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The importance that people
give to religion worldwide

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The Pew Research Center worldwide survey:

The Pew Research Center is conducting a series of studies called "The Pew Global Attitudes Project." They will measure the "impact of globalization, modernization, rapid technological and cultural change and the Sept. 11 terrorist events on the values and attitudes of more than 38,000 people in 44 countries..."  A poll released on 2002-DEC-19 revealed whether people around the world consider religion to be personally important. 1

Results showing the balance of interest in secularism and religion were reported from 41 countries. The percentage of the public who considered religion important ranged from 97% in Senegal to 11% in both France and the Czech Republic. The Center reported that: "Questions on the personal importance of religion were not permitted in China, and were deemed too sensitive to ask in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon."

North American countries are shown in bold below:

Country % of adults for whom religion is important
Senegal 97
Indonesia 95
Nigeria 92
India 92
Pakistan 91
Ivory Coast 91
Mali 90
Philippines 88
Bangladesh 88
South Africa 87
Kenya 85
Uganda 85
Ghana 84
Tanzania 83
Angola 80
Guatemala 80
Brazil 77
Honduras 72
Peru 69
Bolivia 66
Turkey 65
Venezuela 61
U.S. 59
Mexico 57
A really big gap appears here!  
Argentina 39
Poland 36
Ukraine 35
Uzbekistan 35
Great Britain 33
Canada 30
Slovakia 29
Italy 27
South Korea 25
Vietnam 24
Germany 21
Russia 14
Bulgaria 13
Japan 12
France 11
Czech Republic 11

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Some observations:

bullet Among the five countries in which religion is considered most important, four have been involved in recent religiously-based conflicts in which persons of one religion engage in mass murder of those of another religion. Countries in which fewer than 60% of the public consider religion to be important have been free of inter-religious conflict, with the exception of the Protestant/Loyalist vs. Catholic/Unionists "Troubles" in Northern Ireland which was largely settled in 2003.
 
bullet More American adults consider religion much more important than do the citizens of all other industrialized states. "Americans' [religious] views are closer to people in developing nations than to the publics of developed nations." 1
 
bullet The population of the U.S. and Canada share a similar culture. Yet they assign vastly different importance to religion -- almost a ratio of 2 to 1. This may well influence the two country's divergent policies on abortion access, gun control, homosexual rights, universal health care, and other social issues.
 
bullet The public in many Muslim, African and South American countries consider religion to be very important. Argentina, Turkey and Uzbekistan are exceptions.
 
bullet The countries which formed the former USSR and the states occupied by the USSR during the cold war appear to consider religion to be less important. This is presumably due to the past influence of communism.
 
bullet The Center attempted to correlate the importance given to religion with annual per capita income. They found that, with the exception of the U.S., richer nations tend to place less importance on religion
 
bullet Eddie Gibbs, a world Christianity specialist from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA commented: "The jury is still out on whether the United States will become as secular as Europe one day...The predictions from the 1960s that American church attendance and conventional belief would decline did not come true. But I think it is true that beliefs are no longer impacting the culture." 2,3
 
bullet The Reverend John Navone, a Jesuit theologian at the Gregorian University in Rome, cautioned: "Just because people say they are religious, does not make it so, no more than if they say they are intelligent or moral." He suggested that the data is difficult to interpret without a clearer definition of religion. He said: "All the problems that Jesus had were with religious people. According to the time, the Scribes and the Pharisees had religion, and Jesus didn't at all...The truly religious people I know don't boast about it. They have a radical humility. And that goes for Einstein as well." 4
 
bullet Kristine Greenaway, spokesperson for the World Council of Churches in Geneva, said: "Probably more Americans go to church than in Canada, true, but it would be wrong to jump to assumptions about spirituality or personal faith based on an inaccurate perception....[Europeans are spiritual] but not necessarily in an organizational sense. They have the same questions about a supreme being, about prayer and life after death and they have a deep and sophisticated belief system, even if they are not part of an institution." 4
 
bullet Larry Witham of the Washington Times commented that America's: "...high rates of professed belief often have been attributed to religious freedom and separation of church and state, whereas in most other countries a state-established religion or a secular state policy has been enforced." 3

References:

  1. "Among Wealthy Nations, U.S. stands alone in its embrace of religion," 2002-DEC-19, The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, at: http://people-press.org/
  2. "U.S. 'Most Religious' Nation," Charisma News Service, 2002-DEC-23, at: http://www.charismanews.com/
  3. Larry Witham, "U.S. religiousness tops among world's industrial nations," Washington Times, 2002-DEC-20, at: http://www.washtimes.com/
  4. Barry James, "Religion plays a vital role for 6 in 10 Americans, survey reveals,"
    International Herald Tribune, 2002-DEC-21, at: http://www.iht.com/

Site navigation: Home page > Religious Info. > Basic info. > here

Copyright 2002 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-DEC-27
Latest update: 2009-OCT-22
Author: B.A. Robinson

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