Saturday, September 4, 2010

Religiosity in the US: A Religious Outlier Indeed

Charles Blow created this fascinating chart on religiosity worldwide, with the US far removed from its counterparts in other industrialized countries. The graph was published in Saturday's NY Times, in an op-ed of sorts titled "Religious Outlier." This data, taken from a recent Gallup poll, draws from responders in 115 countries. Blow writes:

"Sixty-five percent of Americans say that religion is an important part of their daily lives. That is compared with just 30 percent of the French, 27 percent of the British and 24 percent of the Japanese.
"[Blow] used Gallup’s data to chart religiosity against gross domestic product per capita, and to group countries by their size and dominant religions.
The cliché goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

The Gallup poll hypothesizes a strong correlation between religiosity and income, and is appropriately titled "Religiosity Highest in World's Poorest Nations." And the poll sets forth this summary of the survey's implications:

"Social scientists have put forth numerous possible explanations for the relationship between the religiosity of a population and its average income level. One theory is that religion plays a more functional role in the world's poorest countries, helping many residents cope with a daily struggle to provide for themselves and their families. A previous Gallup analysis supports this idea, revealing that the relationship between religiosity and emotional wellbeing is stronger among poor countries than among those in the developed world."

Does Gallup mean to suggest that religion is practically necessary in the Third World, whereas in developed nations, religion takes a back seat to feelings of self-sufficiency and control over one's life path? What would those say who buck the trend -- including Americans, Italians, Greeks, and residents of the Persian Gulf? After all, Greece was religious well before its debt crisis, and the faithful Gulf boasts one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the world.

The comment board is open.


  1. Awesome question. I think you framed it just as the moderns can only conceive it is possible, that religion is only a function of one's well being and not necessary to that well being when replaced by material goods! Thank goodness the biggest economy in the world is an outlier here, kind of a thorn in the side to the whole rule!

  2. Bien vu, GF. I could have devoted another post to the recent development of the "Gross National Happiness" index -- from the government of Bhutan, a decidedly third-world corner of the globe... The idea has sparked much interest among international minds and may resurface at EurAmerican. Stay tuned.

  3. My take on this chart is thus:
    With higher income comes better education; with better education comes less religiosity (this has been proven by other studies).
    The United States has one of the worst public education systems in the developed world, hence the outlying data on this chart.

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