The hundreds of thousands of religious youths who gathered in Sydney Tuesday for World Youth Day are not anomalies as commonly believed, but rather they exemplify their generation's great interest in religion, a new study revealed.
The majority of teenagers and young adults in most parts of the world are religious, according to a massive 21-country study conducted by the German think-tank Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Worldwide, more than four out of five young adults (85 percent) are religious, and almost half (44 percent) are deeply religious. Only 13 percent say they are not interested in God or faith in general.
"The perception that young people are less religious than their parents and grandparents is typically Western European and does not correspond to the reality worldwide," organizers of the study commented. "Young adults in developing countries and Islamic states are no less religious than other adults."
In fact, eighty percent of all young Protestants outside of Europe were found to be deeply religious while only 18 percent of this group described themselves as simply religious. In stark contrast, just seven percent of young Protestants in Europe said they are deeply religious, while 25 percent say they are nominal members of their church.
Similar to the Protestant comparison, the number of deeply religious Catholics outside of Europe is drastically more (68 percent) than that within Europe (25 percent).
"The countries where the younger population is less concerned with religious faith are almost all in the Western cultural sphere extending from Australia to Spain," the study's organizers noted. "However, there are opposing trends here too."
The United States is an exception among the Western industrialized countries. While relatively few young people in Europe pray daily – only nine percent in France, eight percent in Russia, and seven percent in Austria – more than a half of young Americans (57 percent) say they pray daily.
By comparison, ninety percent of young people in Nigeria and Guatemala pray at least once a day. Meanwhile, three out of four of the respondents in other devout countries such as India, Morocco and Turkey do likewise.
Dr. Martin Rieger, project leader of the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Religion Monitor concluded: "The assumption that religious belief is dwindling continuously from generation to generation is clearly refuted by our worldwide surveys – even in many industrialized nations."