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Hungarians less religious, census suggests

September 30th, 2023

Commentators offer sharply opposing interpretations of the census data released this week.

According to the detailed results of the latest nationwide census, of the 9.6 million Hungarians, about 4.2 million (43.7 percent) declared that they belong to a church or religious community, down from 5.43 million (54.7 percent) in 2011. 40 percent of respondents chose not to answer the question related to their religious affiliation.

In Népszava, Tamás Rónay interprets the results of the census as signalling the utter failure of the official government ideology, according to which Hungary is a ‘Christian country’. He points out that the Catholic church has lost almost half of its adherents over the past twenty years, while the Lutheran and Calvinist communities have also shrunk – by 17 percent. The left-wing commentator attributes that trend to the pro-government attitude of those leading Hungarian churches.

In Magyar Nemzet, Balázs Pintér finds such left-wing triumphalism unfounded. He admits that churches lose believers in the western world but deems it deeply mistaken to categorize the 40 percent who ‘abstained’ as non-believers. There can be both believers and atheists among them, he writes. Pintér therefore suggests to only take into account those who answered the question about their religious affiliations. Since 73 percent of those declared themselves to be (mostly Christian) believers, he deems it fair to say that Hungary remains a ‘Christian country’.

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