What’s the main religion in Albania?

You may have heard that Albania is a Muslim country. Simultaneously, it celebrates Christmas and has a Christian population. Simultaneously, it’s actually a secular country. So which is it? We’ll try to untangle this mess today but, as with everything Balkan, it’s not so simple.


What do Albanians believe in?

The situation is a bit tricky and you’ll invariably find many sources online re-stating different numbers. That’s because there’s no official census for religion in Albania like you would have in other countries because the Council of Europe actually declared the main census (from 2011) unreliable. In it, 56,7% of the population stated they’re Sunni Muslims, marking Islam as the dominant religion of Albania. Catholics were second, at 10% and Eastern Orthodoxy was third, at 6.75%. Apart from Sunni Islam, there was also a 2% for Bektashism.

There’s also the data from Boston University 2020 World Religion Database which states that Muslims make up about 59% and Christians suddenly jump to 38%. We have to take each of those with a grain of salt but presume that there is a grain of truth to each. Muslims are a dominant group in Albania and Christianity is also there, just as a minority group. One aspect which these censuses do not represent is how important religion actually is to even those who do declare themselves believers.


Faith and religion in Albania

For many years of communist rule, religious practices were effectively banned in the country. Those who would not comply with the ban would face severe punishment, some believers were even killed in the process. Albania still deems itself a secular country, even though much of its population is in some way a believer. So what role does religion actually play in Albania?

In 2012, Pew Research showed in a study that a very small minority of Muslims see their religion as important in their lives. Vast majority of young people also do not practice their religion apart from the main big holidays. There’s a disconnect between religion and faith in Albania. In 2016, a study from Gallup International showed that the majority of Albanians do believe that there’s a God of some kind, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that this is an important aspect of their life. There are also sources showing much bigger figures of people openly stating that religion is not important to them and that they’re non-practising. In short, whether or not people declare themselves as believers of a certain faith, strong irreligion is certainly present in Albania.

Also, a funny sidenote before you go: Albania had the lowest belief percentage in any form of an afterlife in the European Values Survey in 2008, with a whopping 74.3% not even entertaining the idea.


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