Till renunciation do us part

By Misch PautschLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Organised religion is increasingly losing importance among the population in Luxembourg - only few are truly devout. But although many people are atheists, they remain enrolled with the church. The Lëtzebuerger Journal spoke with Bob Reuter, President of the Alliance of Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics in Luxembourg (AHA) about morals, values and new, dangerous dogmas.

Lëtzebuerger Journal: In Luxembourg, less than half of the people consider themselves religious. Even of those who call themselves religious, five out of six go to church less than once a month. Is Luxembourg actually still a religious country?

Bob Reuter: Not really. But it depends on the definition. There are three levels at which one belongs to a religion. The first is practice: rules, rituals, and restrictions in life. In Catholicism, this is mainly the mass, in others it may be restrictions on food choices. Anything that you would say is done with your heart and with your body. The second is to really believe what the church says – to actually be a "believer". There are many people who no longer actively "participate" but still "believe". And then there are those who feel themselves to be members of a community purely culturally. That's why quite a number of people say they are "Catholic": because they were baptised without being asked and then never found a point to leave the system, even though they don't "believe". Because unlike being a member of an automobile club, for example, in the Church membership simply continues for life – at least as long as one has no good reason to actively leave. Because in order to take this last step, you need an argument. In Germany, we see that this argument is often the church tax.

Why is this last step of formally leaving often so difficult?

I think because it makes no difference in everyday life. It's not even worth the time for most people to think about religious affiliation and faith – it doesn't matter to them at all. The trick the Catholic Church pulls, of course, is that you become a member without being asked when you are a baby but stay a member for life. That means an asymmetry of effort. Whereby it must be said, of course, that it is really only a very small effort. You simply fill out a form on our website and within a week you are officially out. Nevertheless, you still don't have any tangible feedback, but a purely moral, symbolic effect: I know that I am no longer part of this association that does things that I don't think are right.

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