Poll: Religion Does More Harm than Good


The survey of more than 17,000 people across 23 countries by polling firm Ipsos found opinion is evenly divided about the influence that religion has in society. Forty-Nine percent of respondents across all countries agreed with the statement "religion does more harm in the world than good". That proportion in Australia is well above the international average. Actually, two in three Australians (63%) agreed with this statement.

"Australia is one of the more negative countries regarding the perceived harm that religion does," David Elliott from the Ipsos Social Research Institute said. Only Belgium (68 percent) had a higher proportion than Australia who agreed religion does more harm than good, while Germany and Spain were on par with Australia. Respondents from Japan, Russia and South Korea were the least likely to believe religion was harmful.

On the other hand, Australia had an above-average share who felt "completely comfortable" being around people with different religious beliefs to their own (84 percent). "While many of us do not have a positive view of religion, we are not translating this negativity to fear or dislike of individuals who have different beliefs to our own," Mr Elliot said. He added that Australians are among the more tolerant nations globally. “This tolerance may reflect our multicultural society or maybe driven by beliefs that negative impacts of religion are more an issue globally than locally."

Another statement from the survey "my religion defines me as a person" was poorly positioned among the respondents in Australia. Only 27 per cent of respondents agreed with that statement. That was well below the share of Americans agreeing with the statement (49 percent) but higher than in Great Britain (23 percent). Japan had the lowest share who felt religion defines them as a person (14 percent).

Do religious people make “better citizens”? The international average agreeing that the religious make better citizens was 32 percent. In Australia, 25 percent agreed that religious people make "better citizens", a much lower share than in America (45 percent) and Russia (44 percent) and India (62 percent). One in six worldwide said that they "lose respect for people" after finding out that they are not religious. The share of Australian respondents sharing that sentiment was even smaller, about 12.5 percent.

Photo Credits: Phoenix Graphics

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