The Dutch Bible Belt: what’s that all about?

The Netherlands' religious hotspot. 🤲

The Netherlands is a progressive, innovative, forward-thinking country… with its very own deeply religious bible belt. 🙏🏻

Yup, you’ve read that correctly. About 2.5% of the Dutch population that live in the Bible Belt direct their lives according to the dogma of orthodox Protestantism. 

If pro-life, anti-vax or traditional dress comes to mind — you’re entirely on the right track! 

Where is the Dutch Bible Belt?

The Dutch Bible Belt  (or, as they say, bijbelgordel or refoband) is a stretch of land with the highest concentration of conservative, orthodox Protestants (Calvinists) in the country. 

It reaches from the province of Zeeland in the southwest, past the provinces of South Holland, North Brabant, Utrecht, and Gelderland, to parts of the province of Overijssel in the northeast. 

READ MORE | Provinces in the Netherlands: the easy guide

Not-so coincidentally, the Bible Belt’s territory overlaps with the voting pool of the SGP, the Dutch Reformed Political Party — which strives towards a government entirely based on the Bible.

The voting pool for the SGP (pictured above) largely overlaps with the Bible Belt territory. Image: Danny Cohen/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The stretch of land is called a ‘belt’ because of its upwards curve, which snuggly hugs the Netherlands at its imagined waist (and contains the believers). 🙏

A (very) brief history of the Dutch Bible Belt

The Dutch Bible Belt as we know it today wasn’t actually formed until the 19th century. But does that make it modern and progressive? Helemaal niet. 

So, how did it come into being? 

When Flanders and North Brabant were conquered by the Spanish during the Eighty Years’ War, the Protestant inhabitants of the areas were forced to convert to Catholicism or, well, leave. 

READ MORE | What was the Eighty Years’ War? The Dutch War of Independence explained

Many of them opted for the second option and moved up north. There, the new population critiqued the existing Dutch Reformed Church, and eventually formed their own, more conservative sub-cultures within the religion. 

The sub-cultures remixed some of the most conservative doctrines, and ta-da: the Bible Belt was magically born (just like Jesus Chirst). 👩‍🍼

Who lives in the Dutch Bible Belt? 

The Christian conservatives are actually not the majority in most towns in the Bible Belt. Instead, they often live alongside non-religious Nederlanders. This happens very peacefully — unless, God forbid, the non-believers hang their laundry on a Sunday. Blasphemy! 😳

The religious community looks down on doing any kind of work on Sundays. Image: Depositphotos

In reality, the fundamentalist Christians are only the majority in some select villages, such as Elspeet or Uddel, both in the province of Gelderland. 

Here, certain political parties are especially popular, such as the ChristenUnie (Christian Union) and the SGP (Reformed Political Party) — who share some pretty conservative (and very questionable) values — but more on that later. 

READ MORE | Calvinism in the Netherlands: why are the Dutch so Calvinist in nature?

Those who are members of the conservative sub-cultures are often referred to as “Refo” (reformed) — and there are about half a million of them. That’s about 2.5% of the overall Dutch population! 

These hardcore bible-belters pair orthodox theology with a modest and obedient lifestyle. They strictly adhere to the word of God, and, in their view, the only valid truth can be found in the Bible. 📖 

It’s common for families to read from the Bible together before or after dinner. Image: Freepik

While the rest of the country likes to ridicule the Bible Belt, the community enjoys their quiet, peaceful life in ignorance of what is being said about them (they’re not allowed access to TVs or the internet, after all). 

The controversies of the Dutch Bible Belt

While people (mostly) respect the traditions and beliefs of the Bible Belt communities in the Netherlands, there are some controversies that many of the rest of the Dutch population are happy to call out.  

Against same-sex marriage

As devout believers in their Lord’s word, Bible Belters are against any form of same-sex relationships or LGBTQIA+ identification. Why? Because “God forbids it”.

In 2019, a Dutch version of the American Nashville Statement (Nashvilleverklaring) made headlines because it openly opposed gay marriage, non-monogamy, and transsexuality. 

READ MORE | What? The Netherlands is dropping down the EU rankings for LGBTI+ rights

The statement found widespread support across the Dutch Bible Belt, and declared, among other things, that “it is sinful to approve of homosexual uncleanness or transgenderism” — and that any faithful Christian would understand this.

Against vaccination

The population of the Bible Belt has long been subject to heavy criticism for its stance against vaccinations. For religious reasons, many members of the community are not immunised against multiple common diseases.

This, of course, became a hot topic during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the conservative Calvinists refused to get vaccinated. 

The result? They put countless others at risk of infection. Which wasn’t very “love thy neighbour” of them… 🤨

Why do they refuse to get vaccinated? Oh, just because — hold onto your hats — they believe that “people should not use medicine that prevents God from punishing them.” 

It goes as far as some of them claiming that even insurance policies are fundamentally wrong, “because they stand in opposition to the perfection of God”, who “knows what’s good for us.” 

The village of Urk

Now, let’s be real: the above controversies are (unfortunately) not too shocking coming for a conservative group of believers. 

So now, let’s move on to the village of Urk, a place that is known (and we mean New York Times-kinda known) for being the most conservative place in the Netherlands — and as a result, quite controversial.

Harbor with the lighthouse on a bright summer in the Netherlands at the historical village of Urk in the Dutch Bible Belt
We’re not going to lie: it looks quite charming! Image: Depositphotos

Located in the Dutch province of Flevoland, and home to a whopping 21 Protestant churches, this small village is a cultural phenomenon in itself. 

How do you sum up this “special” place? Well, according to this person on Reddit:

byu/skennie from discussion

Seems like Urk… irks the people.

The reason for the fishy smell (and activity), but also for why religion has remained such an important societal pillar in Urk, is that, up until 1939, the village was an island off the coast. Then, the land was reclaimed from the sea.

We can only guess that the isolation of Urk’s residents is what has resulted in their old-fashioned beliefs (compared to the rest of the Netherlands). 

One Redditor claims that “despite now being connected to the mainland, Urk’s cultural uniqueness stubbornly refuses to die.”

Beliefs, traditions and particularities of the Dutch Bible Belt 

Wondering what the Bible Belters get up to in their day-to-day lives (besides prayer)? Let’s have a look. 👇

They enjoy entertainment that aligns with their religion

TV? Not allowed. Non-religious music? Strictly forbidden. Internet? Taboo. 

In many Bible Belt homes, the entire day revolves around one thing: God.

In these families, they read from the Bible before and after dinner, pray together, and listen to worship music — all while they avoid any activities that could be viewed as sinful. 

They wear a traditional mode of dress

The fashion trends in the Bible Belts are, well, biblical. At church, but also in everyday life, modesty is heel important. 

What does that look like in practice? Well, the women wear conservative clothing that covers their bodies, and men dress modestly as well.

In some places, like Staphorst, women also wear a small cotton hat. Image: Marcel Antonisse/Wikimedia Commons/CC0

On Sundays specifically, to go to church, women in the Bible Belt wear a traditional black ensemble, which is made up of over a dozen items of clothing, including a calf-length, black, pleated skirt; an apron; shawl and bonnet; and black shoes or wooden clogs.

They also wear hand-knitted black thigh-high socks. These are what gave rise to the Bible Belters’ nickname of Zwartekousen (black stockings).

They attend regular church services

It comes as no surprise that the inhabitants of the Bible Belt go to church regularly. But they seem to not just go to church — they live for church.

On Sundays (when the traditional dress comes on), some people head to church not just once, but twice! 

Towns in the Bible Belt have the highest percentage of Church attendance. Image: Depositphotos

In some places, you even have to report to the local congregation if (and why) you have to miss church on a Sunday.

… but vaccinating people against a deadly illness is deemed “state control”. 👀 

They have plenty of babies

Of course, no good believer would ever try to prevent God’s will by using contraception or getting abortions. 

It’s no surprise, then, that statistics prove that the villages in the Dutch bible belt have extraordinarily high birth and fertility rates. In communities where people get married young, it is no exception for a family to have up to seven children.

Yup, that means there are plenty of cute babies in the Bible Belt! Image: Freepik

Of course, Urk has the highest birth rate in the whole country. One woman specifically took it to the next level and has a total of 18(!) children. Lekker bezig? 😳

The Dutch Bible Belt is as devout as it is fascinating. In the country of decriminalised drugs and the Red Light District, the Bible Belt towns are unique cultural phenomenons that offer a religious haven for many Dutch people. 

So, if you ever find yourself in the Netherlands’ Bible Belt (for whatever reason), remember to dress respectfully, keep the music down, and take in all of the quirkiness that opposes the rest of the country. 🙌

Do you have any more fun (or shocking) facts about the Dutch Bible Belt? Tell us in the comments!

Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Say 'hoi' to Lyna, our Senior Writer at DutchReview! Fueled by a love for writing, social media, and all things Dutch, she joined the DR family in 2022. Since making the Netherlands her home in 2018, she has collected a BA in English Literature & Society (Hons.) and an RMA in Arts, Literature and Media (Hons.). Even though she grew up just a few hours away from the Netherlands, Lyna remains captivated by the guttural language, quirky culture, and questionable foods that make the Netherlands so wonderfully Dutch.

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  1. When referring to the family with 18 children, the article says “one woman specifically took it to the next level”. Why not “the family took it to the next level”? To me, 18 children is not solely the decision of the mother.


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