Over the past 40 years, Switzerland's religious landscape has seen a fair amount of change: although the proportion of Roman Catholics has remained relatively stable, that of Reformed Protestants has declined severely, in favour of persons with no religious affiliation
Between 2010 and 2018, the proportion of Roman Catholics and Reformed Protestants fell slightly (by 3 and 5 percentage points respectively), in contrast to that of Muslims and other Islamic communities (+1 point). The proportion of Jewish communities has hardly changed whereas that of persons without religious affiliation has risen by 8 percentage points.
The vast majority of those interviewed (71%) go to a place of worship to attend a religious service for a maximum of five times a year. Apart from persons without religious affiliation, the persons who go least often to a place of worship are those belonging to an Islamic community; almost 46% of these persons had not taken part in a collective religious service in the 12 months prior to the survey and 12% of them went at least once a week. 72% of members of other Evangelical communities attend a religious service at least once a week. Roman Catholics are most likely to attend a collective religious service between six times a year and at least once a month (26%) and Reformed Protestants are most likely to go to church between 1 and 5 times per year (50%).
Almost a third of Catholics (30%) and a sixth (17%) of Muslims say that they pray every day or almost. The latter are proportionally more likely (40%) to have not prayed at all during the past 12 months than Protestants (34%) and Catholics (26%). Members of other Evangelical communities are more devout; 34% pray several times a day and 51% every day or almost.
Of the Catholic and Protestant persons, 59% and 46% respectively stated that they believed in a single God. A fifth (20%) of the first group and almost a third (30%) of the second identify rather with a belief in a type of superior power. Members of other Evangelical communities (92%) and Muslims (90%) confirm their belief in a single God on a much wider scale. A third of people with no religious affiliation identify as atheist and a quarter as agnostic, i.e. they do not know if a god or gods exist. Furthermore, one in ten persons without religious affiliation says they believe in a single God and 31% in a superior power.
Women pray more than men; 35% of women said they pray at least once a day or almost compared with 20% of men. Women are also more likely to adhere to a range of beliefs. For example, 58% of women interviewed believe rather or completely that angels or supernatural beings watch over us, compared with 37% of men.
Additionally, more than one in two women (56%) believe that persons have a gift of healing or clairvoyance, whereas 42% of men have the same belief. Various spiritual practices are also more widespread among women. 27% of them practice movement or breathing techniques in a spiritual way, whereas 11% of men do so.
More than one in two persons (56%) considers that religion or spirituality plays a rather important or very important role at difficult moments in life, and 47% in the event of illness. 43% of the population aged 15 and over say that religion or spirituality is important in their attitude towards the environment and 47% in bringing up children. The areas of life where religion or spirituality are less important are working life (23%), decisions in referendums or political orientation (16%), sexuality (16%) or eating habits (13%).
The distribution of religions differs greatly according to nationality. The share of persons without any religious affiliation of Swiss nationality (23%) is lower than that of those holding German (51%), French (57%), Spanish (33%), American-Caribbean (43%), Oceanian (71%) and other European (43%) and Asian (24%) nationalities. The share of Reformed Protestants of Swiss nationality (31%) is higher than for all other nationality groups. The share of persons of Roman Catholic religion is highest for those with Italian (75%), Portuguese (73%) and Spanish (61%) nationalities. Among Swiss nationals, the share is 36%.
Persons from the Balkan countries (60%), the Maghreb-North African countries (77%), the Middle East (61%) and Turkey (71%) are predominantly Muslim. 2.4% of Swiss nationals belong to this religious community. The share of other Christian communities is high among people of sub-Saharan African nationality (37%). Other religious communities (e.g. Buddhist or Hindu) account for a significant share of those with Asian nationality (46%).
The distribution between Swiss and foreign nationals differs by religious affiliation. Three quarters of Roman Catholics and 95% of Reformed Protestants are Swiss nationals. For the other Christian and Jewish communities, this share is 65% and 79% respectively. The shares of Swiss nationals are lowest for Islamic communities (35%) and other religious communities (50%). 71 % of persons with no religious affiliation are Swiss nationals.
Statistical sources and concepts