The Null Device

Grass-roots disestablishment in Finland

In Tampere, Finland, an atheist group has set up a website to help people resign from the church.
Easy resignation through the web site has increased the rate of resignations in Finland. Resigning through the web site only requires filling a short personal information form, after which a local city council will receive an email about the resignation. In cities where the city council does not accept email resignations, Freethinkers will pay the postal fee.
The rate of resignations from the Evangelic Lutheran state church of Finland has increased rapidly in recent years. 27009 people resigned from the church in 2004. 33043 people resigned in 2005, which is 22% more than in 2004. There are approximately 5.26 million people in Finland, which gives a proportion of people resigning from the church of 0.6% in 2005. The most common reasons cited for resigning from the church have been saving church income tax (1.3% on average), lack of religious beliefs and belief in another religion. A person can avoid church income tax by resigning before a new year begins. Increased resignation rates in November and December (shown in the figure) supports the theory that the most common reason for resigning is avoiding the income tax.
Finland is officially a Lutheran country, with everyone belonging by default to the state church unless they submit a resignation form. Mind you, one could argue that a universal state church is just another implementation of a secular society; the levels of zeal one can expect from such an organisation make the Church of England look like Branch Davidians by comparison, and many of those who do belong to the church see the inside of one about three times in their lives.

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