Survey of religious views suggest divided world

06 July 2011

by a staff reporter

A NEW survey of people of different faiths across the globe has found that the world is divided over tolerance between religions, and the benefits of globalisation.

Only half of the more than 18,000 respondents thought that religion was a force for good, and this was far more likely to be the dominant view in Muslim countries than in Christian countries.

The survey was carried out by an Ipsos MORI poll. The former prime minister Tony Blair, who now runs his own Faith Foundation, spoke at the launch of the survey this week.

Mr Blair said that he was not surprised at the findings: “People of faith can be either a force for good or a force for evil. The polling result, opinion almost equally divided, is telling. It shows how difficult it is to put the good and the bad on the scales and to weigh one against the other.”

He said that it would be the challenge of the 21st century for religion to bring people together in shared action, as happened in the Make Poverty History campaign. “One way or another, globalisation is going to bring them into ever closer contact. There are powerful forces pushing them into division and enmity.”

In Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, more than 90 per cent thought that religion provided the common values necessary to allow society to thrive. In the UK, however, just 29 per cent thought that. Sweden scored the lowest, at just 19 per cent.

Asked about the prospect of religious or ethnic conflict breaking out in their own country, many respondents were very worried. In Turkey, South Africa, and Hungary, re­spond­ents thought that there was more than a 70-per-cent chance that conflict would hap­pen. In the UK, respondents rated the chance of conflict at 43 per cent.

When asked about whether their own religion was the only true path to salvation, results were mixed, dependent on country and faith. In Saudi Arabia, 75 per cent agreed with this; in the UK, however, just nine per cent agreed with the statement.

When results were broken down by religion, 29 per cent of Hindus said that while their faith was the only source of ultimate truth, others might still be saved. Only 22 per cent of Muslims and Christians agreed with this statement. Respondents in Muslim countries were more likely to say that their faith was the only true path to salvation.

The importance of faith or religion in people’s lives varied widely by country: 100 per cent saying that it was important in Saudi Arabia, 99 per cent in Indonesia, and 97 per cent in Brazil. At the other end of the scale, 52 per cent said that it was important in the UK, with the lowest figure being recorded in France and Sweden, both at 41 per cent.

When the same question was broken down by faith groups, 94 per cent of Muslims said that it was important, compared with 86 per cent of Hindus, and 66 per cent of Christians.

When asked about globalisation, there was a clear link between those who thought it was a good thing, and countries that had benefited with strong economic growth rate in the past 12 months. Accordingly, respondents in countries such as China and India were most in favour of globalisation, and those in France the least supportive.

Mr Blair said: “Globalisation creates win­ners and losers. The point is, there are many more winners than losers.”


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