Resign from the church

Finland is an example of a country in which a large majority of the population belongs to a state church, in our case the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, but comparatively few believe what the church teaches. The website Eroa kirkosta (fi) ("Resign from the Church") is a creative reaction to this state of affairs. Set up by a freethinkers' association from Tampere, it allows people to resign from the state churches - the Finnish Orthodox Church being the other - by filling out a form online. According to the website, in 2006 well over 70 percent of all resignations from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland were made through the website. The service is especially popular with young people: roughly 4 percent of 18-year olds resigned from the church in 2006 through the website. The church income tax is one significant driver for resignations. There's a fun chart on the website which shows that there's a big spike in resignations in November and December. The church tax need not be paid for the year if the person has resigned before New Year.

It's interesting how important to church membership even relatively minor changes in how convenient it is to resign. The website carries a short history (fi) of resigning from the church, which notes for example the importance of the way in which the church tax is collected. Up to 1960 it was paid in one go at the end of the year, but after that year it has been collected directly from the salary. The result was that resignations more than halved from 1959 to 1960. Other big jumps occurred in 1969 when you could resign without talking to a priest and in 2003 when you could do it in writing, without talking to anyone at all. Now, merely by giving an easy and an impersonal way to resign, this website has put a significant dent in church membership. It's almost as if the state churches had a lot of members that weren't very serious about religion...

Personally, I think the French and the Americans have the right idea on the need for a state church.

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