The Low Countries

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Notwithstanding certain similarities, Belgium and the Netherlands have different national histories. With this in mind, this chapter is divided into four sections: early history, pillarization, secularization, and Islam and new religious developments. From its foundation in 1830, Belgium has been predominantly Catholic, whereas the Netherlands claimed to be a Protestant nation, notwithstanding a large minority of Catholics. At the end of the nineteenth century self-contained worlds (‘pillars’) emerged in both countries. Catholics, and in the Netherlands Dutch orthodox Protestants as well, used their many-branched pillars of societal organizations to emancipate and mobilize their constituencies. In the late 1960s both countries the pillars started to crumble and the number of non-affiliated rose to 42 per cent in Belgium, 68 per cent in the Netherlands, and 27 per cent in Luxembourg. Notwithstanding the immigration of large groups of Christians and Muslims (presently some 5 per cent in Belgium and the Netherlands) and a flourishing market in spirituality, both countries have become very secularized. A final note looks in more detail at the situation in Luxembourg.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Religion and Europe
EditorsGrace Davie, Lucian Leustean
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9780191872402
ISBN (Print)9780198834267
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2021

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