A recently released report by Tom W. Smith (NORC/University of Chicago) called “Beliefs about God across Time and Countries” reflects a tendancy of lesser belief in God, although the changes are modest and vary country to country. With an overall drop in belief of 2.4 points.
Five countries had a mixed pattern with some measures moving towards and some away from belief (West Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Philippines, and the United States). Ten countries showed consistent decline in belief (Australia, Austria, East Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, and Poland). For 1998 to 2008 five countries (West Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, and Slovenia) showed consistent growth in belief. Nine countries (Denmark, East Germany, Hungary, the Philippines, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States) had a mixed pattern with movement (mostly small) in opposite directions. Sixteen countries showed decreases in belief on all measures.1
There have been three ISSP religion studies over the years and this paper analysis the 30 countries that were in at least two of the three ISSP rounds and appear in the 1991-‐2008 merged ISSP Religion file created by GESIS.2-4
Of note, the younger segment of this study population (<28 years of age) have lower belief than a decade ago in 77% of the countries studied, having a decrease in belief of 2.5 points.
Also of interest, the fact that there is an increase in belief in the older groups, perhaps in anticipation of mortality. Could it be that they are accepting Pascal’s Wager? Well that will be a matter for a future post I believe.
In short, the study demonstrates a modest shift towards less belief worldwide, with a mixed pattern across different countries. The trend of secularization most notable in ex-socialist states, Northwestern European countries, and in general in the Industrialized nations with some exceptions.
See you next time.
2) International Social Survey Programme 1991: Religion I (ISSP 1991)
3) International Social Survey Programme 1998: Religion II (ISSP 1998)
4) International Social Survey Programme 2008: Religion III (ISSP 2008)