Norway Religion and Languages

By | March 5, 2021

According to franciscogardening, Norway is a Nordic nation located in Northern Europe. It has a population of approximately 5.4 million people and covers an area of 385,203 square kilometers. The capital city is Oslo, which is also the largest city in the country. The official language of Norway is Norwegian but other languages such as English and Sami are also spoken. Norway has a long history as an independent state with strong ties to Denmark, Sweden, and other Nordic countries. Its economy relies mainly on oil production and services, supplemented by fishing and manufacturing. With a GDP of $454 billion USD in 2020, Norway remains one of the wealthiest countries in Europe.

Religion in Norway

Christianity has a special position in Norway, but religious life has become increasingly complex and diverse. It is characterized by secularization, new forms of religiosity, and increased influx of persons with a religious affiliation other than the Christian, or of other forms of Christianity than the Evangelical-Lutheran direction.

Until 2012, the Norwegian Church was a state church in Norway. According to Countryaah, the state church system was abolished in 2012, but evangelical Lutheran Christianity still holds a special position in Norway. This special position is expressed in the Constitution. It says: “All inhabitants of the kingdom have free religious practice. The Norwegian Church, an evangelical Lutheran church, remains Norway’s national church and as such is supported by the state. ” The special position is also expressed in the school system and in that the majority – about 71.5 percent – of the Norwegian population is registered as members of the Norwegian church as of 2017 according to figures from Statistics Norway.

As of 2016, members of the faith and life-belief communities who received support outside the Norwegian Church made up about 12 percent of the population.

Christianity in Norway

The Norwegian church

Characteristic of religious practice in the Norwegian Church over the past decades is that the nominal support for the church has been high, while participation in church activities is low. As of the 1990s, well over 80 percent of children born were baptized within the Norwegian Church, while just over 10 percent attend church services or other Christian meetings once a month or more. However, baptism rates have also dropped in recent years, and have remained below 60 percent since 2014.

The gap between the number of members of the Norwegian Church and the actual participation in the church in everyday life can be explained as so-called private religiousness, or personal religiousness, according to the sociology of religion. Several scholars in the field of religion have pointed to this as a widespread feature of the development of the Norwegian religion in recent decades. This does not necessarily mean that religion becomes less important to the individual, but that participation in common, organized religious activities and rituals has lost support.

Other Christian faiths

The Catholic Church is in a growing church. In 2016, just under 145,000 Catholics were registered in three church districts: Oslo Catholic Diocese, Trondheim diocese and Tromsø diocese. The real number of Catholics in the country is probably a good deal higher.

The number of Methodists in Norway is around 10,500, and the growth in this religious community has stagnated in recent years. The largest of the Christian Free Churches are Pentecostal churches. They have a looser national organization than the other free churches, but operate with an official membership of about 40,000 children and adults. Other major Free Churches include the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church in Norway, which has just under 19,000 registered members and the Norwegian Baptist community which has about 10,300 registered members). The figures are taken from Statistics Norway’s overview of religious and religious communities outside the Norwegian church as of 2016.

Other faiths and beliefs

In the 1970s and 1980s, the main challenger to the state church was the so-called life -view humanism, organized in the Human-Ethical League. The Human-Ethical Confederation has made its mark especially through alternative rituals for Christians such as humanist confirmation and humanistic burial, and by fighting for an alternative life-education teaching in the school. As of 2016, the union has about 89,000 members according to its own figures.

The other world religions have also become increasingly visible in the Norwegian public during the last decades. This applies primarily to Islam, but also to Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism.

Islam in Norway

In 2018, there are just over 200,000 Muslims in Norway (SSB), and of these, about 150,000 are members of a mosque or Islamic organization. The total number must also be calculated on the basis of statistics on immigration from countries with a predominantly Muslim population. Many have moved to Norway, but some have also converted. The largest proportion of Muslims came to Norway during the 1970s and 1980s. Sunni Islam is the dominant direction among Norwegian Muslims, but there are also less Shia Muslim groups. Within both directions there are several smaller groups. Most of the mosques in Norway are located in the Oslo area.

Buddhism and Hinduism in Norway

In Norway as of 2016, there were 19,000 Buddhists who had been registered as members of Buddhist faith communities. The number of people with a Buddhist background or affiliation is higher because one does not need to be registered as a member of a Buddhist religious community to be a good Buddhist. The largest group is Vietnamese, and they have their main temple in Lørenskog. The Buddhist Association is a unifying body for many Buddhist organizations and represents the Buddhists to the Norwegian authorities. The number of Hindusregistered in Hindu associations is around 9000 as of 2016. It is not common in Hindu country of origin for Hindus to be registered as members of temples they visit. Nor is Norway a member of a temple organization to be a good Hindu. Such a scheme of registering members for the payment of state aid that exists in Norway is unfamiliar. The total number of Hindus is higher than that recorded by the temples together, probably about twice as high. There are around 10 Hindu temples in Norway. The majority of Buddhists and Hindus have come to Norway from the 1960s onwards. The figures are taken from Statistics Norway in 2017.

Judaism in Norway

The debate about the Jews’ access to the kingdom played an important role in the Norwegian public in the 1840s, and the Constitution’s ban on Jews was lifted after the third reading in the Storting in 1851. The Mosaic Faith Society was founded in Oslo 1892, and the Trondheim religious community was founded in 1905. At the beginning of World War II, the number of Jews in Norway was approximately 1800. A large number of these were killed during the Holocaust. The survivors had to rebuild their lives and their churches.

As of 2017, the two Jewish churches, both of which belong to the modern Orthodox direction in today’s Judaism, had around 770 members in total. The Hasidic Order, Chabad Lubavitch, now has a rabbi in Oslo who also gathers many for his various events, many of the participants also being members of the Mosaic Faith Society. Non-Orthodox directions such as Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism also have followers in Norway, but have not yet established permanent organizations or groups. Many Norwegian Jews are not affiliated with any religious community, so the number of Jews in Norway is unclear. Most of the Jews living in Norway today were also born in Norway.

State Church and secularism in Norway

Until May 21, 2012, Norway belonged to an ever-smaller group of states in the world that adhered to an established or official religion, ie a state church system. The State Church system was enshrined in the text of the Constitution of 1814, where in Section 2 it was mentioned that the Evangelical-Lutheran religion is “the public religion of the State.” The paragraph has now been amended to instead affirm the state’s values ​​as “our Christian and humanistic heritage”. Section 4 of the Constitution requires the King to confess to “the Evangelical Lutheran religion”. Originally it was also called that the King was obliged to enforce and protect it. 1

Freedom of religion and the state church

However, although a declaration of religious freedom was not enshrined in the Constitution in 1814, it did not mean that the constitutionalists in the Eidsvolds Assembly believed that everyone had to share “the faith of the state”. The exception was Catholic monks, Jews and Jesuits, who were forbidden to enter the kingdom under the same law.

The Constitution of 1814 establishes what has been characterized as a confessional state in Norway. 2 The strong precedence given such a system of belief or life under such a system means that it is doubtful whether this can be characterized as a secular state in any genuine sense. Until the Dissenter Act was passed in 1845, it was not allowed to establish religious communities outside the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Norway.

However, it is worth noting that the term state church in a Norwegian context is of far more recent date: It was not until 1919 that this concept was incorporated into the Constitution in section 27 (2) on ecclesiastical government. 3 According to this provision, only members of the Council of State who “professed themselves to the public religion of the State” could participate in the proceedings of matters relating to the “State Church.” Section 12 (2) of the Constitution, passed at the same time, also required that at least half of the members of the government profess to be “the public religion of the state”. The state church model differs from the confessional state model “in that it, on a principle level, gains the protection of the freedom of religion and life of all individuals and groups”. 4According to researchers, Norway is “a country that essentially respects individuals’ religious or religious beliefs”. 5

With the establishment of a grant scheme for religious and religious communities outside the Norwegian church, which was first adopted by the Storting in 1969, an important step was taken towards state formal and economic equal treatment of religious and religious communities in Norway. This regulation gives all registered religious and religious communities with more than 500 registered members and a membership register the right to state financial support per member, which corresponds to what the state church receives per member. 6 The Norwegian scheme in this field is in many ways in a special position internationally, since also the Human-Ethical Federation (which has had such equality as a central part of its program for a number of years) since 1981 has been eligible for support under this scheme. 7

Reassessment of the State Church

At the initiative of the Church Council, in 1998 a public committee was set up in The Norwegian Church under the leadership of the clergyman Trond Bakkevig, who was to assess the state church scheme. When the so-called Bakkevig I Committee delivered its recommendation in 2002, the committee, among other things, advocated changing the clauses in the Constitution which referred to the Norwegian Church and the Royal House’s relationship with the Norwegian Church as part of promoting equality between different faiths and life-society in Norway. The committee also proposed a significant transfer of power from the state to the church’s own organs, for example in connection with appointments of bishops.

When the Gjønnes committee was appointed by the Ministry of Church and Culture under the Bondevik II government in March 2004, it was among other things to investigate whether “the state church system should be continued, reformed or discontinued”. 8 A clear majority of the members of the Gjønnes Committee recommended the liquidation of the state church system, as well as the introduction of a new clause in the Constitution which should contain a special reference to Christian and humanistic values. The Bakkevig II Committee, which presented its recommendation in 2008, proposed in line with the recommendations of the previous Bakkevig I Committee, comprehensive reforms to democratize the state church in parallel with reducing the state’s power and influence on the church’s organs and government.

Separation of state and church

In a broad cross-political settlement between all major political parties, the Storting, in line with the Bakkevig II Committee’s recommendations, decided to transfer the responsibility for appointing bishops and clergy from ecclesiastical ministers to the church’s own organs. As part of the settlement, a new and reformulated Constitutional Paragraph 2 was also adopted, which states that “the value base remains the Christian and humanistic heritage” and that the Constitution should “safeguard democracy, the rule of law and human rights”. The new Constitution Paragraph 16 further states that all the inhabitants of the kingdom “have free religious practice”, that the Norwegian Church – as an evangelical Lutheran church – “remains the national church of Norway” and as such “is supported by the state”, but that all faiths and life-vision communities should be “fully supported”.9 These constitutional amendments came into force on 21 May 2012.

The state church settlement of 2008 represented no liquidation of the state church system, and the Norwegian church was still in a special position vis-à-vis the state in relation to other religious and religious beliefs. The new purpose clause for the Norwegian school, passed in the Odelstinget in the Storting, came into force on January 1, 2009. Emphasis is placed on “fundamental values ​​in Christian and humanistic heritage and tradition” and “values ​​that are also expressed in different religious and life views., and which is rooted in human rights »pulled the section in the same direction as the new constitutional sections 2 and 16. 10 Tore Lindholm, associate professor at the Norwegian Center for Human Rights, were among those who criticized the new constitutional clauses for discriminating against Norwegian citizens who are neither Christians nor humanists. 11

Formal liquidation of the state church system

As of May 21, 2012, the Evangelical-Lutheran religion is no longer the public religion of Norway, and the King of Norway is no longer the head of the Church. Nevertheless, the king is required to belong to the Norwegian Church. As a consequence of the constitutional amendments in 2012, the Norwegian Church as of 1 January 2017 is a separate legal entity separated from the state with the Church Assembly as the supreme representative body. Priests, bishops, staff of diocesan councils and the national ecclesiastical councils, who have been civil servants and civil servants, have been transferred to the national court in Norway after the turn of the year 2017.

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Although the state church system has been formally dissolved, the Norwegian Church is still in a special position compared to other religious communities in Norway. In practice, the church is fully financed from public budgets (state and municipality), and it is inscribed in section 16 of the Constitution: “The Norwegian Church, an evangelical Lutheran church, remains the national church of Norway and as such is supported by the state.” The Norwegian Church is today the largest religious community in Norway.

Norway Population by Religion