How immigration is transforming the religious landscape in France

How immigration is transforming the religious landscape in France

INSEE published on Thursday March 30 an impressive survey of the immigrant population and of immigrant origin in France. Among the many data is a detailed study of the religious affiliation and religious practice of immigrants in metropolitan France, which dispels some received ideas.

Evangelism is growing faster than Islam

First, Muslims do not represent an overwhelming majority. Their number is significant (43% of the total) but a very large number of Christians also make up immigration to France (31%). Furthermore, 21% of new arrivals say they do not belong to any religion.

In society as a whole, Christianity remains the first religion: in 2019-2020, 29% of respondents (aged 18 to 59) said they were Catholic. However, this proportion has fallen sharply: according to the previous study covering 2008-2009 and 18-49 year olds, 43% claimed this rite. Islam confirms its second place: 10% of respondents claim to belong to it (a slight increase).

The most spectacular progression is found among people affiliating themselves to a Christian denomination other than Catholicism. Evaluated at 2.5% ten years ago, they are now 9% in 2019-2020. “This evolution is to be linked to the progression of evangelism in Africa, estimates the sociologist and demographer François Héran, associated with the Collège de France. It is easily observed in the field, particularly in the Paris region. » More than 40% of immigrants from Central Africa say they belong to a Christian denomination other than Catholicism.

Erasure of religions

At the same time, this study highlights the growing secularization in France. Among 18-49 year olds, 53% of the population does not identify with any religion (+ 8 points in ten years). “There is indeed a clear disaffiliation from religion, coupled with a growing misunderstanding of it, analyzes François Héran. This is explained by the arrival of the second generation of people born into a family without religion. »

This erasure concerns more people without any migratory ancestry (62% of 18-49 year olds in 2019-2020 compared to 50% in 2008-2009). In fact, less than one in five immigrants declares ” without religion “ – one in four among the descendants of immigrants.

A decline, albeit limited, of religiosity between immigrants and their descendants can be observed, regardless of religion or country of origin. The phenomenon is particularly visible for Muslim people of North African origin: if 90% of Algerian immigrants say they are Muslim, less than 70% of their descendants are. “The fact of living in France, where there is no longer the collective constraint to respect the rites, plays an important role”, emphasizes François Héran.

The transmission of religion is stronger among Muslims

However, INSEE notes that “immigrants from countries with a Muslim tradition are the most religious”. Thus 58% of Muslims pray at least once a week, compared to 31% of non-Catholic Christians and 15% of Catholics.

Similarly, the transmission of religion within the family unit is stronger among Muslims: 91% of them say they belong to the religion of their parents, against 67% of Catholics. So many data that suggest a transformation of the French religious landscape.

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