Religious Adherents, 2010 (World Christian Database)1
The country has an area of 39,600 square miles and a population of 300,000. Reykjavik and its environs are home to approximately 60 percent of the population.
According to the National Statistical Bureau, 252,461 persons (81 percent of the population) are members of the state Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELC). In 2007, 1,685 individuals resigned from the church, as against 201 new registrants other than infants baptized. Many of those who resigned joined one of the organizationally and financially independent Lutheran Free Churches, which has a total membership of 15,290 (4.9 percent of the population). A total of 16,883 persons (5.4 percent) are members of 26 other small recognized and registered religious organizations ranging from the Roman Catholic Church (7,977 members) to the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification(4 members). There are 19,524 individuals (6.2 percent) who belong to other or unspecified religious organizations and 8,714 (2.8 percent) who are not members of any religious organization. There are also religions, such as Judaism, that have been practiced in the country for years but whose members have never requested official recognition. The National Statistical Bureau does not keep track of Jewish community numbers, and there is no synagogue or Jewish cultural center; however, up to 60 persons attend occasional Jewish events and activities organized by a few Jewish immigrants.
Although the majority of citizens use traditional Lutheran rituals to mark events such as baptisms, confirmations, weddings, and funerals, most Lutherans do not regularly attend Sunday services.
The number of foreigners receiving residence permits increased significantly during the past several years. In direct relation to the increase in foreigners (itinerant workers, immigrants, and refugees), the number of religious organizations significantly increased. Foreigners constitute an estimated 80 percent of the Roman Catholic population. The Roman Catholic Church in Iceland estimated that registered totals may only capture half of the actual number of Catholics in the country. The Reykjavik Catholic Church holds one weekly English-language service, and a number of Poles, Filipinos, and Lithuanians attend. Services are also conducted in other languages in other Catholic churches and chapels in other areas. A growing number of Poles, served by four Polish priests, live in the country, working in the fishing and shipbuilding industries. In addition to Icelandic priests, the Catholic Church employs priests from Argentina, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. Since there are few Catholic churches outside of Reykjavik, Lutheran ministers regularly lend their churches to Catholic priests so that they can conduct Masses for members in rural areas.
The Association of Muslims in Iceland (Felag Muslima a Islandi), founded in 1997, has 371 members (out of approximately 800 to 1,000 Muslims living in the country, according to the association). Muslims are concentrated in the capital area (although there are a number of Kosovar Muslim refugees in the small northern town of Dalvik). Since 2002 the community has had its own house of worship, with daily prayer nights and weekly Friday prayers that attract a core group of approximately 30-50 individuals.
Note: The World Christian Database (WCD) estimates, used in the Religious Adherents section above, count each person as belonging to a maximum of one religious group. For more information, see the WCD methodology document. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom report estimates, used in the Religious Demography section, use less restrictive criteria in which a person who identifies with more than one religion is classified as a follower of each. In certain cases (such as Japan and other nations with strong folk religion traditions), this can cause counts to vary widely between estimates. Users are advised to consult the relevant source documents before determining which counts to cite.
1. The World Christian Database (WCD) is based on the 2600-page award-winning World Christian Encyclopedia and World Christian Trends, first published in 1982 and revised in 2001. This extensive work on World religion is now completely updated and integrated into the WCD online database. Designed for both the casual user and research scholar, information is readily available on religious activities, growth rates, religious literature, worker activity, and demographic statistics. Additional secular data is incorporated on population, health, education, and communications. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. Used with permission.
2. The U.S. State Department's International Religious Freedom Report is submitted to Congress annually by the Department of State in compliance with Section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998. This report supplements the most recent Human Rights Reports by providing additional detailed information with respect to matters involving international religious freedom. It includes individual country chapters on the status of religious freedom worldwide. A dataset with these and the other international measures highlighted on the country pages can be downloaded from this website. These State Department reports are open source.