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Thousands of Danish Christians cancel church membership following atheist campaign

(REUTERS/Mathias Bojesen/Scanpix Denmark)People wave Danish flags as they celebrate the 75th birthday of Denmark's Queen Margrethe, who is received at the City Hall, April 16, 2015.

A huge number of Christians in Denmark has left the church in response to a nationwide campaign launched by an atheist group.

In its campaign, Ateistisk Selskab or the Danish Atheist Society advised Danish citizens that they could save money by leaving the church. It says that Folkekirken or the Church of Denmark receives about 8 billion kroner each year from both its members and the state. As a result of the campaign, almost 3,000 people have cancelled their membership. This amounts to an annual loss of about 9 million kroner for the country's state church, reports CPH Post.

In an interview with Kristeligt Dagblad, Atheist Society spokesman Anders Stjernholm said that they are happy with the preliminary results.

"While our bus campaign calls for a broad debate about the foundations of faith, the withdrawal campaign targets the many Danes who have long considered leaving folkekirken, but have been putting ting it off because the process is too cumbersome," he said, as quoted by Christian Today.

The group has provided a very simple method for church members to opt out. All one has to do is fill out a form in the website and send an email to the office of their local church.

According to the report, those who are baptized automatically become members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, which makes about 80 percent of Danes. These members are likewise automatically signed up for a voluntary Church tax of about 1 percent.

"It's not at all surprising that Danish citizens are cancelling their church membership," Stephen Evans of the U.K.'s National Secular Society said in an interview with Christian Today. "Nobody should be auto-enrolled into a religion, particularly when it comes with the imposition of a church tax to fund an institution that you may not support."

According to a report by CPH Post, Dean Thomas Frank of Viborg thinks that a counter-campaign is necessary. He told Kristeligt Dagblad that while they cannot stop the atheist group, the church can "try to constructively draw attention to what it means to opt out from the church in terms of funerals and other things."

"And we can explain that the church uses the tax money members pay on maintaining cemeteries and churches, organising activities for people of all ages, and much, much more," he said.

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