In a Majority of Nations Most People Link Morality to Faith in God, New Study Finds

Credit : (Photo: AP Images / Cliff Owen)
(Photo: AP Images / Cliff Owen)

In 22 of the 40 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center, clear majorities say it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person and have good values. While this view is more common in poorer countries than in wealthier ones, the United States is an exception.

The view that faith in God is essential to morality is highly prevalent, if not universal, in the Middle East and Africa, and many people in Latin America and Asia also link morality to religion, according to the new Pew survey of global attitudes on religion.

However, at least half in nearly every country in Europe say it is possible to be non-religious and still be an upright person, according to the survey, which was conducted among 40,080 people in 40 countries between 2011 and 2013.

Roughly 70 percent or more agree in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Lebanon in the Middle East that faith in God is essential to morality. Only in Israel does a minority think it is necessary to believe in God to be an upright person.

In Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, Senegal, Kenya and South Africa, more than 75 percent of those surveyed hold this view.

More than 80 percent in El Salvador, Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela in Latin America consider belief in God as essential to morality.

Among Asian countries, majorities in Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Malaysia, India and South Korea also agree.

In Indonesia in Southeast Asia and Ghana in West Africa, 99 percent of those surveyed link morality to religion. While Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, Ghana is a Christian-majority country.

In Pakistan, 98 percent think faith in God is necessary for morality.

While the findings suggest that people in richer nations are less likely to connect God and morality, the U.S. and China are notable exceptions. In North America, 53 percent say belief in God is necessary to be moral, but only 14 percent in China say so.

In Canada, only 31 percent of respondents agree with the statement that religion is important for morality.

The global study found significant divides within some countries based on age and education, particularly in Europe and North America. In general, individuals of age 50 or older and those without a college education are more likely to link morality to religion.

In the U.S., 59 percent of individuals without a college degree say faith is essential to be an upright person, while only 37 percent of college graduates say the same.

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