How Important is Religion to Urban Indians? New Survey Offers Answers

A new global religion survey by Ipsos discovered that 8 out of 10 urban Indians believe in the existence of God and claim to be comfortable around different faiths amidst rising Hindu nationalism and sectarian violence in the country.

The “Global Religion 2023; Religious Beliefs Around the World” survey was conducted in 26 countries through the IndiaBus platform in India and the Global Advisor online survey platform from January 20 to February 3, 2023. The results of this study were based on the interviews of 19,731 adults aged 18 and over in the surveyed countries, including India.

In the survey, 86% of the polled urban Indians agree that religious practices are an essential factor in the moral life of citizens, and 83% of them believe that religion helps them overcome obstacles in life. These results are in stark difference to other countries like Japan, where only 37% of those polled agree that being religious is important in overcoming crises in life.

In addition, 8 out of 10 urban residents in India believe that religious people are happier, and 86% of Indians claim that religion defines their identity. 83% of Indians surveyed also believe that faith gives life meaning. However, 73% of the surveyed Indians agree that religion does more harm than good, compared to the 47% global average.

The results of the survey reflect India’s religious landscape. While countries like the United States saw a rise in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, 99% of the Indians polled in the survey identified with a religion (e.g., Christian, Muslim, Others), and only 1% were religiously unaffiliated. 70% of Indians of different religions also said they believe in God, as described by religious texts, while 11% believed in a higher power or spirit.

Speaking of the religiously unaffiliated, 73% of urban Indians surveyed in the study said they lose respect for people who do not believe in a religion or God, and they are the only demographic who reported a majority who agree with this sentiment, compared to 14% of Americans and 10% of Japanese who say they lose respect over non-religious people.

The survey also provided some insights into how urban Indians practice their religion. 74% of the polled Indians pray outside a place of worship (e.g., home), while 71% go to a religious building, such as a church, mosque, or temple, at least once a month to practice their religion. 54% of Indian respondents also believe in “Heaven,” while 43% claim they believe in other supernatural entities such as ghosts, angels, and demons.

India has exemplified how people of different faiths can co-exist amicably and being defined by the good teachings in their holy scriptures. Believing in the existence of God or a higher power makes people navigate and trudge through their lives with ease and make them happier humans.” Amit Adarkar, CEO of Ipsos India, said regarding the study’s results. “India definitely is a land of different faiths and can be defined as a religious country of pluralism.

India has seen a steady rise of Hindu nationalism in recent times, caused by the emergence of right-wing to far-right Hindu nationalist politicians, activists, and influencers. The growth of the Hindutva movement also led to clashes between Hindus and practitioners of other faiths in India, notably Christians and Muslims.

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