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.
Christianity came to Sweden as early as the 9th century mainly as a result of an expansion in trade. The ancient
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%). 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 Other minor Christian denominations include Free churches, the Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Churches, while members of other religions are mostly Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Jews.
Historical Norse religion
Before the 11th century, Swedes practised
While Norse religion was officially abandoned with the
9th–12th century: Conversion to Catholicism
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
Christianity first gained a hold in
The last king adhering to the old religion was
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
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 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
17th–18th century: Conversion of the Sami, freedom for Christian minorities and Jews
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)||Members||Percent|
|Church of Sweden||5,563,351||53.2%|
|Eastern Christian Churches||160,266||1.5%|
|Uniting Church in Sweden||111,456||1.1%|
|Evangelical Free Church||44,163||0.42%|
|Swedish Evangelical Mission||43,877||0.42%|
|Swedish Alliance Mission||20,898||0.20%|
|No affiliation or other religions||3,961,811||37.9%|
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.
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%.
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. 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.
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. The Equality Ombudsman investigates claims of discrimination; discrimination on religious grounds is illegal.
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%.
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.
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.
Church of Sweden
|Year||Population||Church members||Percentage||% change (avg.)|
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, although surveys show different figures, ranging from 24% to 52.1%. to 67.3%. 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. 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.
- About 1 out of 4 (23.5%) weddings take place in church.
- About 2 out of 3 (66.8%) Swedes have Christian burials.
The Church of Sweden, by law, 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.
Multiple Orthodox jurisdictions exist in Sweden, including but not limited to the Greek and Serbian Orthodox Churches. There is also a substantial presence of
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.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Other Abrahamic religions
In 2021, Sweden's official statistics counted 224,459 formally affiliated Muslims. 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.
The Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities estimates about 20,000
Stockholm has the largest community and boasts a primary school, a kindergarten, a library, a bi-monthly publication (
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.
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.
The 2005 International Religious Freedom Report stated that there are between 7,000 and 10,000
Germanic Heathenry, the contemporary continuation of ancient Germanic religion, is represented by various organizations, including the
Freedom of religion
In 2023, the country was scored 4 out of 4 for religious freedom.
- Christianization of Scandinavia
- Bahá'í Faith in Sweden
- Buddhism in Sweden
- Hinduism in Sweden
- Religion in Europe
- Religion by country
- Demographics of atheism
- Irreligion in Sweden
- Sámi shamanism
- "Statistik 2021 - Myndigheten för stöd till trossamfund" (in Swedish). Swedish Agency for Support to Faith Communities. 2021. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
- "Svenska kyrkan i siffror" [The Church of Sweden in numbers]. svenskakyrkan.se (in Swedish). Church of Sweden.
- "Medlemmar i Svenska kyrkan 1970-2022" (PDF) (in Swedish). Church of Sweden. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
- Doe, John (10 October 2017). "Sweden; Population: Demographic Situation, Languages and Religions". Eurydice - European Commission. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
- N.F. Lutheran Cyclopedia, article, "Upsala, Diet of", New York: Schrivner, 1899. p. 528–29.
- "Religionsfrihet". Stockholmskällan (in Swedish). Retrieved 16 March 2023.
- This table only contains religious organizations eligible for financial support through the government.
- Population by age and sex. Year 1860 - 2022 Statistics Sweden
- "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.
- US State Dept 2022 report
- "Spring 2017 Survey Data | Pew Research Center". Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
- "Country specific religious affiliation or denomination: Sweden - weighted". International Social Survey Programme: Role of Government V - ISSP 2016. 2016 – via GESIS.
- "Discrimination in the EU in 2015", Special Eurobarometer, 437, European Union: European Commission, 2015, retrieved 15 October 2017 – via GESIS
- "Spring 2016 Survey Data | Pew Research Center". www.pewglobal.org. Retrieved 9 October 2017.
- "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
- "International Social Survey Programme 2017". zacat.gesis.org. Retrieved 23 August 2019.
- Wendy Sloane (4 October 1995). "Sweden Snaps Strong Ties Between Church and State". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 7 March 2016.
- "Döpta, konfirmerade, vigda och begravda enligt Svenska kyrkans ordning år 1970-2021" (PDF). Church of Sweden.
- "SFS 1998:1591", Riksdagen
- 2012 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses. JW.org. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
- "Sweden: How Many Jehovah's Witnesses Are There?". JW.ORG. Retrieved 7 October 2017.
- "Statistics and Church Facts | Total Church Membership". newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
- "Antal judar". Judiska Centralrådet (in Swedish).
- "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.
- "Forening blir forsamling" in Västerbottens-Kuriren 30 November 2009. Umeå: Article by Anders Wynne.
- "Sweden". U.S. Department of State. 10 January 2020. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 16 March 2023.
- The ARDA website, retrieved 2023-09-20
- Jacob Zetterman. "Asatron frodas i en nationalistisk miljö". Dagen, 18 November 2016.
- Freedom House website, retrieved 2023-08-08
Media related to Religion in Sweden at Wikimedia Commons