Ipsos global study shows half think that religion does more harm than good

Almost half (49%) in a new global study agree that religion does more harm than good in the world according to new data from the latest Ipsos Global @dvisor survey.

Ipsos global study shows half think that religion does more harm than good

  • 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
  • Six in ten Australians – above the global average – believe religion does more harm than good, and only one in four say religion defines them as a person

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. Belgians are most likely to think that religion has done more harm than good - two in three (68%) agree, followed by Australians (63%), Germans (63%) and Spain (63%).  India, Sweden, Great Britain, and France also had around 6 in 10 feeling this way about religion.

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. Though six in ten Australians believe that religion does more harm than good, more than eight in ten (84%) state that 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.

Globally we are also split down the middle when it comes to religion’s importance to our 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). Four in ten Australians agree with this statement (44%). 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.

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, where 46% indicated they lose respect for someone when they find out they are not religious, followed by Turkey (24%). The countries least likely to say they would lose respect are Hungary (6%) and Sweden (7%). Australia sits a little below the global average of 16% on this measure with one in ten Australians agreeing they lose respect for someone when they find out they are not religious (12%).

One third (32%) of people surveyed think that religious people make ‘better citizens’ with only one in four Australians agreeing (25%). Indians are most likely to agree (62%), followed by people in South Africa and Brazil (both 54%). Citizens in Japan (11%), Sweden (13%) and France (16%) are the least likely to agree with this.

When asked if ‘my religion defines me as a person’, one in four Australians agreed with this statement (27%), less than the global average (38%). Again, Indians and South Africans are most likely to agree (with the 70% and 66% respectively), while people in Japan are, once again, least likely to agree. Sweden (17%), Great Britain (23%) and France (23%) are also less likely to agree with the statement.

Commenting on the findings, David Elliott, Director Ipsos Social Research Institute - NSW said:

“Australia is one of the more negative countries regarding the perceived harm that religion does, with a six in ten stating that it does more harm than good.  However, closer to home a clear majority are comfortable being around people who have different religious beliefs than their own and four in ten agree that religious practices are an important factor in the moral life of our country’s citizens. While many of us do not have a positive view of religion, we are not translating this negativity to fear or dislike of individuals who have different beliefs to our own. In this regard, we are among the more tolerant nations globally. This tolerance may reflect our multi-cultural society or maybe driven by beliefs that negative impacts of religion are more an issue globally than locally.”

Japan is least likely to think that religion has done more harm than good – only one in four (26%) agree, followed by Russia and South Korea (both with 36%).