How people view religion’s role in their countries
Religion & Liberty Online

How people view religion’s role in their countries

Across 27 countries surveyed, more people think religion plays a less important role than a more important role compared with 20 years ago, notes a new report from Pew Research. But around the world, more people also favor an increased role for religion in their country than oppose it.

Majorities in the U.S. (58 percent), Canada (64 percent), and Europe (a median of 52 percent) say religion has a less important role than it did 20 years ago. Whether that’s viewed as a positive or negative trend, though, varies by country, age, and religiosity.

In the U.S., more than half (51 percent) want a more important role for religion, while about one in five (18 percent) oppose. In Canada, only 37 percent are supportive while 29 percent oppose.

Roughly one-third of adults in Europe (median of 32 percent) favor a more important role for religion, while a similar percentage (33 percent) are opposed. Amongst Europeans, the percentage of those opposed is highest in Sweden, where halfe of adults (51 percent) are particularly concerned about the more important role of religion. A near majority in both France (47 percent) and the Netherlands (45 percent) are also concerned about the influence of religion.

Older adults are more supportive of a more important role for religion in 10 countries. Between those ages 18 to 29 and those 50 and older there’s a 22 percent age gap in the U.S. and 19 percent in Canada. The biggest age difference is in Italy, where there is a 25 percentage point gap between older and younger Italian adults.

Not surprisingly, those who say that religion is very important in their lives are especially in favor of a major role for religion in society. In the U.S., 69 percent of those who say religion is very important favor a larger role for religion in society. Similar percentages say the same in Australia (69 percent), South Africa (68 percent), Brazil (67 percent), and Greece (66 percent).

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).