Church Goers More Altruistic

Every two years The Netherlands Institute for Social Research ¦ SCP takes the temperature of Dutch society. How do the Dutch think about themselves? Are they happy? How do they see the future? How do they spend their free time? Are they religious? What is the quality of life? The outcomes sometimes seem contradictory. On average Dutch men and women feel quite happy. They have money to spend, and will see old age, but in the same time a mere 25 percent of the population is optimistic about the future; 60 percent has serious worries. While people who go to church more often are more socially active, Church membership is down.
An interesting finding, it was something new to me, is that generally speaking the trust in Churches is low. Over the last ten years the Churches swapped places with the Dutch Government and political parties, but in 2010 for the first time they came in last position. The focus on sexual abuse allegedly contributed to this. Radio, police and army are the most trusted social institutions. In the same time, the Dutch quite willingly donated money (2010: € 1.9 billion), preferably towards Church and ‘non-religious beliefs’ oriented charities (47 percent). There is, however, a clear link between altruistic behaviour and church attendance. Those who go to church at least once a month are more inclined to do voluntary work, and to help their neighbours and their next of kin. Furthermore, they are more socially involved than average. Between 2000-2009 Church membership went down from 7.3 to 6 million (minus 19 percent).
The findings were published in The Social State of the Netherlands 2011 (Dutch version/15 November 2011). A translation into English is undoubtedly forthcoming. If you are more interested in how Europe is doing, please consult the Atlas of European Values: on Friday 25 November 2011 the European Values Study (Tilburg University, Netherlands) will present the second edition of their very interesting atlas. (FH)