The number of people in the Netherlands describing themselves as atheist or agnostic has outstripped those who are religious for the first time, the government’s socio-cultural think-tank SCP said on Thursday.
Various surveys show that around half the population is agnostic or atheist and that is double the number since the first surveys in the 1960s and 1070s, the SCP said.
At the same time, religion and religious communities are losing influence in society and in decision making, the SCP says. It points out that this has had positive effects, in terms of both personal freedom and attitudes to sexual diversity.
Yet there are also warnings. ‘Instead of looking for the meaning of life, individual non-believers look for meaning in their own lives,’ the SCP said. They do this through personal development, taking care of others, or by looking for intense experiences.
‘This can lead to greater mental pressure and a possible increase in problems associated with this, such as burnout,’ the SCP said.
In addition, the agency warns that there is an increasing lack of understanding between Christians, Muslims and other religious communities and those who are not religious.
It recommends government policy focus on boosting understanding and in creating a society in which everyone can participate and is valued.