Hi fellow skeptics!
My name is Sol, and I'm a French Atheist. I have lived in England (Reading, Berkshire) for about 4 years, so I won't have any trouble understanding you :).
Today I want to tell you about religion in my country, France. First, let's start with the demographics. (figures for 2006 -- in bold, the figures regarding the non-religious)
- Catholicism: 51 % (16% less than 12 years before), which are made up of
- Practicing Catholics: 27 % of the French Population
- Agnostic Catholics (doubt the existence of God): 15 % of the French Population
- Atheistic Catholics (don't believe in God, but follow catholic traditions like baptism, Easter, etc.): 9 % of the French Population
- No Religion : 31 % (8% more than 12 years before)
- Other / No opinion / did not answer: 6 %
- Muslims: 4 %
- Other Christians (unspecified): 4 %
- Protestantism: 3 %
- Judaism: <1 %
- Buddhism: between 0% and 1%
That is, at least 40% of the French population are atheists. If you add up the agnostics and the 'did not answer'/'no opinion' (whatever that means), you can get as high as 61%. And, to be honest and from my own experience, I have never met a religious person of my age group, and very few religious people altogether. That is probably because my class, my personality, etc. make that I tend to hang out with irreligious people more, but still... I'm pretty sure that every single person in this forum who is living in the US has met several religious people in their lives lol :)
So yeah, France is a fairly secular country. It does feel nice not to be bothered by street preachers, door-to-door preachers (we do get a few Jehovah's Witness, TBH) not to have to go to church (socially speaking), not to have to hide the fact that you're an atheist (and actually, it's when you're religious that people are going to look at you like you're weird). I really don't envy the Americans among you for that. But yeah, a secular western society is more than possible : it is happening pretty much everywhere in Europe, so keep hoping and fighting !
Back on tracks. There is a problem in France, due to the very secular nature of the country. As is the case pretty much everywhere in the world, the statistics for Islam are on the rise. Religious Muslims have more children, a large portion of immigration into France comes from Muslim countries, etc.
And it isn't a problem in itself; I believe that anyone has the right to be as deluded as they want, as long as they don't force it on others, or do harm to others because of it or in its name. Personally, I'm not very reasonable either! I have been smoking for 15 years even though I know it's going to kill me, and even though the prospect of death terrifies me. That's just one example.
No, the problem is that we in France have been used to not criticizing specific religions, for several reasons:
- Judaism cannot be criticized, mainly because of the French collaboration with Nazi Germany during WW2, especially the Vichy government's helping Nazis deport Jews during the Holocaust. The scars that this part of History has left on France and its relationship to Judaism are very deep, and most people daren't say anything against Israel, for instance. Anti-Zionists are called anti-Semites. Actually, the mere fact that I'm stating these facts could make people call me antisemitic. (and to be honest, there are a lot of neo-Nazis, revisionists and anti-Semites amongst the anti-Zionists, so it's not safe to associate with them).
- As is the case all over the world, Islam is "protected" from criticism by the fear of retaliation. A lot of politicians, left- and right-wing, support the Muslims in this, and have stated that it is should be made illegal for anyone to depict the Prophet, for instance. Some judges have created outstanding, sharia-like jurisprudences in some court cases in France: for instance, a Muslim man has won his divorce trial because his wife wasn't a virgin, as she had told him she was, when she married him; as this is forbidden by the Sharia laws, she lost everything. The French law was very compliant.
In short, one cannot criticize Islam, lest he be called a racist.
- Christianity is the most common religion in France, but most people aren't practicing their religion and just call themselves Catholics for the sake of tradition. Most of my mates were baptized, when they were young, because "the grand-parents insisted", "for the ceremony with the family", or for such reasons.
Either way, it is a dying religion. But the ones who are still practicing Catholics are very hard-core indeed! The kind that blow abortion clinics up, and (threaten to) kill the doctors, etc. Yes, we do have a few nutters here too !
To sum up, France isn't a religious country, but the fact that France has very effectively separated politics and religion has had a side effect : we over-compensate!
It seems that because the State doesn't have anything to say about religion, no-one dares to express themselves and raise their voices against atrocities and barbarisms that are committed in the name of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, by fear of being called racist (if you criticize Islam), Nazi (if you criticize Judaism), or communist (if you criticize Christianity), etc. It seems that every time I try to state that my being an Atheist (and an Anti-Theist) means that not only I am opposed to Christianity, but also to Judaism and Islam, then I am called intolerant.
I thus wonder what is it I can do to help make French society a better place?
I guess I am intolerant then. There are things that one should not tolerate.
Indeed ! In France, you get the fascist extreme-right wing politicians who, because they're just good ol' fashion racists, rant against Muslims (they've got the right arguments for very, very wrong reasons indeed), and then you get the leftists who say "everything is great, nothing bad is happening, Muslims are all nice and friendly, let's have some cake and orange juice. Hallal cake of course" (wrong arguments, but their intentions are alright, surely. You can't blame them for wanting peace, I guess).
And then you get the Muslims themselves, who either live their lives very peacefully (and are in that very indistinguishable from the "atheist Catholics" that I mentioned: they're called Muslims, but really it's just tradition, to please grandpa); or are devotees and are more than happy to call the French racists whenever they're criticized.
The worst part is that the Muslims are gonna "win", if the Left keeps avoiding the issue, and the right keeps being so racist on top of it all...
Ah well. I guess we French people haven't got it all good either, over here.
Haha Sounds better then here in the us atleast you don't have people constantly shoving their religious beliefs down your throat on a daily basis.
Do your statistics come from a census or a poll ? Either way I like your definition of an Atheistic or Agnostic religious person and I think these people exist in Britain as well. There has been a recent national census in Britain which inquired about religious affiliation but did not ask the reasons so I cannot give you a statistic on these 'veiled Atheists and Agnostics'.
So secular France over-compensates itself and people are uncritical of religion or too scared to say anything about it ? What do you mean when you say the Muslims will win if the 'left' keeps avoiding the issue ? What is the issue ? What will the muslims win ? I am certainly not racist but I do not have a problem with right wing politics.
I get the impression that the fucking muslims are causing trouble again. If I didn't smoke fine Moroccan hashish I probably wouldn't have any muslim friends either !
In the words of Napoleon Bonaparte 'La supériorité de Mahomet est d'avoir fondé une religion en se passant de l'enfer.' I am not sure what he means but he was certainly prepared to criticise religion.
Perhaps another Napoleon Bonaparte will emerge from the French right wing ? I don't know.