Expats of any faith generally feel comfortable to openly practice their religion in the Netherlands. Whilst modern Dutch society is very secular, around 50% of the population still identify with an organized religion, or philosophical group. On this page we will lay out some facts about the most common religions in the Netherlands. Keep reading to learn a bit about their history, their communities and their places of worship in Holland.

Christianity in NL

Christianity is the most common and deep-rooted religion in the Netherlands. Here are the bullet points:

Protestantism in the Netherlands

The origins of Protestantism in the Netherlands go back a long way:

  • At the time of the Reformation, some Dutch Protestants followed the teachings of Martin Luther
  • Most, however, followed the more radical John Calvin of France
  • Calvinism’s key characteristic was a belief in ‘predestination’. Predestination means that some people are destined for a place in heaven, whilst others are simply not
  • Sobriety is also greatly favoured by Calvinists
  • Over the years, these ideas have evolved in the Netherlands, and different streams and communities of Protestantism have developed

Protestantism in NL Today

  • Today, Protestantism in the Netherlands is a lot more varied
  • Most provinces in Holland are predominantly Protestant
  • The three main categories of modern-day Dutch Protestantism are:
  1. Nederlands Hervormd‘, or ‘Dutch Reformed’. 7% of the Dutch population are of this denomination
  2. Protestantse Kerk in Nederland‘, orProtestant Church in the Netherlands’. 6% of Dutch people subscribe to this stream of Protestantism
  3. Gereformeerd , orReformed’. Just 3% of Dutch people are part of this branch of Protestantism
  4. There are other groups as well! Some examples are: Evangelical, Lutheran, Baptist, Apostolic, Pentecostal, the list goes on

Catholicism in the Netherlands

  • The southern provinces of Brabant and Limburg are predominantly Catholic in the Netherlands
  • In the 1960s and 70s, the Dutch Catholic Church became extremely progressive
  • A series of subsequent, rather conservative, Popes has led to its being less so today 
  • Still, a wide range of Catholic communities exist in the Netherlands
  • Some parishes still use the Latin liturgy, whilst others are committed to the most modern ideas and practices. There are even Byzantine Catholic communities in some regions
  • There are more registered members of the Roman Catholic Church (4.2 million), than of the Protestant Church (1.7 million)
  • Yet, only 17% of Catholics living in the Netherlands go to church regularly, compared to 22% of Protestants

Side Note

 The Old Catholics

  • A little-known Dutch religious group go by the name of the Old Catholics
  • In 1723 they ‘broke’ with the city by electing their own bishop
  • This was an act of protest, against the concentration of power in Rome
  • When the infallibility of the Pope was announced in 1870, many Old Catholics came together with others of a similar conviction 
  • In 1889, this collective became the ‘Union of Utrecht’
  • Currently, the Old Catholic Church has approximately 5,800 members who reside in 26 parishes of the Netherlands
  • Worldwide, however, there are over 500,000 members

Islam in NL

  • There are approximately 850,000 practicing Muslims living in the Netherlands today
  • That means 5% of the Dutch population are Islamic
  • Islam has become one of the major religions in the Netherlands
  • Mosques have been built in most larger Dutch cities, by communities of immigrants from Turkey, Morocco and Indonesia
  • The Dutch public is gradually learning more about Islam
  • Consequently, the people of the Netherlands are becoming more accommodating and respectful of, for example, pupils who are fasting for Ramadan

Judaism in NL

  • Before and during the Second World War, when Hitler’s awful anti-Semitism took hold in Europe, many Jews came to the Netherlands
  • Unfortunately, the Netherlands was occupied during the war. Therefore, it was unable to be the safe haven the Jewish people had hoped it would be
  • Still, there is currently a sizeable Jewish community in the Netherlands
  • Around 35,000 Jews remain in the Holland
  • Their Jewish center is in Amsterdam, but Synagogues can be found in many other Dutch cities

Other Religions in the Netherlands

Other religions that have smaller, but active, communities in the Netherlands include:

  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Baha’i
  • Jehovah’s Witness

Useful links

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