When a society rejects God, they will worship something else. Or, as apologist Alister McGrath puts it, they will transcendentalize an alternative. The absence of Christianity in France does not mean the absence of worship.
The Current (non)Religious Picture in France
- Evangelical Christians: 1.08% of the population.
- Atheist: 29% of the population.
- Non-Religious: 63% of the population.
- Occult practitioners: It is estimated that over 100,000 men and women are active practitioners. Psychics outnumber Catholic priests by 400%. Perhaps more than any other European nation, France has embraced the occult.
- Muslim: 10% of the population. The Muslim population in France is steadily growing through both reproduction and immigration.
How The French Painted their Nonreligious Picture
The nonreligious commitment of the French people is not a new development, nor was it birthed from a void. The secular national identity was decidedly embraced in the French Revolution (May 5, 1789 – Nov 9, 1799). As the populace threw off the constraints of traditional religion—Papal Supremacy and oppression by the church and the state—they enthroned reason as ultimate.
Laïcité is perhaps now the god of France. It means secularism and is enshrined in the French constitution. Article 1 declares that France is a secular republic. Laïcité washes over all facets of French life and religion is largely taboo. Religion is neither respected nor spoken of in polite company. Indeed, courts across the country regularly penalize the religious for bringing their beliefs into the public square.
The Rise of the Occult
While the Revolution did away with religion and reason triumphed, the occult was quickly on its heals. Like McGrath said, people will worship something.
Numbers are hard to come by, but both the French and foreigners residing there will tell you that the occult is present. Psychics are easy to find—a simple Yelp search in Paris provides hundreds of options. Clairvoyants, tarot card readers, palm readers, and mediums practice across the country.
Because astrology is viewed to be couched in science and not religion, the occult is not taboo. The void left by traditional religion has been filled to overflowing with superstition and New Age spirituality. Even paganism, with roots in ancient Celtic cultures who inhabited the same geography as modern-day France, is acceptable.
Missionaries throughout France report encounters with seekers who have either left the occult or are still engaged in practices of the occult. There is indeed a spiritual battle being waged for souls in France. The country stands witness to the truth that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Join the spiritual battle for France through prayer: make supplication for all the saints… that words may be given to [them] in opening [their] mouth[s] boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel (Ephesians 6:18-19).