■  American women have recently been showing high rates of disaffiliation from religion, although they are still more likely to stay in their childhood religion compared to men. In his newsletter Graphs About Religion (June 27), Ryan Burge reports that the gender gap on religion remains. “In recent decades, evangelical retention was about four points higher for women than men. It’s even larger for those raised in the mainline. It’s interesting that in the most recent data, female mainline retention was eight points higher than men.” Yet he also finds that non-religious retention for men is significantly higher than it is for women, and that this has been true for the last five decades. When women “raised in an evangelical tradition leave, they are just as likely to become mainline Protestants as they are to become non-religious. It’s a similar situation when women leave the mainline. About 15 percent become evangelicals and 17 percent become nones. The story is largely repeated for Black Protestants and Catholics too. I think this is a really key finding from the data—when men leave their faith, the biggest portion become nones. That’s just not true for women.”

Source: Catholic Vote (

■  This year’s European elections on June 9 saw a significant increase in support for far-right parties among Catholic voters in France, reports Arnaud Bevilacqua in the French Catholic daily La Croix (June 10). Meanwhile, Muslim voters overwhelmingly supported the left-wing La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party, with issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and racism being key priorities for this group. The statistical data was provided by a survey conducted by the Ifop Group, one of the five leading survey institutes in France. Two parties considered as far-right went above the 5 percent hurdle: the Rassemblement National (National Rally), with 31.4 percent, and Reconquête (Reconquest), with 5.5 percent. Over 40 percent of practicing Catholics voted for those two parties, more than doubling their support since 2019. However, there were significant differences between regular churchgoers and occasional churchgoers: only 18 percent of regular churchgoers voted for the National Rally and 10 percent for Reconquest; among occasional churchgoers, by contrast, 40 percent supported the National Rally and 10 percent Reconquest.

Source: Elke Wetzig, 2017 (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0).

This rightward shift is attributed to the National Rally’s efforts to “de-demonize” its image and gain respectability. Meanwhile, support for traditional center-right parties declined among practicing Catholic voters, with their support dropping from 46 percent in 2017 to just 14 percent in 2024. Roman Catholics had the highest voter turnout in France, at 60 percent, reaching even 73 percent among practicing Catholics. In contrast, Muslims had the lowest turnout, at 41 percent. While only 4 percent of all Catholic voters (9 percent among regular churchgoers) voted for the left-wing La France Insoumise, 62 percent of Muslim voters supported the party. Ifop’s Jérôme Fourquet writes that although pro-EU and Catholic voters supporting various parties on the left (28 percent) have not disappeared, they are losing ground. “Today, the dividing lines are different, touching on issues of security, identity and the relationship with Islam.”

(The full results of the Ifop survey can be downloaded from its website:

■  A new study finds lack of confidence in church institutions to be a very strong predictor of disaffiliation from Evangelical Lutheran churches in Nordic countries. In an article published in the journal Secularism and Nonreligion (13:1, June), Carlos Miguel Lemos (Portuguese Naval Academy) reports on his study using data from the 2018 Religion Survey of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) to compare Protestants affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran churches and the religiously unaffiliated in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. Other religious groups in those countries were not considered. Although in a certain sense these are highly secular countries, with low average levels of religious belief, participation and involvement in the national Lutheran churches, religion continues to play an important role in the public sphere as a result of longstanding church-state ties. Those relations have changed in recent decades, however, with the Church of Denmark being the only remaining traditional state church. Lemos notes that, with the possible exception of Sweden, a majority of people in the five Nordic countries are still affiliated with their respective national churches.

St. Jacobs Kyrka – Stockholm (© 2018 Neil Howard | Flickr).

Disaffiliation occurs across a wide range of ages, with only the elderly (those 75 years old and up) being an exception. As might be expected, Lemos found early religious or nonreligious socialization, as indicated by parents’ affiliation and frequency of churchgoing, to be an important predictor of disaffiliation: “having had just one unaffiliated parent more than doubles the odds of disaffiliating,” he writes. On the other hand, ceasing to believe in God and having negative perceptions about the relevance and timeliness of religion were found to be significant, albeit weaker, predictors of disaffiliation. According to Lemos, this seems to confirm previous suggestions by other scholars that “disaffiliation in the Nordic countries is mainly due to disappointment with the religious institutions and not to a loss of faith.”

(Secularism and Nonreligion,

■  The number of pilgrims to Mecca is close to pre-pandemic levels, according to recent statistics. A total of 1,833,164 pilgrims performed the annual Islamic Hajj to Mecca, 1,611,310 of whom were from outside Saudi Arabia, reports Ghinwa Obeid (Al Arabiya, June 16). She notes that 22.3 percent of the international pilgrims came from Arab countries, 63.3 percent from Asian non-Arab countries, 11.3 percent from African non-Arab countries, and 3.2 percent from the rest of the world. Data journalist Anna Fleck, from Statista Daily, published several articles on their site about various aspects of the Hajj (June 14). She notes that Saudi Arabia issues each year a set number of pilgrim visas. “Quotas are calculated for Muslim-majority countries at a rate of one pilgrim visa per 1,000 Muslim citizens,” she writes. In 2023, the countries with the highest number of pilgrim visas were Indonesia (229,000), Pakistan (179,210), India (175,025), Bangladesh (127,198), Nigeria (95,000), Iran (87,550), Algeria (41,300), and Turkey (37,770).

Kaaba, Mecca, Saudi Arabia (source: Basil D Soufi, 2008, Wikimedia Commons).

Fleck adds that there has been a significant post-pandemic increase in the costs incurred by pilgrims, “in part due to global inflation, as well as a VAT hike from 5 percent up to 15 percent in Saudi Arabia in 2020.” Last year, due to the economic circumstances, some countries could not meet their quotas, with other countries thus receiving additional Hajj slots. While the pilgrimage is expensive for believers, it is reported to generate $12 billion per year for Saudi Arabia, Fleck notes. As part of its efforts to diversify income sources, Saudi Arabia envisions boosting “its numbers of religious tourist arrivals for both the Hajj and the Umrah [a lesser pilgrimage that can be done at any time of the year] to 30 million pilgrims by 2030.”

(Statista Daily Data,

■  According to a recent Pew survey reported on its blog Short Reads (June 17), the religiously unaffiliated are a large presence in Asia, but majorities still believe in gods and the supernatural. In three of the countries surveyed, the religiously unaffiliated were found to be the largest group, with roughly half or more adults in Hong Kong (61 percent), South Korea (52 percent), and Vietnam (48 percent) saying they had no religion; significant segments of respondents in Japan (42 percent) and Taiwan (27 percent) said the same. But the survey also found Buddhism to be prevalent in the region, with 46 percent of Japanese, 38 percent of Vietnamese, and 28 percent of Taiwanese respondents identifying with the religion. In both South Korea and Hong Kong, 14 percent of adults identified as Buddhist. Among the five countries surveyed, no more than 26 percent of respondents said religion was very important in their lives.

Majorities in Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam said that religion helps society by giving people guidance to do the right thing. In Japan, about half of the survey respondents took this position. Christians were somewhat more likely than other groups to see religion as a positive for society. Most people said they believed in god or unseen beings, like deities or spirits, or that they viewed nature as having invisible spirits. In Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam, about half or more said they believed that mountains, rivers or trees have their own spirits. But religiously unaffiliated respondents were found to believe in gods or unseen beings at lower rates than Christians and Buddhists, although at least 4-in-10 unaffiliated adults in each place expressed these beliefs. Moreover, religiously unaffiliated people were generally more likely than Christians to believe that mountains, rivers or trees have their own spirits.

(Short Reads,