One in five church buildings in The Netherlands is no longer used for worship.
Dutch newspaper Trouw found that several churches are now converted for secular use such as homes, libraries, offices, and cultural centers. The country has 6,900 churches and 1,400 have been given another use as cultural and social spaces. More churches are expected to be deconsecrated in the future, reports Dutch News.
Trouw said Protestant churches are more likely to be transformed for other use than Catholic ones. “For Roman Catholics the church is sacred, for Protestants the church is useful,” Trouw explained. “As a result, Roman Catholics are more reluctant to give their churches a different function.”
For Roman Catholics the church is sacred, for Protestants the church is useful. —Dutch newspaper Trouw
Another reason is that Catholic churches in The Netherlands are built after 1850 and are usually large, neo- Gothic cathedrals which make them difficult to convert, reports Faithwire.
Dutch Catholics are also worried about how their places of worship would be used. Should a church be remodeled, they want it to be used for cultural or social purposes, instead of commercial. Protestant churches are usually redesigned as apartments and office spaces.
Once a predominantly Christian country before the 20th century, The Netherlands is now known as one of the most secular on Earth, according to World Atlas. Only 32.2% of Dutch people claimed to adhere to a religious belief.
A survey in 2016 showed that 25% of Dutch people are Christians while 67% of the population have no religion. Experts believe that by next year, 72% of the Dutch people will not identify to any religion. This, following a 2015 survey wherein 63% of the population claimed that “religion does more harm than good in the country.”