Do you need God to be good?

Meredith Doig / 25 July 2020

A new study by the Pew Center, the Global God Divide, shows large variations across countries when people are asked whether they think belief in God is necessary in order to be moral and have good values.

In Australia in 2019, about one in five (19%) agreed or strongly agreed that you need God to be good (down from 23% five years earlier in 2013).

This compares with 44% in the US (down from 57% over ten years earlier in 2007).

So the trend in both countries is down, but Americans are significantly more religionist than Australians. No surprises there.

Other conclusions from the study include:

  • people in emerging economies are more religious than in developed countries
  • western Europeans are less religious than eastern Europeans
  • weekly worship attendance is most common where life is shortest
  • the more people attend school, the less they go to church
  • greater income inequality correlates with greater reported importance of religion
  • of 102 countries, the US is the only one with above-average GDP per capita and above-average frequency of daily prayer.

Significantly for Rationalists, the study confirms that those of the ideological right are significantly more likely to say you need God to be good. In Australia, 11% of left-leaning people align with this view but 29% of right-leaning people do. In the US, the gap is even wider: 24% vs 63%.

But the most extreme case is Brazil, where 74% of left-leaning and 92% of right-leaning people think you need God to be good. No wonder Bolsanaro!

Interestingly, both in the US and in Australia, Protestants are more likely than Catholics to think you need God to be good.

All the more reason.

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