On a Worldwide Scale, Just How Religious Are Americans?

Quick, what’s the most religious country in the world? What about the least? If you’re like me, you don’t really have much of a clue. I’ve been to Europe once. For a week. Sufficed to say, I don’t exactly have a good global knowledge of the cultures and attitudes of the peoples of the world.

Luckily, there’s a new study from the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC) that looks into the question. The survey asked about people’s overall belief in God (yes, no, maybe) along with whether or not their attitudes had changed over the years. With data points for three different years spaced about a decade apart(1991, 1998, 2008) from 30 different countries, the results are rather interesting.

I don’t think I ever would have guessed that the United States is one of the most religious countries out there, but we are. We have the fourth least amount of atheists (3%) and the fifth most stout believers (60.6%).

Care to guess which countries score ahead of us? I’ll give you a second.

As one might expect, Israel claims more believers percentage wise than the United States. But that’s where any successful guessing on my part ends. On a consistent basis, Chile, Cyprus and Poland score as more religious.

But all of us fall before The Philippines, boasting just 0.7% of non-believers and 83.6% of strong believers. Like Israel,* The Philippines is a very strong Catholic country, which seems to be a trend in the data.

Western European countries tend to fall more in the middle, with most all scoring below 25% in believing in God and above 10% being atheist.

Didn’t we run away from Europe because they were religiously oppressive?

Anyhow, the study also looked at how attitudes towards God changes as people get older. For some reason, people tend to believe in God more as they get older. And it’s not a generational thing. Every group of people surveyed slowly became more religious as they grew older.

Were they fearing their own mortality and began praying more as they reached over the age of 60? Had life’s lessons taught them that there really is an omnipresent force out there?

I certainly don’t know the answer. But it is interesting to note that every single country saw a general increase in religious beliefs as people grow older – except Israel. Over the age of 68, 16.4% of people suddenly stopped believing. Again, I have no explanation, but it is interesting.

One final statistic for you – who’s the least religious, and just now atheist are they? Well, it’s those lovable East Germans. Yes, East Germans. Some of the data was taken when that was still a thing. In 2008, just 2.5% of them had a strong belief in God, while 46.1% had a strong inclination to believe religions is just a load of shit.

Then again, if I had lived through what they had, I might tend to agree.

*Obviously Israel is not dominant Catholic. This is my brain on farts.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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