Reason, or if you’re an evangelical Christian in the United States, “Satan”, is making slow but steady inroads against religiosity around the world.
So say the results of a newly-released WIN-Gallup International opinion poll of religious beliefs and atheism. The survey asked more than 50,000 people in 57 countries the following question: “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious person, or a convinced atheist?”
A majority– 59%– of the world’s respondents identified themselves as ‘religious.’ Another 23% said they were ‘not religious’ and 13% called themselves ‘atheists.’
The good news is that the number of those identifying themselves as ‘religious’ has declined by 9% since 2005, while the number of atheists has increased.
The countries with the sharpest decline in religiosity are Vietnam (-23%), Ireland (-22%), Switzerland and France (-21%) and South Africa (-19%). With a 13% decrease in religiosity, the United States came in eighth on that list.
The survey found that religiosity is much higher among poor nations than rich ones. As economic development, which is fueled in part by education, progresses, people are more likely to abandon the superstition in which religions are rooted.
In the following countries, 90% or more of survey respondents said they were religious people: Ghana, Nigeria, Armenia, Fiji and Macedonia. In the 10 most religious countries, the average per capita GDP was $6,597. In contrast, in the 10 countries with the highest reported number of atheists, the average per capita GDP was $37,689. Take away China, where religion is discouraged by the communist government, and that figure soars to $40,945.
The top atheist countries were: China (47%), Japan (31%), Czech Republic (29%), South Korea (15%) and Germany (15%).
Among specific religions, the survey found that 97% of Buddhists, 83% of Protestant Christians, 81% of Catholic Christians and 80% of Hindus described themselves as ‘religious,’ while 74% of Muslims and only 38% of Jews did so.
The United States placed 34th out of 57 nations in religiosity, with 60% of Americans– down from 73% in 2005– calling themselves ‘religious.’ While that figure is cause for celebration, let us not rejoice too enthusiastically. Millions upon millions of Americans, after all, still cling to ludicrous and demonstrably false religious notions. Nearly half, for example, believe that “God” created modern human beings sometime in the last 10,000 years, a period by which agriculture, cities and, sadly, religion were already flourishing.
Three in 10 Americans believe that the Bible is the literal word of “God,” virgin birth, talking snake, zombie Jesus, miracles, and all. Among those with a high school education or less, that figure soars to nearly half. Among certain groups, the absurdity reaches even a higher plane of ridiculousness. Only 22% of likely Republican primary voters in the state of Mississippi, for example, believe in the scientific theory of evolution.
We’ve still got a hell of a long way to go until reason prevails over the superstitious dogma of fairy-tale religions. As Martin Luther, the founding father of Protestantism once revealingly declared: “There is on earth amongst all dangers no more dangerous thing than a richly endowed and adroit reason. Reason must be deluded, blinded and destroyed.”
It is this sentiment, very much alive and well today in far-flung corners of the world from Alabama to Afghanistan, against which the forces of truth and reason must ceaselessly toil.