Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Religiosity vs wealth

... Deutsch ...

Sean Carroll comments on several points from this extensive survey about the attitudes towards immigration, free trade, moral values, gender issues, democracy, and religion in individual countries of the world. There's a lot of interesting data in the 144-page-long report.

But I will focus on religion and related values, too.

Many graphs like that, including time evolution, dozens of quantities, and all countries in the world may be drawn with Gapminder (direct link).

Sean presents the U.S. as the bad boy because it is more religious a country than other rich countries. In the graph above, religiosity is drawn as a decreasing function of wealth. Sean thinks that Kuwait is away from the curve because the only reason why this country is rich are its oil reserves and I tend to agree with this guess.

Well, in the purple circle of Eastern Europe, you can also find the richest and least religious country, namely the Czech Republic. They have calculated religiosity from several polls.

For example, people were asked whether one must believe in God to be moral (page 33 of the report, 37 of 144).

85 percent of Czechs say No. In the rest of Eastern Europe, this number is safely below 70 percent. In Ukraine, it is 50 percent. Only Sweden beats Czechia among the old EU member countries: 86 percent answered No. In France, it was 83 percent and the rest of Western Europe as well as Canada had between 60 percent of Germany - the most religious among the six Western European countries according to this poll - and 75 percent in Britain.

I guess that the Netherlands could have slightly beaten everyone - as an anti-religious country - but Holland was not included in the survey.

The number 85 percent becomes 0 percent in Egypt and Jordan. It is 1 percent in Indonesia. Asia has between 0 and 37 percent except for Japan with 53 percent and China with 72 percent. African countries have between 10 and 25 percent of "No" answers. Latin America goes from 16 percent in Brazil to 52 percent in Argentina.

In the U.S., 41 percent of citizens answer "No" which is close to South Korea or Mexico - nothing to be ashamed of even if you're an atheist.

People were also asked whether homosexuality should be rejected.

Only 9 percent of Sweden and 9 percent of Spain say "rejected". The bronze medal goes to Czechia with 16 percent. Germany and France with 17 percent follow. Latin America and moderate Muslim countries are around 20-80 percent while the hard core Muslim countries and most of Africa reject homosexuality in more than 95 percent of cases. In Canada, it is 21 percent and in the U.S. it is 41 percent.

Success determined by outside forces

Incredibly, 64 percent of Canada and 64 percent of the U.S. disagree: the highest percentage of "No" answers in the world indicates that North Americans trust themselves. In Eastern Europe, Slovakia has the highest score with 52 percent, followed by Czechia with 48 percent. Other countries of Eastern Europe have 30-38 percent who disagree - i.e. who think that success is only up to yourself. These figures are comparable to Germany with 31 percent but Italy has even less: 24 percent. The smallest number of people who disagree is found in Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey - 14,17,19 percent, respectively.

Finally, I would like to say that it is always possible to define quantities in which your country is going to be exceptional. Sean did it with the U.S. and to a certain extent, I did it with Czechia, too. There are so many fluctuations here that we shouldn't think that our country is a deviation just because we can find a discipline in which it is a winner. And be sure that there are many polls in the survey in which either Czechia or America is among the average countries.

What determines the power of religion?

Incidentally, I think that Czechia is much less religious than other countries such as our cousins in Poland and even our brothers in Slovakia simply because religion may have become associated with Germans and Austrians who have been "oppressing" the average Czech peasant. But I have no fully consistent simulation that would also explain why protestantism including Hussism, something that started in Czechia, has largely disappeared as well.

Also, I have no simple explanation for a relatively high influence of religion in the U.S. - except for repeating some points in the history and linking its religion to individualism and multiculturalism. But neither of these arguments is convincing for me. Fanatical religion can be associated with collectivism as well as cultural homogeneity.

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