Global Study Shows Half Think That Religion Does More Harm than Good

Half (49%) in a new global study agree that religion does more harm than good in the world, and 51% disagree, according to new data from Ipsos Global @dvisor survey.

Global Study Shows Half Think That Religion Does More Harm than Good

The survey, conducted among online adults aged under 65 in 23 countries world-wide, finds people spilt on their views about religion’s impact on the world. Countries which are most likely to believe that religion does more harm than good tend to be in Western Europe – and also India and Australia.

People across 23 countries are divided on religion’s impact on the world, but most say they are tolerant of people with different beliefs to them.

Belgians are most likely to think that religion has done more harm than good - two in three (68%) agree. This is followed by Germany, Spain and Australia (each with 63%). Japan is least likely to think that religion has done more harm than good – one in four (26%) agree, followed by Russia and South Korea (both with 36%).

People are split down the middle when it comes to religion’s importance to their country’s moral life. Half (50% on average across the 23 countries) agree that religious practices are an important factor in the moral life of their country’s citizens (50% also disagree). India and South Africa are most likely to agree that religion is important to moral life (78% and 76% respectively). Japan (15%) and Sweden (31%) are the least likely to agree.

Despite a global split on the role of religion, the majority of people are in agreement when it comes to religious tolerance. Three-quarters (74%) say they are “completely comfortable” being around people who have different religious beliefs than their own. South Africa (90%), Serbia (89%) and the United States (88%) are the countries with the highest proportions saying they are comfortable being around people with different religions. The proportions of people in Japan (58%), Belgium (62%) and France (63%) are lower – although a clear majority still say they are comfortable.

Only one in six (16%) worldwide say that they lose respect for people when they find out that they are not religious. This is highest in India with 46% saying they would lose respect for someone who is not religious followed by Turkey (24%). The countries least likely to say they would lose respect are Hungary (6%) and Sweden (7%).

Other findings from the survey include:

  • Indians and South Africans are most likely to agree with the statement “My religion defines me as a person” (70% and 66% respectively).
  • People in Japan are least likely to believe that religion does more harm than good and they are also least likely to agree with the statement “My religion defines me as a person” (14%). Sweden (17%), Great Britain (23%) and France (23%) are also less likely to agree with the statement.
  • Only one third (32%) of people surveyed think that religious people make “better” citizens. Indians are more likely to agree (62%), followed by people in South Africa and Brazil (both 54%). People in Japan (11%), Sweden (13%) and France (16%) are the least likely to agree with this. 
In total 17,401 interviews were conducted between 24 June and 8 July 2017 among adults aged 18-64 in the US and Canada, and adults aged 16-64 in all other countries. The survey was conducted in 23 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system.