Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Infidelity Rules

Polling company IPSOS Mori have recently published the results of a global survey into religious attitudes, which I learned about through the Christian information blog Word On The Streets (I'm not sure how I ended up on their mailing list). 'Britain is one of the least religious countries in the world', was how WOTS reported the story. This is indeed the case: in the survey, for all the statements about belief and attitudes towards it, towards people with other or no religious traditions, and towards the relationship between religion and wider society, the aggregate results from UK residents were further along the secular end of the spectrum than the global average. Most Britons feel that religion doesn't play a role in defining them or their country; that religion doesn't make people better citizens; that they don't care what religion people have, or whether they have one or not. They also agree, substantially, that religion is a harmful force in human affairs. Looking at the fuller data, though, you discover that only puts the British in line with most of the rest of Europe: in this respect, if no other, the UK is impeccably European. 

There are some peculiar combinations of opinion. The people of Belgium are those most likely to agree that 'Religion has done more harm than good in the world', but they are also the least enthusiastic about being around people who profess a different religion from them. The most tolerant country in that respect is South Africa, but South Africans are the most likely to agree that religion is important for moral life and that their faith defines them as a person. The Japanese are least likely to think that, but also furnish the lowest proportion of people who think that religion is harmful. Although you can see how all of these bundles of attitudes have emerged, there's no clear proportional relationship between tolerance and lack of faith. 

The question it would, at least in faithless western Europe, have been most interesting to ask isn't here; not 'do you lose respect for people if you discover they are not religious', but rather 'do you lose respect for them if you discover that they are'. 

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