- -  Day # 159  + +

EU > The Netherlands > The Hague

Religion and ideology

The Hague, NL (View on map)

`God created the world, but the Dutch created The Netherlands` - Even though big shares of The Netherlands would not have existed without physical effort of Dutch human beings, this saying at least marks how much they believe in their own influence on the course of life. While official religions collectively praise God, many Dutch prefer to individually honour something. Believing in `something` has even been allocated the corresponding term `something-ism`. Here`s an overview of what `something-ism` sounds like in the streets of The Hague:

Rob (24):

..thinks Dutch people tend to be quite rational when it comes to taking decisions
Dutch churches are suffering from decreasing numbers of visitors. More and more churches are forced to close their doors, and with the exception of specific communities, the phenomenon religion is not very popular. The Dutch do not like to respect central authorities whose opinions are imposed or at least taken for a fact. Recent events in the world have caused popularity religion to drop even further. Even when talking about indigenous Catholicism or Protestantism, young Dutch people like to point out that religion, or even ideology for that matter, is too often used as an excuse for cruel behaviour.

Just like anything that deviates from the average, people who are too fanatic about their religion, especially those trying to convert others, are likely to fall victim to sarcastic jokes ? one of the reasons why many people prefer not to talk about religion at all.

Marieke (30) works as a scientist and thinks that religion and science are quite hard to combine. `Moreover, my parents are atheist so I had no religious education whatsoever. I put trust in the incredible power people have and how they can use that to their own and others` benefit. I think people`s abilities go very far and that people in The Netherlands have a high degree of control over their lives.`

Ronny (30) thinks there`s more than here and now, but he only wants to find out about that when he passes away: `I also believe in enjoying. The bad thing about religion is that is often restrictive. The downside of not having those restrictions is that people will easily become self-centered and irresponsible.`

Rob (24, photo) agrees there`s a risk of people becoming selfish, but thinks that Dutch children are educated in such a way that they learn to become responsible adults. `When you grow up, your parents point you at the results of your actions, and I do think that Dutch people are on average very well aware of the effects of what they do. We are quite conscious and rational so that shouldn`t be the problem. Moreover, it`s perceived as something positive when people think about complicated issues themselves, rather than having them chewed out in a book or by an invisible authority. I don`t think that whether people are religious or not makes them good or bad, it`s all about how they interpret social responsibility.

Marieke (24) likes to believe in herself. If that strategy fails, she will visit her friends for help, and she is generous in allowing her friends to do the same. `I also believe in reality`, she adds. `You can`t just change everything by hoping for something to happen, there are also things you simply have to live with.` Marieke`s friend Renske (25) tells about how one of her friends writes small notes saying `I love you` to herself in times of distress.

Sanne (24) believes in love and how love has the strength to conquer everything. `I also believe that the truth always prevails in the long run and that people can bear more than they can actively imagine. I do not really believe in the idea of a unique god. I do think there`s more than meets the eye, but people have a way too high esteem of themselves. That`s why they create a person-like figure who is supposed to manage it all and serve as an explanation for the unexplainable. I think every living thing has a divine touch to it and that only a very small part of that is visual. I believe that when I die, I will return to be a piece of energy that I used to be before this life.`

While collective and accepted religions are losing ground, `individual religions` are gaining. They can be planned for without taking other people`s agenda into consideration, which is a major advantage in the busy Dutch social scene. Sanne tells about the many people who prefer yoga and meditation over church visits: `Even business men are starting to use it to relieve the stress. I`m not sure whether engaging in those activities should have such a concrete goal, but if it helps them.. Dutch people are attached to things being functional, religion barely manages to escape that requirement.`

The Secret is another similar pseudo-religion that tells people what to do to be happy. Unhappy people have access to lots of commercial self-help books that replace religion by simple instructions. Daphne (19) thinks that nature religions and witch craft organisations are also on the rise: `Anything to make sure people don`t have to rely on one person or one institution outside themselves. Imagine that point of reference falls away or proves less trustworthy than expected. What to do in that case?

Too good to be good
Jerry (27) has lived in Columbia, South Korea and the United States. He thinks that the Dutch are spoilt by how much they possess and how easy their lives are: `No wonder they have the arrogance to think that they are in control. And if they are not, they prefer to cover the risk through extensive insurances. People turn to religion when they cannot make ends meet or look for explanations for their suffering. Under current circumstances, they think they don`t need religion, they don`t even need each other. They are simply very spoilt, and what`s the worst of all, they have forgotten that happiness resides in small things rather than bigger houses and bigger cars.`

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