Europe's Religious Inheritance: Religion, Law, and Identity in Contemporary Europe

Ronan Mccrea

in Religion and the Public Order of the European Union

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199595358
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595776 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in European Law

Europe's Religious Inheritance: Religion, Law, and Identity in Contemporary Europe

Show Summary Details


This chapter sets out the factual background to the Union's approach to the relationship between religion, politics, the law, and the state. It notes how European identity originally arose out of a shared commitment to Christianity. This identity has also been moulded by a strong humanist tradition which owed much to Christianity but which nevertheless played a significant role in the experience of secularisation undergone by most Member States since the 15th century. Although contemporary Europe is relatively a-religious, religion remains an element of both personal and national identities and retains institutional and symbolic privileges in many Member States. Nevertheless, religion's political influence has waned and, although it retains some influence over law in relation to ‘moral issues’, this influence is declining and has given way to humanist notions of individual autonomy to a significant degree. Religion in Europe therefore retains a limited but important role as an element of individual and collective identities.

Keywords: secularisation; religion; culture; humanism; Christianity; Europe; sociology of religion; comparative law; constitutional law

Chapter.  14738 words. 

Subjects: EU Law

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.