Christianity is the dominant religion in Europe, but in recent decades the number of followers of other religions has increased greatly, and Islam has become the largest non-Christian religion. Based on Countryaah, Europe is probably the most secularized continent.
Historically, Christianity is Europe’s religion. With the exception of the Eastern churches (Coptic, Syrian, etc.), the great denominations originate here, and they still share Europe between them; the Catholic Church in Central and Southwestern Europe, as well as Ireland, the Orthodox Church in Southeastern Europe, Russia and Ukraine, and Protestant Churches in Northern Europe, as well as parts of Switzerland and Hungary.
In the Middle Ages, Christianity characterized European thinking, art, law and the notion of morality. Later, Europeans spread Christianity to other continents through colonization and mission. With the age of enlightenment came the ideal of secularized states, which has affected the state system in most European countries, and few countries still have a state church.
In the period between World War II and the late 1980s, when most Eastern European countries had socialist rule, Christianity (and other religions) were suppressed. Since the regime change, religious worship has flourished, and many have returned to the traditional churches (Orthodox and Protestant “national churches” or the Catholic church). At the same time, interest in neo-religious movements is strong in many Eastern European countries.
With the Arab expansion in the 600s and 700s, Islam came to Spain (711). The influence of the Arabs (Moors) on the Iberian peninsula lasted for approx. 700 years; the last Muslim bastion, Granada, fell in 1492.
The expansion of the Ottoman Empire to the west (1400s and 1500s) led to the spread of Islam in the Balkan Peninsula, where there are today approx. 8 million Muslims and a total of around 12.5 percent of the population. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo and Albania, Muslims are in the majority.
Just over 1 percent of the world’s Muslims live in Western Europe. The fact that the number of Muslims in Europe has grown strongly since the 1960s is mainly due to immigration from Muslim countries to Western Europe, especially from North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. The western European countries with the highest proportion of Muslims in the population are France, the Netherlands and Germany.
For ancient and pre-Christian religions, see paganism, Greek mythology, Norse mythology, Celts.
|Andorra||Andorra la Vella||Catalan||Andorran|
|Belgium||Brussels||French / Dutch||Belgian|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Sarajevo||Croatian, Serbian *||Bosnian|
|Cyprus||Lefkosia (Nicosia)||Greek, Turkish||Cyprian, Cypriote|
|Ireland||Dublin||Gaelic / English||Irish|
|Malta||Valtetta||Maltese||Maltese / English|
The Hague (administrative capital)
|San Marino||San Marino||Italian||San Marinese|
|Spain||Madrid||Spanish, Catalan, Basque and Galician||Spaniard, Catalan, Basque and Galician|
|UK||London||English, Welsh, Scots Gaelic||Englishman /
Irishman (or -woman)
|Vatican City State||Vatican City||Italian * / Latin||**|
Europe is the world’s third most populous continent (after Asia and Africa). The 48 countries mentioned in the article Land in Europe had a population of 814.5 million in 2016, representing 10.9 percent of the Earth’s population. Europe’s share of Earth’s population is declining.
The most densely populated is a belt northwest-southeast from England through northern France, the Benelux countries and Germany to the Czech Republic. The least populated are the mountain areas and the Nordic countries, except Denmark.
Christianity is the most widespread religion in Europe. In recent decades, the number of followers of other religions has increased substantially due to immigration, and Islam has become the largest non-Christian religion.
Most Europeans speak an Indo-European language, belonging to the Greek, Celtic, Germanic, Romanian, Albanian, Slavic, Baltic or Indo-Roman subgroup. The oral language family in Europe consists of a western branch with Estonian, Finnish, Karelian and Sami languages and an eastern branch with Hungarian.
In the Southern Balkans, in Turkey and in Cyprus, Turkish and in Malta are spoken Maltese belonging to the Afro-Asian language family. Maltese is the only Semitic language that is official in a European country. An isolated linguistic case in the west is Basque at the interior of the Bay of Biscay. This language is unrelated to any other language. Kalmykian on Europe’s eastern border near Volga is the only Mongolian language in Europe. In Europe, Russian and German are spoken by most people.
States, regions and geopolitics
European societies changed in pace with colonization, emigration and a growing world trade. The population was growing, and inventions, industrialization and the conversion of agriculture led to land-to-city migrations. National awareness and political conflicts and shifts of power followed social change. Europe is permanently changeable with both interconnecting or equalizing and separating or conflicting features. While state borders still matter less in the EU, the importance of the Union’s external borders is growing. The surrender of sovereignty to the union interacts with growing local self-government within the states. In federal Germany, local and regional self-government is a tradition guaranteed by the Constitution. The regions, nations and minorities of other EU states, like the Sami, Welsh, Southern Tyroleans and Catalans had to fight for rights and secure their cultural uniqueness and political influence. Belgium exists in a balance between Walloon and Flemish, and Belgium’s late emergence (1830) as a cushion state between European great powers is still felt.
Some European state borders have remained unchanged for centuries, while others have been moved frequently or recently. As the Iron Curtain disappeared or began to move to the east, geographical, population and geopolitical patterns and forces that were long held in check became significant again. The Cold War’s simple two-tiered Europe paved the way for a complicated and labeling East European political map, where concepts such as Eastern Europe, Central Europe, the Baltic Sea countries, the Balkans, etc. were given a nuanced content. Regions and states are part of both new and recreated European patterns. The Serbian Vojvodina, since 1918, links landscapes and cultural geographies to Hungary and Central Europe, while such important states as Belarus and Ukraine are only beginning to acquire space as states on the European map and in our consciousness from the mid-1990s.