Norway’s biggest church loses more than 25,000 members after new online system makes it easier to leave

'We have great respect for individual choice,' head of the Norwegian Bishops' Conference says

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The Independent Online

Norway's state church has lost more than 25,000 members in a month after it launched an online registration system allowing people to sign up or opt out.

The Lutheran Church is the official religion in Norway and nearly three-quarters of the population are registered as members.

However, since launching a website on 12 August to update its heavily criticised records and offer people an easy way to join or leave, 25,743 members have left the church, 24,653 of those through the site.

In the same period, 1,177 used the website to sign up.

Within 24 hours of the site launching, 10,854 had deregistered. Within four days, a total of 15,053 had left.

“The number of withdrawals must be seen in relation to the large number of members of the Norwegian Church,” Helga Haugland Byfuglien, head of the Norwegian Bishops' Conference said in a statement on the church's website.

She said the church expected to see a large number of people leave considering the extensive media attention the website received.

“We have great respect for individual choice,” she added.

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An annual survey of Norwegians found the majority of Norwegians say they do not believe in God.

Of the 4,000 Norwegians who were surveyed, 39 per cent said "no" when asked whether they believed in God, 37 per cent said "yes" and the remaining 23 per cent said they did not know.

In the UK, only two in five British people now identify as Christian. The proportion of UK citizens who do not follow a religion has risen from just under a third in 1983, to almost half in 2014, the report stated in December last year.

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