While religiosity has been on the decline in Europe for several years, some Europeans are taking more radical steps in distancing themselves from Christianity and the Church hierarchy; they aren’t just leaving their congregations, but taking steps to become officially “de-baptized.” This phenomenon, perhaps the most visible manifestation of the continent’s secularization, has touched both Protestant and Catholic communities in the wake of clergy scandals and the controversial social positions of religious leaders. Writing for Religious News Services, Elizabeth Bryant notes:
In Belgium, which has been hit hard by the church sex scandals, de-baptism requests in the French-speaking region alone soared to roughly 2,000 in 2010, compared to 66 two years earlier, according to the Brussels Federation of Friends of Secular Morality. The numbers of people reportedly leaving the Dutch church reportedly shot up 25 percent.
In Britain, a de-baptism certificate offered as a joke by the National Secular Society has since turned serious after tens of thousands of people downloaded it.
“Some people actually do feel actively hostile toward churches,” said society president Terry Sanderson. “And they want to express that by saying, ‘I’m not one of your members.'”
In Germany, a record 181,000 Catholics formally split from the Catholic Church in 2011—the first time that Catholic defections outpaced Protestants leaving. Rather than requesting de-baptisms, Germans fill out government paperwork saying they no longer want to pay church taxes.