Non-religious people are the largest group in Switzerland for the first time

Non-religious people are the largest group in Switzerland for the first time

For the first time ever, people who identify themselves as non-religious are now the largest group in Switzerland, new data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) has revealed. A- or non-religious people now make up a third of the total population.

Number of non-religious people in Switzerland reaches new heights

In a report released on January 26, 2024, the government reported that 33,5 percent of the population of Switzerland identified themselves as non-religious at the end of 2022. The group, who are made up of those who were either born without religion or chose to leave their faith, overtook Catholics, who have declined to 32,1 percent of the total population.

Protestants made up the third largest group at 20,5 percent, followed by Muslims (5,9 percent) and Jews (0,2 percent). Indeed, only non-religious and Muslim groups have seen their population share rise in Swiss cities and cantons since 1990.

Huge differences in faith recorded between Swiss cantons

The data is in stark contrast to 1970, when 48,4 percent of the population identified as Protestant, 46,7 percent were Catholic, 1,2 percent were non-religious, 0,4 percent were Jewish and 0,2 percent followed the Muslim faith. Since then, the number of non-religious people in Switzerland has risen significantly, overtaking Protestants in 2016 before finally taking the top spot in 2022.

However, the decline in traditional religion has not been evenly distributed, with urban cantons being home to more non-religious people than rural areas. The most non-religious canton in Switzerland is Basel-Stadt, with 56,1 percent of the population reporting to be a- or non-religious - in Basel-Stadt and Neuchâtel, non-religious people make up the majority. On the flip side, only 14,7 percent of people in Appenzell Innerrhoden reported being non-religious.

Why are people in Switzerland becoming non-religious?

So why the change? According to the Tages-Anzeiger, of those who are non-religious, two-thirds belonged to a religion when they were born and then chose to leave. 60.000 people in Switzerland left the Christian church in 2022, and rather than to avoid church tax, the most common reason cited for leaving was that people no longer agreed with the statements made by their former religious community. 

Others reported leaving because they either lost their faith or had no faith to begin with. The newspaper added that young people and those who had continued in education to a higher level are also increasingly likely to go without religion.

The newspaper also made the point that scandals involving the Catholic church may have steered people away from the faith. In September 2023, for example, the University of Zurich published a report documenting thousands of cases of sexual abuse in the Swiss Roman Catholic Church, leading to a mass exodus of members across the country.

Religiosity in Switzerland roughly in line with rest of Europe

Compared to Europe, Switzerland remains mid-table when it comes to its religiosity. With 33,5 percent of people identifying as non-religious, the alpine nation is above the European average of 26 percent, but well off the least religious country in Europe, that being Estonia with a whopping 78,9 percent.

For more information about the study, check out the FSO data.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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