion. They mainly live in Europe, China, and countries like North Korea.

An end to compartmentalization
The rise of the welfare state and new mass media such as television caused a declining interest in organized religion from the second half of the 1950s. Earlier in the twentieth century, church attendance and community membership had declined, but now things were moving very quickly. In the 1960s and 1970s, compartmentalized society largely came to an end.

Demolition of churches
All Christian churches had to deal with shrinking membership and declining church attendance. This decline in church membership was particularly great in the Reformed Church. The decline in church attendance partly resulted in many church buildings being demolished or given a new purpose. Church organizations reacted differently. In 1956 the Catholic Church established a separate diocese of Rotterdam for South Holland. Recently, the Protestant churches decided to join forces: in 2004 the Protestant Church of the Netherlands (PKN) was founded.

New religions
Where traditional religions lost their members, new religious communities were also formed in the Western world. For example, some of the ‘uncovered’ South Hollanders focused on new (often non-ecclesiastical) forms of religious experience.

Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam
A greater development, however, was the increase in originally ‘foreign’ believers, due to the arrival of immigrants from the former colonies, guest workers from the Mediterranean, and refugees from developing countries. Thus, communities of Buddhists, Hindus, and Orthodox Christians were created in South Holland. The largest community of newcomers was Muslims, who made up about 5 percent of the population in 2000. Places of worship are also being built for these new faith groups. The first Dutch mosque was in The Hague and dates from 1955.

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