Religion in Sweden

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Religious affiliation in Sweden (2021)[1][2][3]

Eastern Orthodox (1.5%)
  Catholic Church (1.2%)
  Other Christian (0.2%)
  Islam (2.1%)
  Other religions (0.4%)
Side view of Uppsala Cathedral, the headquarters of the Church of Sweden.

Religion in Sweden has, over the years, become increasingly diverse. Christianity was the religion of virtually all of the Swedish population from the 12th to the early 20th century, but it has rapidly declined throughout the late 20th and early 21st century.[1]

Christianity came to Sweden as early as the 9th century mainly as a result of an expansion in trade. The ancient

Nordic religions were slowly replaced. Several centuries later all monarchs were Christian and Christianity became the established official religion. The church belonged to the Catholic Church until 1527 when the Swedish state church was established as a Protestant church based on Lutheran principles, following the Protestant Reformation enacted by Martin Luther which converted most of Germanic Europe.[4] The Lutheran Church of Sweden was formed and remained the official religion of the Christian state
until the turn of the 21st century.

In recent years, the Swedish religious landscape has become increasingly diverse, with Christians comprising in 2021 some 59.6% (of which 53.2% belonging to the Church of Sweden) of the total population and rising numbers of people of other religions (2.5%) and people who do not belong to any church (37.9%).[1] The Lutheran Church of Sweden – which was the state religion until 2000 – is by far the largest Christian denomination but is facing a continuous decline in registered membership down to 52.8 % of the total population in 2022[2][3] Other minor Christian denominations include Free churches, the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches,[1] while members of other religions are mostly Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews.[1]


Historical Norse religion

Gamla Uppsala, the centre of worship in Sweden until the temple was destroyed in the late 11th century.

Before the 11th century, Swedes practised

Ingold I
in 1087.

While Norse religion was officially abandoned with the

Scandinavian folklore

9th–12th century: Conversion to Catholicism

The historical Vadstena Abbey of the Catholic order of the Bridgettines, founded by Bridget of Sweden.

The oldest evidence of Christian burial sites in Sweden are dated to the 6th century, but they are very few in number. The earliest documented campaign to Christianise the Swedes was made by the monk

Archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen
, with responsibility for Christianity in the north. Around 850, he came back to Birka, where the original congregation had been shattered. Ansgar tried to reestablish it, but it only lasted a few years.

Christianity first gained a hold in

King Stenkil ascended to the throne in 1060 Christianity was firmly established throughout most of Sweden, although the people of Uppland
, and probably Sodermanland, resisted the new religion.

The last king adhering to the old religion was

folk saints and clerics were allegedly martyred as late as the 1120s, most of them in Sodermanland and Uppland. Under the reign of Eric the Saint (1150–1160) Christianity became an ideological factor of the state, and the First Swedish Crusade took place; it was a military expedition aimed at converting the Finns to Christianity and conquering Finland
as Swedish territory. (However, no archeological data or written sources seem to support the legend. The diocese and bishop of Finland are not listed among their Swedish counterparts before the 1250s). A national church of Sweden was not organized until 1164, when the first archbishop of Uppsala received his pallium from the archbishop of Lund.

Pre-Reformation Swedish Catholic religious leaders – including Bridget of Sweden, founder of the continuously functioning Catholic Vadstena Abbey – continue to be held in high regard by the population as a whole. Her nunnery at Vadstena is one of Sweden's pre-eminent tourist attractions.

16th century: Protestant Reformation; conversion to Lutheranism

Ruins of Alvastra Abbey in Ödeshög. Various ruined medieval Catholic monasteries such as this one stand as testimonies of the appropriation of Catholic properties by the Swedish state during the Protestant Reformation.

Shortly after

Canon Law
was abolished.

Originally, no changes were made to official church doctrine, and the episcopal organization was retained. Gradually, in spite of popular protests against the introduction of "Luthery", teachings were aligned with continental Lutheranism. Calvinism was, otherwise, refuted as heresy at the synod of Stockholm in 1565. In order to appease

the Holy Scriptures the sole guideline for faith, with four documents accepted as faithful and authoritative explanations of it: the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, and the unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530.[5]
The Uppsala Synod also reinstated The Swedish Church Ordinance of 1572, which remained in use until 1686.

The move put Charles at odds with the heir to the throne, his nephew Sigismund, who was raised in the Catholic faith. Although Sigismund promised to uphold Lutheranism, Duke Charles's aspirations to power led to the War against Sigismund, a power struggle that was effectively decided at the Battle of Stångebro in 1598, in favour of Charles and Protestantism.

During the era following the

Lutheran Orthodoxy, small groups of non-Lutherans, especially Calvinist Dutchmen, the Moravian Church and Walloon immigrants from the Southern Netherlands
, played a significant role in trade and industry, and were quietly tolerated as long as they kept a low profile.

17th–18th century: Conversion of the Sami, freedom for Christian minorities and Jews


Sami, who originally had their own shamanistic religion, were converted to Lutheranism by Swedish missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries. Citizens of foreign nations, mainly Russians, were granted freedom to practice Eastern Orthodox Christianity since the Treaty of Stolbovo in 1617. Anglican and Calvinist foreigners were granted freedom to practice their religions in Stockholm (1741) and Gothenburg (1747). Similar liberties were granted to Catholics in 1781, and an apostolic vicar was sent to Sweden in 1783. In 1782, with the passage of Judereglementet, Jews were allowed to settle in three cities and practice their religion, although they were not allowed to proselytize or marry Christians.[6]

18th–19th century: Crackdown on Pietism and enforcement of Lutheranism

In order to curb Pietism, several royal decrees and parliament acts were issued in the 18th century, such as the Conventicle Act and Kyrkogångsplikt lit.'church attendance duty'. They forbade Swedish citizens to engage in practices other than mandatory Lutheran Sunday Mass and daily family devotions. Without the presence of a Lutheran clergyman, public religious gatherings were forbidden. It remained illegal until 1860 for Lutheran Swedes to convert to another confession or religion.

19th–20th century: Liberalisation of all religions

In 1860 it became legal to leave the Church of Sweden for the purpose of becoming a member of another officially recognised religious denomination. From 1951, it became legal to leave the church, without providing any reason. From 1951 to 1977 all religious institutions could only be established with the permission of the Crown.


Religion, formal affiliation (in 2021)[7][1][3] Members Percent
Christianity 6,228,708 59.6%
Church of Sweden 5,563,351 53.2%
Eastern Christian Churches 160,266 1.5%
Catholic Church 126,286 1.2%
Pentecostal congregations 115,403 1.1%
Uniting Church in Sweden 111,456 1.1%
Evangelical Free Church 44,163 0.42%
Swedish Evangelical Mission 43,877 0.42%
Jehovah's Witnesses 22,188 0.21%
Swedish Alliance Mission 20,898 0.20%
Other Christians 20,820 0.20%
Non-Christian religions 261,807 2.5%
Islam 224,459 2.1%
Mandaeism 12,408 0.12%
Buddhism 12,328 0.12%
Judaism 8,153 0.08%
Alevism 4,459 0.04%
No affiliation or other religions 3,961,811 37.9%
Total[8] 10,452,326 100.0%
A temple of Chinese Buddhism in Rosersberg, Stockholm.
Church of Scientology in Malmö.

The constitution of Sweden provides for freedom of religion, and the government generally respects this right in practice. The government at all levels seeks to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private actors. The rights and freedoms enumerated in the constitution include the rights to practice one's religion and protection of religious freedom. The laws concerning religious freedoms are generally observed and enforced at all government levels and by the courts in a non-discriminatory fashion. Legal protections cover discrimination or persecution by private actors.[9]

In the early 2000s about 80% of Swedes belonged to the Church of Sweden. By the end of 2021, this figure had fallen to 53.9%.

Catholics (1.2%) and members of the Swedish Pentecostal Movement (1.1%).[1]

Eight recognized religious denominations, in addition to the Church of Sweden, raise revenues through member-contributions made through the national tax system. All recognized denominations are entitled to direct government financial support, contributions made through the national tax system, or a mix of both. Certain Christian holidays are national holidays. Individuals in the military may observe their the holidays from their own religious background, in exchange for not taking leave on public holidays.[10] There is no legal requirement for religious groups to register with the government; however, only those faith communities which are registered can receive government funding and tax exemptions.[10]

Religious education is compulsory in public schools. Parents may send their children to religious charter schools, all of which receive school vouchers, provided they adhere to government guidelines on core academic curriculum.[10] The Equality Ombudsman investigates claims of discrimination; discrimination on religious grounds is illegal.[10]


In 2017, the Pew Research Center found in their Global Attitudes Survey that 59.9% of the Swedes regarded themselves as Christians, with 48.7% belonging to the Church of Sweden, 9.5% were Unaffiliated Christians, 0.7% were Pentecostal Protestants, 0.4% were Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox and the Congregationalist were the 0.3% each. Unaffiliated people were the 35.0% divided in 18.8% Atheists, 11.9% nothing in particular and 4.3% Agnostics. Muslims were the 2.2% and members of other religions were the 2.5%.[11]

In 2016 the International Social Survey Programme found that 70.2% of the Swedish population declared belonging to a Christian denomination, with the Church of Sweden being the largest church, accounting for the 65.8% of respondents; the Free Church was the second-largest church accounting for 2.8%, Roman Catholics were 0.7% and Eastern Orthodox were 0.5%; members of other Christian denominations comprised 0.4% of the total population. A further 28.5% declared no religion, 1.1% identified as Muslim and 0.3% declared belonging to other religions.[12]

In 2015 the Eurobarometer found that Christianity was the religion of 47.6% of respondents, with Protestantism being the main denomination with 36.5%, followed by other Christians with 8.6%, Catholics with 1.6% and Eastern Orthodox with 0.8%. 31.0% of the sample identified as agnostic and 19.0% identified as atheist.[13]


In 2021 there were 6,228,708 formally affiliated Christians in Sweden, comprising 59.6% of the total population.[1][2]

A survey by the Pew Research Center found in spring 2016 that 66.7% out of a sample of 1,000 Swedes claimed to be Christians.[14]

As of 2016, 6,484,203 people, or 64.9% of the total population, were registered members of the various Protestant denominations in Sweden.[15][2]

Church of Sweden

Umeå City Church.
Church of Sweden statistics[2][3]
Year Population Church members Percentage % change (avg.)
1972 8,146,000 7,754,784 95.2%
1975 8,208,000 7,770,881 94.7% 0.2% Increase
1980 8,278,000 7,690,636 92.9% 0.3% Decrease
1985 8,358,000 7,629,763 91.5% 0.3% Decrease
1990 8,573,000 7,630,350 89.0% 0.5% Decrease
1995 8,837,000 7,601,194 86.0% 0.6% Decrease
2000 8,880,000 7,360,825 82.9% 0.6% Decrease
2005 9,048,000 6,967,498 77.0% 1.2% Decrease
2010 9,415,570 6,589,769 70.0% 1.4% Decrease
2015 9,850,452 6,225,091 63.2% 1.4% Decrease
2016 9,995,153 6,109,546 61.1% 2.1% Decrease
2017 10,120,242 5,993,368 59.3% 1.8% Decrease
2018 10,230,185 5,899,242 57.7% 1.6% Decrease
2019 10,327,579 5,823,515 56.4% 1.3% Decrease
2020 10,379,295 5,728,746 55.2% 1.6% Decrease
2021 10,452,326 5,633,867 53.9% 1.3% Decrease
2022 10,521,556 5,563,351 52.8% 1.1% Decrease

Representing about half of the population, the Church of Sweden (Swedish: Svenska kyrkan) is the largest Christian church in Sweden, and also the largest religious body. The church professes the Lutheran faith and is a member of the Porvoo Communion. As of 2022, it had 5,563,351 members, 52,8 % of the Swedish population,[2][3] although surveys show different figures, ranging from 24%[16] to 52.1%.[14] to 67.3%.[17] Until 2000 it held the position of state religion, and most Swedes were baptised at birth, until 1996 all newborns with at least one parent being a member of the Church of Sweden were also registered as members of the church.[18] Yet the membership is declining rapidly, about 1% each year, for the most recent years even 2%, falling from 95% in 1972 and 82% in 2000. The number of both new baptisms and members has declined since. Indeed, according to official statistics, as of 2021:

  • About 1 out of 3 (35.2%) children are christened in the Church of Sweden.[19]
  • About 1 out of 4 (23.5%) weddings take place in church.[19]
  • About 2 out of 3 (66.8%) Swedes have Christian burials.[19]

The Church of Sweden, by law,[20] is organized in the following manner:

  • It is an Evangelical Lutheran community of faith manifested in parishes and dioceses. The church also has a national organisation.
  • It is an open national church which, working with a democratic organisation and through the ministry of the church, covers the whole nation.
  • The primate of the Church of Sweden is the Archbishop of Uppsala.

Other Protestant denominations

The 19th century saw the arrival of various evangelical free churches, and, towards the end of the century secularism, leading many to distance themselves from church rituals. Leaving the Church of Sweden became legal with the so-called Dissenter Act of 1860, but only under the provision of entering another denomination. The right to not belong to any religious denomination was established in the law on freedom of religion in 1951.

Today, the

Methodists and the Mission Covenant Church of Sweden merged in 2011 into a new denomination: the Uniting Church in Sweden. It is the largest member church in the Swedish Free Church Council, with approximately 65,000 members. One of the Baptist denominations, the Evangelical Free Church in Sweden
, has remained an independent denomination outside this merger.



Most Catholics in Sweden are of Slavic (especially Poles and Croats), South American or Middle Eastern (especially Assyrian) origin.

As of 2021, legally registered Catholics in Sweden were 126,286,[1] comprising 1.2% of the total population, the same percentage was found in a spring 2016 survey in Sweden.[14]


Multiple Orthodox jurisdictions exist in Sweden, including but not limited to the Greek and Serbian Orthodox Churches. There is also a substantial presence of

Eastern Orthodox Christians were 160,266 and they were the second-largest Christian denomination in Sweden, comprising 1.5% of the total population.[1]



Jehovah's Witnesses

According to the 2015 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, there are 22,730 active members in Sweden, and 36,270 people attended their annual memorial of Christ's death. This number includes active members and guests.[21][22]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claims 9,528 members in 40 congregations in Sweden as of 2022.[23]

Other Abrahamic religions


Stockholm Mosque.

Baltic Tatars
were the first Muslim group in modern Sweden.

In 2021, Sweden's official statistics counted 224,459 formally affiliated Muslims.[1] The US Department of State's Sweden 2022 International Religious Freedom Report set the 2016 figure at around 8.1% (almost 800,000) of the total Swedish population.[10]


Malmö Synagogue.

The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities estimates about 20,000

ethnic Jews in Sweden by halakhic criteria.[24] Of them, about 8,153 were members of a Jewish religious congregation in 2021.[1]

Stockholm has the largest community and boasts a primary school, a kindergarten, a library, a bi-monthly publication (

Synagogues can be found in Stockholm (which has two Orthodox and one Conservative synagogue), Göteborg (one Orthodox and one Conservative synagogue), Malmö (one Orthodox synagogue), and in Norrköping
(although the Norrköping community is too small to perform regular services).

Bahá'í Faith

In 2020, the Bahá'ís claimed about 1,000 members and 25 local assemblies in Sweden from Umeå in the north to Malmö in the south.[25]

In November 2009 the Swedish paper Västerbottens-Kuriren reported that 25 local non-profit Bahá'í organization had changed their organizational form to religious communions. The central Bahá'í secretariat in Stockholm stated at the time that the Bahá'i Faith in Sweden had 1003 members.[26]

Dharmic religions


Buddharama Temple in Torsby.

In 2021, there were 12,328 formal affiliated Buddhists in Sweden, comprising 0.12% of the total population.[1]


Korsnäs gård, main building 2014.

The 2005 International Religious Freedom Report stated that there are between 7,000 and 10,000

Hindus in the country at that time.[27]

Germanic Heathenism

Members of Forn Sed Sweden holding a sacrifice.

Germanic Heathenry, the contemporary continuation of ancient Germanic religion, is represented by various organizations, including the

Community for Nordic Faith (Samfälligheten för Nordisk Sed). Founded in 2014, the Nordic Asa-Community has quickly grown to become the largest Heathen organization in Sweden, despite being the most recently established among the three.[28]

Freedom of religion

In 2023, the country was scored 4 out of 4 for religious freedom.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Statistik 2021 - Myndigheten för stöd till trossamfund" (in Swedish). Swedish Agency for Support to Faith Communities. 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Svenska kyrkan i siffror" [The Church of Sweden in numbers]. (in Swedish). Church of Sweden.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Medlemmar i Svenska kyrkan 1970-2022" (PDF) (in Swedish). Church of Sweden. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  4. ^ Doe, John (10 October 2017). "Sweden; Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions". Eurydice - European Commission. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  5. ^ N.F. Lutheran Cyclopedia, article, "Upsala, Diet of", New York: Schrivner, 1899. p. 528–29.
  6. ^ "Religionsfrihet". Stockholmskällan (in Swedish). Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  7. ^ This table only contains religious organizations eligible for financial support through the government.
  8. ^ Population by age and sex. Year 1860 - 2022 Statistics Sweden
  9. ^ "International Religious Freedom Report 2006 - Sweden". U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 26 October 2009. Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 19 July 2010.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Sweden".
  11. ^ "Spring 2017 Survey Data | Pew Research Center". Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  12. ^ "Country specific religious affiliation or denomination: Sweden - weighted". International Social Survey Programme: Role of Government V - ISSP 2016. 2016 – via GESIS.
  13. ^ "Discrimination in the EU in 2015", Special Eurobarometer, 437, European Union: European Commission, 2015, retrieved 15 October 2017 – via GESIS
  14. ^ a b c "Spring 2016 Survey Data | Pew Research Center". Retrieved 9 October 2017.
  15. . Retrieved 20 December 2019.
  16. ^ "Religion, Ipsos Global Trends". Ipsos. 2017. Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. See also About Ipsos Global Trends survey for limitations of this survey
  17. ^ "International Social Survey Programme 2017". Retrieved 23 August 2019.
  18. ^ Wendy Sloane (4 October 1995). "Sweden Snaps Strong Ties Between Church and State". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
  19. ^ a b c "Döpta, konfirmerade, vigda och begravda enligt Svenska kyrkans ordning år 1970-2021" (PDF). Church of Sweden.
  20. ^ "SFS 1998:1591", Riksdagen
  21. ^ 2012 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Sweden: How Many Jehovah's Witnesses Are There?". JW.ORG. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
  23. ^ "Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership". Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Antal judar". Judiska Centralrådet (in Swedish).
  25. ^ "English Summary". National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of Sweden. Archived from the original on 20 February 2020. Retrieved 16 February 2022.. The Bahá'ís only count adults 21 years or older, who have declared their faith in Bahá'u'lláh by signing a testimonial. If the Baha'i believers, like the Muslims, should count all children is the number of Bahá'ís in Sweden over 3000.
  26. ^ "Forening blir forsamling" in Västerbottens-Kuriren 30 November 2009. Umeå: Article by Anders Wynne.
  27. ^ "Sweden". U.S. Department of State. 10 January 2020. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
  28. ^ Jacob Zetterman. "Asatron frodas i en nationalistisk miljö". Dagen, 18 November 2016.
  29. ^ "Sweden: Freedom in the World 2022 Country Report". Freedom House.

External links

Media related to Religion in Sweden at Wikimedia Commons