Interesting article regarding religion in Belgium and the implications of greater religiosity among Muslims:

All that is part of the background to a study of religious attitudes among Francophone Belgians, conducted by the Observatory of Religion and Secularism, a helpful resource for the study of faith in Europe.  Respondents came in equal numbers from Wallonia, the country’s Gallic-oriented south, and the Francophone majority in Brussels.

The pollsters were surprised by how many respondents still professed some attachment to a religion. Among all respondents, 20% called themselves practising Catholics and 43% non-practising Catholics; 6% were practising Muslims and 1% non-practising Muslims. With other religions accounting for a few points each, that left 26% who called themselves atheist or agnostic. Jean-Philippe Schreiber, a professor of religous studies who co-commissioned the poll, said a remarkably high number of Belgians “claimed a religious identity” even if it did not affect their behaviour much. That certainly applied to loosely affiliated Catholics; and it might also be true that not every respondent who identified with Islam actually prayed and fasted as the rules lay down.

Then turn to Brussels, some parts of which host large communities of Moroccan and Turkish immigrants, mostly from religiously conservative regions of those countries. Among respondents in the city, practising Catholics amounted to 12% and non-practising ones to 28%. Some 19% were active Muslims and another 4% were of Muslim identity without practising the faith. The atheist/agnostic camp came to 30%.

Among all respondents, levels of active adherence to Catholicism seemed to diminish dramatically with age, while the practice of Islam increased correspondingly. Thus among respondents aged 55 and over, practising Catholics amounted to 30% and practising Muslims to less than 1%; but among those aged between 18 and 34, active adherence to Islam (14%) exceeded the practice of Catholicism (12%). Admittedly the sample (600 people in all) is small. But if this trend continues, practitioners of Islam may soon comfortably exceed devout Catholics not just in cosmopolitan Brussels, as is the case already, but across the whole of Belgium’s southern half.

The pollsters are struck by the fact that many Belgians retain a cultural loyalty to the Catholic faith. albeit a diminishing one. The percentage of avowedly “practising Catholics” far exceeds the numbers who actually turn up at mass, as any cleric will confirm. But one thing is pretty clear. If anything holds Belgium together through its third century of existence, Catholicism will not be the glue.