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Sweden Travel Guide
Religions in Sweden

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Before the 11th century, Swedes adhered to Norse paganism, worshiping Æsir gods, with its centre at the Temple in Uppsala. With Christianization in the 11th century, the laws of the country were changed, forbidding worship of other deities into the late 19th century.

After the Protestant Reformation in the 1530s, a change significantly affected by Martin Luther's Swedish associate Olaus Petri, the Church and state were separated and the authority of Roman Catholic bishops abolished, allowing Lutheranism to prevail. This process was completed by the Uppsala Synod of 1593. During the era following the Reformation, usually known as the period of Lutheran Orthodoxy, small groups of non-Lutherans, especially Calvinist Dutchmen, the Moravian Church and Walloons or French Huguenots from Belgium, played a significant role in trade and industry, and were quietly tolerated as long as they kept a low religious profile. The Sami originally had their own shamanistic religion, but they were converted to Lutheranism by Swedish missionaries in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Not until liberalization in the late 18th century, however, were believers of other faiths, including Judaism and Roman Catholicism, allowed to openly live and work in Sweden, and it remained illegal until 1860 for Lutheran Swedes to convert to another religion. The 19th century saw the arrival of various evangelical free churches, and, towards the end of the century secularism, leading many to distance themselves from Church rituals. Leaving the Church of Sweden became legal with the so-called dissenter law of 1860, but only under the provision of entering another denomination. The right to stand outside any religious denomination was established in the Law on Freedom of Religion in 1951.

Today about 75% of Swedes belong to the Church of Sweden, but the number is decreasing by about 1% every year, and Church of Sweden services are sparsely attended. The reason for the large number of inactive members is partly that until 1996, children became members automatically at birth if at least one of the parents was a member. Since 1996, all children that are christened become members. Some 275,000 Swedes are today members of various free churches, and, in addition, immigration has meant that there are now some 92,000 Roman Catholics and 100,000 Eastern Orthodox Christians living in Sweden.[100] Because of immigration, Sweden also has a significant Muslim population. Almost half a million are Muslims by tradition, but approximately 5% (25,000) of these actively practise Islam.

Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia


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