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Religion in France - statistics & facts

In May 2021, the candidate for the departmental elections, Sara Zemmahi, had her nomination withdrawn from the party La République en Marche, after the publication of an election poster on which she was wearing a hijab. This topic follows years of debate and polemics about the wearing of religious symbols in public spaces, and illustrates how the principle of secularism, a fundamental constitutional value, continues to be a source of controversy in France. Issues related to religious matters seem to be overwhelming political discourse and news channels. From the Islamic veil to the organization of Muslim worship, to equal marriage for all, they have brought back the question of the articulation between politics and religion, between church and state, into the public debate.

Decline in religious practices

Although atheism is gaining ground, France, a nation built around the principle of freedom of worship, is a country with a predominantly Catholic Christian tradition, but is also home to Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. With more than five million believers, half of whom are French citizens, Islam is recognized as the second religion of France. As is the case with Catholics, the practice of religious traditions is far from being assiduous among Muslims, of whom only about a third declare going to the mosque every week. The same is true among Jews, of whom more than 60 percent consider themselves to be practicing little or not at all.
Moreover, religious celebrations have become less and less popular: the number of baptisms is constantly decreasing, as well as religious marriages. This phenomenon may be explained by the progressive and constant loss of influence of the church since the beginning of the 20th century. Indeed, since 1789, the separation of the state and, later in 1905, secularism are founding values of France, still recognized by a majority of citizens, even if it is in danger, according to most of them.

Tensions in the relationship with religion

Many tensions have developed around religion. After several series of violent attacks by people claiming to be Muslims, the rejection of certain faiths is increasingly felt. Between polemics on the burkini and on the wearing of the veil in public, the places of worship are also at the heart of the debate. The question of their financing seems particularly delicate and upsetting for some.
The issue of the abrogation of the concordat system, which still exists today in Alsace-Moselle, is a good illustration of this problem. The total cost of the concordat in this region represents a sum of approximately 74 million euros per year for the state, which is paid by all French taxpayers. In 2021, more than two thirds of the French population supported the abolition of the concordat, although the inhabitants of the Alsace-Moselle region were less enthusiastic about it. The tensions surrounding this regional particularity suggest that the debate over the definition of secularism in France is still far from over.

Interesting statistics

In the following 7 chapters, you will quickly find the 35 most important statistics relating to "Religion in France".

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