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Churches in Dutch: Causes of Religious Disaffiliation in The Netherlands, 1937–1995

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The Netherlands has become one of the most secular countries in the world. A vast majority of the Dutch people does not attend church regularly and more than half its population is not affiliated with any church at all. In this study we set out to test which individual and contextual characteristics affect religious disaffiliation. We deduced several hypotheses from theories on social integration and rationalization. To test these hypotheses we used retrospective data containing information on events that took place in the lives of our respondents since adolescence. These data were analysed using a discrete-time event history model. We found that the higher the level of rationalization in a certain year, the more likely people were to disaffiliate. This effect was particularly strong for young people. Moreover, by introducing rationalization in the model we found a number of spurious relationships that at first glance seemed to be causal. Not surprisingly, respondents were more likely to disaffiliate in cases where their partners were nonreligious. However, as respondents and their partners presumably are effected equally by rationalization, we cannot but conclude that the process of rationalization is mainly responsible for the process of religious disaffiliation that takes place in The Netherlands.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Publication date: December 1, 2001

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