Religion and state

The Dutch attach, in general, a great value to humanity. Most values they respect are also the ones their churches promote to them (but they do not agree to all values of their churches). Actually they want, quite simple, that everyone lives an enjoyable life.
The way they try to reach that goal makes many foreigners think the Netherlands are a Christian nation, but “is that true” is a good question. So it is usefull to look at some facts!


Year                     1966                  1979                  1996                  2006                 2015
Roman Catholic    35%                  29%                   21%                   16%                 12%

Protestants PNK   25%                  22%                   19%                   13%                   9%
Protestants                                                                                4%                   4% Calvinists               7%                    6%                     7%                      6%                   7% Outside Church   33%                   43%                    53%                   61%                 68%

* In Protestant churches, the power is in the hands of local church members. Among those local church administrations grew a collaboration under the name “Together On the Road.” Many Protestant churches, but of course not all, step by step (along that road), merged into one church organization – the PKN (Protestantse Kerk in Nederland) Protestant Church in the Netherlands. This is also reflected in the statistics since 2006.

* Since 2006, an absolute majority (2/3) of the Dutch is no longer Christian. With some delay, this is along the tiers of government (democracy) felt throughout society.
* In 2015, 50% of the Dutch over 18 years of age, donot believe in any god.
Source: Central Office for the Statistics (CBS) in nrc: 23-12-2016.

Meaning of memberships

Grouping              Atheists                Agnostic’s             Somethingists         Theists
Calvinists                  1%                         5%                        11%                       83% Protestants               1%                       14%                        34%                       51%

Roman Catholics      7%                       30%                        46%                       17%
Non-Christians         1%                        31%                        52%                       16%*)
Spirituals                25%                        42%                        32%                        1%
Secularists             46%                        42%                        12%                        0%
*) inclusive ca. 5% muslims (nrc.: 15-12-2016).

* Atheists do not believe in a higher power, they reject the idea of such a power.

* Agnostics do not know if there is a higher power or not, it does not matter for them.
* Somethingists do believe that there is some higher power(s).
* Theists do believe in one God .

Source (2016):
“God in the Netherlands” on behalf of the Catholic Radio Omroep (KRO).

* Ton Bernts (Catholic University, Nijmegen) and
* Joantine Berghuijs (Protestant Free University, Amsterdam).

Politics in the Netherlands

A brief History:
After the France times (Napoleon) rebuilding the nation was not an easy job at all in the Netherlands:

* In 1815 the kingdom of the Netherlands was formed. It included then the northern provinces, the southern provinces and Luxembourg. (Some borders had to be defined again).
* In 1830 the catholic southern provinces splitted away and formed the country Belgium. * In 1870-1871 there was the war between France and Prussia. (The Prussian king was crowned to the emperor of Germany in France!).
* In 1890 Luxemburg splitted away (today half of it is a province of Belgium, half of it is a country on its own).
* In 1914-1918 There was World War I. The Netherlands (ca. 7 million inhabitants) had to take care of many refugees (only from Belgium there came ca. 1 million of them). The Russian revolution made many Dutchmen (and their pension funds) poor as all the investments they had in the east of Europe (mainly Russia, Russian railways) got lost. Trade almost stopped.

* In 1929, after WWI, the great depression followed.
* In 1940, after that great depression, WWII started.
* In 1945, after WWII, the Dutch started to leave the “world”.
* In 1948, the Dutch East-Indies (today Indonesia) left the Dutch kingdom.
* In 1953 Severe flooding’s in the Netherland, after that, the Delta-plan started.
* In 1963 Dutch Guinea left the Dutch kingdom.
* In 1965 the Dutch were a happy nation in a totally renewed country.
* In 1983 Complete separation between church and state (except in education !).
* In 1985 Suriname left the the Dutch kingdom.
* In 2010 The Dutch Antilleans (Southern America) refused full independency.

* After 1948 the Netherlands are no longer the biggest muslim country in the world!
* The Netherlands became a member of the European Community (as a founder state).

Education (after ca. 1830):
Step by step reorganizing the Netherlands again there grew a new conflict between “the churches and the state”. Most visual was the struggle about education (and its financial consequences). The majority of the Dutch people wanted the education in the hands of a neutral board (and to have a quality control by the State and/or provinces and/or the local counsels). To fight that “battle” churches formed political parties to support their ideas.

This fight was frozen because WWI started and internal conflicts were not opportune at that moment. This question was dividing the Netherlands. So there also came not only protestant schools, catholic schools, neutral schools, etc. but also protestant, catholic unions, neutral unions, etc. The same happened on other aspects like libraries, sports clubs, political parties, labour unions, etc.

That had as a side effect that also the political system in the Netherlands changed very much. The bottom-up democracy (a counselor represents his voters) changed much into the direction of a top-down system (a counselor represents his club/party). By this, almost all political parties get less and less members. The only political groups that are still growing are the local parties. They are called local because they do not want and do not have party members in provincial or national parliaments. So no one that tells them what to do except their local voters.

Today politics, in the Netherlands, is almost as complicated as the religions. To keep it simple (to build a structure) it is possible to divide every political party in: right wing, centre- and left wing groups. Every one of these three groups can be divided in the same way again. This way we get 9 clusters (and one for the one-issue parties):

Left-left; Left-Centre; left-right; Centre-Left; Centre-Centre; Centre-Right; Right-Left; Right-Centre; Right-Right. All remaining (small) political parties, having hardly any influence, are in this way seen as a 10th cluster. The present (2016) houses of the parliament show, from Right to Left, the following political spectrum:

Seats (total)        150                          75
.                    Lower house       Upper house
.                   12                             9                      Freedom party (no members!), V.V.D.                   40                           13                      Liberal Capitalists,
D’66                     12                           10                      Social Liberals.

Right                     64                           32

                    Lower house     Upper house
C.D.A                   13                          12                      Catholics & Protestants,
C.U.                       5                            3                      Calvinists,
S.G.P.                    3                            2                      Conservative Calvinists.

Christian              21                          17

                    Lower house     Upper House
P.v/d.A.               35                            8                       Labourparty,

S.P.                     15                            9                       Socialists,
Groen-Links          4                            4                       Green party,

Left                      55                           21

                    Lower house     Upper House
P.v/d.D.                 2                            2                       Party for animals,

50 plus                  1                            2                       Pensioners party,
Kuzu & Öztruk      2                            –                       Turkish party (no members), Bontes & v. Klaveren 2                      –                        (no members),
Houwers               1                            –                       (no members),
Klein                     1                            –                       (no members),
Van Vliet               1                            –                       (no members),
Monasch               1                           —
                       (no members, was P. v/d A.),
Independed          0                            1                       Local parties (no members).

Small groups      11                            5

In the lower house, the present coalition (VVD and P.v/d.A.) has 75 seats (on a total of 150 seats, so just no majority).

In the upper house the present coalition has only 22 seats (on a total of 75 seats, a minority by 16!). So the cabinet needs support from opposition groups to get a law accepted.

Data from the websites of the lower- and of the upper house of Dutch parliament.

* This is the the northern (Dutch-speaking) part of Belgium.
* According to the NRC newspaper (September 6, 2016) over 250 of the ca.1800 catholic churches in Flanders will be closed and
 The Flemish priests are, on average, around 70 years of age.


Middle Eastern Christians in 2015:

Country             Millions 2015        % 1900          % 2015

Bahrain                  0.18                           –                    –
Egypt                     8.4                        17.5                 7.5
Iraq                        0.35                        7.0                 1.0
Iran                        0.29                           –                    –

Israel                      0.19                      8.0                  2.5
Yemen                    0,04                         –                     –
Jordan                    0.17                         –                     –
Kuwait                    0.32                         –                     –

Lebanon                 1.7                     77.5                30.0
Oman                     0.18                        –                      –
Palestine                0.07                     6.5                  2.0
Quartar                   0.22                        –                     –

Saudi Arabia           1.3                      7.5                  4.0
Syria                       0.93                   18.0                 3.0
Turkey                    0.2                           –                     –
V.A.Emirates          1.2                        0.0               13.0

* It is no wonder that among the first wave refugees there were many Christians. If they stay and be built, that may slow down the decline in numbers of members of the House with a Christian background.

Source citations in NRC, April 28, 2017, from: World Christian Database: G.Zurlo.

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