The Bertelsmann Stiftung is a German non-profit that researches, publishes, and “stimulates debate” on a variety of societal issues. They just released the results of their 2013 Religion Monitor in which they analyzed responses to a 100-question survey regarding religion/politics completed by 14,000 individuals in 13 countries.
What did they find?
Here are the most interesting results found in the report (PDF):
The U.S. loves religion and spirituality… but not as much as Turkey:
For some reason, only Israeli youth are more religious than their older counterparts. Everywhere else, the younger you are, the less important religion is to you:
More than any other country in this study, U.S. residents agree with the statement “Leading religious figures should exercise an influence on government decisions.” And, along with Israel, we rank highest when it comes to believing “Only politicians who believe in God are suitable for public office.”
Only the people of Turkey believe Islam poses no threat whatsoever to them (which makes sense given its demographics):
50% of U.S. residents find atheism “threatening” (second only to Brazil, where the number is slightly greater than half):
The Bertelsmann Stiftung analysts explained it this way:
One of the main reasons for this phenomenon is probably the heated media discourse about the “new atheists” that was conducted in both countries [U.S. and Canada] in recent decades. Additionally, the widespread centrality of religion in the USA means that this country fits the pattern of other highly religious societies. In any case, the public and highly emotional confrontation appears to have resulted in a certain degree of polarisation between religious people and atheists.
Nearly half of Sweden finds religion to be harmful:
People from the U.S. are most likely to “make great sacrifices for [their] faith if necessary” though we’re not the most likely to proselytize, a distinction that belongs to Turkey’s Muslims:
More than 70% of people in the U.S. trust those of us with no religious affiliation. While being a “None” isn’t quite the same as being an atheist, that result could possibly contradict studies showing that atheists are not trustworthy,
Other countries aside, when you look at these charts altogether, what you find is that the amount of respect we have for religion in the U.S. is just incredibly high. There’s still a strong correlation between religiosity and morality/goodness that pervades our politics and society at large. It’s a mischaracterization that hurts us in the long run. Other societies that embrace atheists (and other non-majority religions) seem to do pretty well for themselves.