Despite signs of increasing secularism in the United States, far more Americans favor an increased role for religion in society than oppose it.
According to a massive new report from the Pew Research Center that queried more than 30,000 people across 27 countries, almost three times as many Americans say they would view “a more important role for religion” in the US as a positive change (51%) versus a negative change (18%).
In general, that sentiment is shared around the globe—at the same rate. Across all countries surveyed, a median of 39 percent of respondents favor religion becoming more important in society, while only 13 percent oppose it.
Only 5 of the 27 countries surveyed have populations in which those opposed to religion playing a more important role outnumber those in favor. All 5 are in Europe: Sweden (51%), France (47%), the Netherlands (45%), Germany (35%), and Spain (38%), where an openly atheist prime minister was elected last year amid concerns over his vows to remove religious symbolism from institutions and religion from school curriculums.
In the African nations of Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, and Tunisia, along with other countries in the global south such as Indonesia and Brazil, the idea of religion gaining more importance in society is viewed favorably by large majorities of the population.
Pew highlighted one country where views vary by religion: Nigeria, which continues to be rocked by deadly sectarian conflict.
“The vast majority of Nigerian Muslims (88%) are in favor of a more important role for religion, while a smaller majority of Christians (61%) say the same,” stated researchers. “However, it’s important to note that roughly a quarter of Christian respondents (26%) say there has been no change in the relative importance of religion in Nigeria, compared with 5% of Nigerian Muslims.”
Especially in North America, Europe, and Australia, whether or not people want to see religion take on a more significant role in society is strongly linked with another social factor: political ideology.
Americans who identify as somewhat or very conservative, for instance, are 42 percentage points more likely that left-leaning Americans to favor an increased role for religion in society. That is by far the largest political divide between the political right and left across all countries measured.
Canada and Poland exhibit the next-largest political divides, with conservatives favoring a larger role for religion at a rate 25 percentage points higher than the political left.
In addition to the political divide, there is also an age gap between those supportive of a more important role for religion. In 10 of the countries surveyed, older adults (over the age of 50) favor an increased role for religion at notably higher rates than younger adults (between 18 and 29).
Italy, where Mass attendance is in decline, features the biggest difference, with a 25 percentage-point gap between older and younger Italians. In the US, the gap is 22 percentage points.
Bucking the trend, however, is the Philippines, where young adults are actually more in favor of an increased role for religion by 15 percentage points over their parents’ generation.
While a minority of people in the US and around the world voice opposition to an increased role for religion in society, considerably more believe the importance of religion in their countries is indeed on the decline.
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Source: Christianity Today