The percentage of people believing in God is always of interest to me. What is the latest?
A recent Gallup Poll in the US showed that more than 90% believe in God, although previous surveys suggest some of these might prefer the term “universal spirit”. This is marginally lower than when surveys commenced more than 6 decades ago (92% now compared to 96% then) but perhaps the more significant figure is that the number of people professing no belief has climbed from only 1% back then to 7% now. Not surprisingly, belief is lowest (84%) among the youngest age group (18-29 years old). There were minor variations based on gender, politics, education and location.
Two surveys were conducted in Australia in 2009. These showed that about two thirds believe in God or a universal spirit, with about a quarter not believing. The percentage believing in God has dropped from almost 100% a century ago.
A 2005 study across Europe found a wide range of views. Just over half believe there is a God, but that figure jumps to almost 80% for belief in God, a spirit or a life force. Belief was highest (90-95%) in more traditional, eastern, countries such as Turkey and Romania, and lowest (16-34%) in Scandinavian and other western European counties – but again the percentages climbed (60-80%) if the broader definition was adopted. The maximum disbelief was in France (33%).
A 2011 worldwide study found similarly diverse beliefs. In summary:
- 45% worldwide “definitely” believe in God or a supreme being, with a further 6% believing in more than one god or supreme being. 17% “sometimes” believe and 13% uncertain. The percentage of unbelievers was 18%.
- Definite belief (in one or many gods) was strongest in Indonesia (97%), Turkey (93%), Brazil (90%), South Africa (88%), Mexico and India (80%) and the United States (75%). Definite belief was weakest in Japan (13%), France (20%), Sweden (21%), China (23%), Belgium (24%) and South Korea (25%). In Great Britain, 29% definitely believed and in Australia it was 38%.
- Unbelief was highest in France (39%), Sweden (37%), Belgium (36%), Great Britain (34%), Japan (33%) and Germany (31%) and lowest in Indonesia (0%) Turkey (2%), South Africa (3%), India (3%) and Brazil (3%). In Australia, 26% disbelieved.
- Large proportions of some countries were uncertain – Japan (54%), China (52%), South Korea (50%) and around 40% of most western European countries.
It seems that more people in the west believe there is supernatural spiritual being or force than we might have expected, but unbelief has grown and the number believing in one of the major religions has fallen.
The figures are somewhat diverse, sometimes even apparently contradictory. It seems that the percentages depend on the exact question asked (not surprisingly). Broadly speaking most people, even in sceptical Europe, still believe it is more likely that a God exists than that there is none. But many people are less certain of this, and less sure of whether this God is personal or more of an impersonal force.
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