Americans are in the middle of the pack globally when it comes to importance of religion

Jan 4, 2016

More than half of Americans (53%) now say religion is very important in their lives, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. While this figure has declined somewhat in recent years – down from 56% in 2007 – Americans remain in the middle of the pack in terms of importance of religion when compared with people around the world.

In fact, the share of Americans who say religion is very important is close to the global median of respondents who say this in a separate survey.

By this measure, Americans place less importance on religion in their lives than do people in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. For example, nearly universal shares of Ethiopians (98%), Senegalese (97%) and Indonesians (95%) say religion is very important, as do eight-in-ten or more Nigerians (88%), Filipinos (87%) and Indians (80%).

Countries where religion is broadly seen as important have a variety of religious makeups, ranging from predominantly Christian nations like the Philippines, to mostly Muslim countries like Indonesia, to Hindu-majority India and even to some religiously mixed countries like Nigeria.

Meanwhile, religion is considerably more important to Americans than to residents of many other Western and European countries, as well as other advanced economy nations, such as Japan.

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23 comments on “Americans are in the middle of the pack globally when it comes to importance of religion

  • While America might be in the middle of this whole of population survey, the power of the fundamentalist in the US far outweighs their numbers. (53%) now say religion is very important in their lives I wonder if there is a break down of that number to reveal the fundamentalist percentage against the once a month church attender.

    I can only speculate, but I am of the view that in American politics, loud lobby groups have far more influence than their supporting numbers would justify. NRA. Big fossil. Conservative free enterprise like George C Marshall Institute. And the fundamentalist religious. It’s pity American congress members and senators can’t play to the middle, instead of the loud.

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  • I’ve often argue that America has somehow lost touch with the rest of the civilized world. Interesting that America is way off on it’s own, whereas the majority of countries cluster on the mean line.

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  • I’ve never understood polling. “Is religion important in your life, sir?” If they had asked anyone of us that, we might have all said yes in so far as we are all interested in ridding the world of groundless and destructive illusions. Dawkins wrote a book about religion. Does that make religion important to him? The answer is yes.
    “Are you religious?” is a different question.
    Perhaps I am being silly. I am sure they took that into account.

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  • From the very beginning the religion was set up to attract poor people. Do forget Mark 10:25:
    “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

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  • Doug
    Jan 4, 2016 at 9:41 pm

    I read somewhere that in the poorer states it’s the wealthy who are more religious, while in the wealthier states it’s the poorer who are more religious. Go figure.

    In the poorer states the corrupt, political, business, military and religious elite, band together to hold on to a concentration of limited resources, while oppressing and exploiting the poor. The poor are kept religious and servile by this minority for the elites’ gain.

    In the wealthier states, both the religious and political elites, as well as the poor are religious, but there is also an educated, skilled, less religious, middle class, whose work actually makes those states wealthy.
    In the poorest, most uneducated, religious states, they often import such skills from elsewhere, while using their own uneducated religious workforce as cheap labour.

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  • Dan
    Jan 5, 2016 at 3:20 am

    I’ve never understood polling. “Is religion important in your life, sir?” If they had asked anyone of us that, we might have all said yes

    That is why it is important before using polls, to check the questions.

    Reputable polls will have balanced questions with a full range of clear unambiguous answers.

    Propagandist polls will have skewed questions seeking to produce hidden agenda, preconceived answers.

    Badly designed polls with be somewhere in between.

    You give an example of a poorly drafted question, which (on its own) gives no clear indication of the respondents view of the subject.
    It might be valid if there were further questions clarifying specific points.

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  • they might just be a black hole.

    Australia and Canada are the most similar countries to America. Settled almost exclusively by white Europeans. Rich lands taken from local indigenous tribes. Prosperous first world democracies. When you locate Australia and Canada on the graph, they are where I would have expected an educated first world democracy to be. Rich and lightly religious.

    So why is America so far outside the prime median. Why did religion stick in the craw of this nation when the most similar nations “Lost their Religion” (What’s the song/}

    Maybe there is something in those aerosol jet exhausts after all.

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  • 14
    bonnie says:

    what’s the song


    Mired in Christian phrases were tweets from Arkansas wife, whose country singer husband’s hypothermic body was just found. “He felt no pain – was in position of a cross, looking up at his father“. Her particular survival mechanism, perhaps, homegrown from back-woods, hollers and hills, clannish folk?

    For a number of women, life’s priority list is as follows: God, husband, family. A niece-in-law puts Jesus above my nephew, flummoxing.

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  • From the links we see there may be two correlates, wealth and inequality.

    Religion is a consolation for the desperately poor but with inequality it can serve as a justification to the “deservingly” rich of the status of the “deservingly” poor.

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  • I trhink the problem is treating the US like any other country. as stated above, a state-by-state comparricon might be more meaningful.

    the GDP is very high but so is inequality so that GDP says nothing about the lifestyles of the majority.

    as also mentioned, the question is wrong too. for a lot of rich americans pushing that GDP up, it’s religion that pays the bills. Of course religion is important to, say, a TV star who spends hours each day publicly encouraging poor people to pledge money to them in return for asking god for favours.

    You may as well ask the vatican’s accountats if religion is important

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  • 17
    Pinball1970 says:

    David postedInteresting that America is way off on it’s own, whereas the majority of countries cluster on the mean line

    I almost didnt find them! The US looks like one of those annoying data points that buggers up your line of best fit.

    A point that if correct requires explanation.

    Being a brit I fail to understand America and I cant explain like the other posters but I have noted this it is certainly seems to be a country of two halves probably more (its a football thing)

    They did the religion poll by city on this site, which is Americas most religious city, remember? Religious being, accepting the bible /jesus as saviour or something.

    I think the winner was Lynchberg for most religious and places like New York and Boston were least religious.

    Throw in a few more demographics like crime rate, earning potential, university ratings and I would not surprised to see another polarization and correlation.

    Guns? City where one is most likely to be shot or shot at? I am leaning towards Lynchberg again.

    I would like to see the UK lower on the featured graph, we pretty much invented rationality after all! the BHA are doing what they in this respect.

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  • Germán Lugo
    Jan 5, 2016 at 3:23 am

    From the very beginning the religion was set up to attract poor people. Do [NOT] forget Mark 10:25:
    “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter >the kingdom of God.”

    I’m afraid you misunderstand why that passage is in the bible. It was put there very deliberately to extort money from the rich to fund the church. When the rich grew old and starting contemplating their demise they lived in fear of eternal damnation and not getting into heaven just for being rich, regardless of how blamelessly they had lived their lives. The Catholic church could then offer them a “get out of jail free” card in exchange for a “tithe” or 10% of their land and property.

    By this means the monasteries and abbeys in the Middle Ages grew to become the wealthiest institutions and largest landowners barring the crown in most European countries. In the UK this finally ended when Henry VIII split from the Catholic church and dissolved the monasteries.

    Religion was never set up to attract specifically poor people other than a general desire for as many bodies and souls as possible. It was the rich that religion really targeted and still does.

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  • I think it has something to do with optimism. I lived in the US for 5 years, and one thing I noticed for many is that a sense of over-expectation and entitlement is not only accepted, it is encouraged. YOU can be rich, successful. YOU can be the President one day! YOU are worth so much.

    That’s where religion may come in. YOU deserve to be saved by Jay-sus, and religion offers that optimistic (think wishful thinking) alternative that can make you feel good about yourself, because you’re going to heaven! And that’s the ultimate success, no matter what your socioeconomic status.

    In other words, it’s all about YOU, and religion caters to that nicely, under the guise of being good.

    It’s a scam that many fall for.

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  • In th US religion is indeed the justifying fuel for a maximally selfish population. It is some sort of success, however, albeit very patchy, and therefore some kind of moral underachievement. It has too few measures in its basket of good indicators.

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  • 22
    andyrwebman says:

    Interesting. So the middle classes are key? People educated enough to enquire, comfortable enough to accept their lives for what they are, and modest enough not to believe they’re somehow above the rest of humanity?

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  • 23
    andyrwebman says:

    Now as a fellow UK resident I’d like to think we invented rationality, but I fear the Greeks beat us to it by several thousand years.

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