top of page
Vladislav Rybakov
Vladislav Rybakov

One Of God's Better People

People in the emerging economies included in this survey tend to be more religious and more likely to consider religion to be important in their lives, and they are also more likely than people in this survey who live in advanced economies to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral. Differences occur within countries as well. In general, people who are relatively nonreligious are more inclined than highly religious people in the same countries to say it is not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person.

One Of God's Better People

Despite variances in religious observance, a median of 62% across the countries surveyed say that religion plays an important role in their lives, while 61% agree that God plays an important role in their lives and 53% say the same about prayer. Since 1991, the share of people who say God is important to them has increased in Russia and Ukraine, while the opposite has occurred over the same time span in Western Europe.

Of all 13 countries surveyed in the European Union, Greece has the largest share of residents who tie belief in God to morality (53%), followed closely by Bulgaria (50%) and Slovakia (45%). Still, in many countries on the European continent, relatively few people say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral, including just 9% in Sweden, 14% in the Czech Republic and 15% in France.

Age gaps on this question are present in nearly every region of the world. In Nigeria, Tunisia, Turkey and Brazil, at least seven-in-ten people in every age group agree that belief in God is necessary to morality. However, in the Czech Republic and Sweden, no more than two-in-ten people in every age group take that position. In no country surveyed were 18- to 29-year-olds more likely than older age cohorts to say that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral.

In most European and North American countries surveyed, individuals with more education are less likely to say that belief in God is necessary to be moral. This pattern closely tracks the connection between income levels and the way people answer this question, because there is a significant correlation between educational attainment and earnings.

On the other hand, more than six-in-ten respondents in Greece, Poland and Italy say religion is very or somewhat important in their lives. More people in Greece say religion is at least somewhat important to them (80%) than in any other European country. Lesser majorities in Germany, Slovakia, Lithuania (each at 55%) and Bulgaria (59%) say religion is at least somewhat important to them.

Just as respondents in wealthier countries tend to disagree that it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person, people in wealthier countries generally say that God and prayer are not especially important in their lives (For more on advanced and emerging economies, see Appendix B). People in emerging economies are more than twice as likely as people in advanced economies to agree that prayer is an important part of daily life. Nine-in-ten or more respondents in all the emerging economies surveyed (except for Ukraine) say that God plays an important role in their lives. By contrast, less than half of respondents in 11 of the economically advanced countries surveyed consider God to be important in life. Similarly, while a median of 41% across these advanced economies say that prayer is an important part of daily life, 96% of those in emerging economies say that it is.

There is near unanimous agreement that God is important in life among people of all major religious affiliations in Brazil, the Philippines and Kenya, as well as among all Muslim and Christian respondents in Nigeria.

At the same time, other former Soviet republics where religion was harshly repressed or effectively banned during the Soviet period have experienced an increase in the percentage of people who say God plays an important role in life. Both Ukraine and Russia have experienced double-digit increases in the share of people who agree that God is important to them. In Bulgaria, a former satellite state of the USSR, 41% said in 1991 that God was important in their lives. Today, a majority of Bulgarian respondents (55%) express that view.

If God exists then theists will enjoy eternal bliss (cell a), while atheists will suffer eternal damnation (cell b). If God does not exist then theists will enjoy finite happiness before they die (say 250 units worth), and atheists will enjoy finite happiness too, though not so much because they will experience angst rather than the comforts of religion. Regardless of whether God exists, then, theists have it better than atheists; hence belief in God is the most rational belief to have.

Adults also tend to search for meaning, particularly during times of uncertainty, research suggests. A 2008 study in Science (Vol. 322, No. 5898) by Jennifer Whitson, PhD, and Adam Galinsky, PhD, found that people were more likely to see patterns in a random display of dots if the researchers first primed them to feel that the participants had no control. This finding suggests that people are primed to see signs and patterns in the world around them, the researchers conclude.

University of British Columbia researcher Joseph Henrich, PhD, found cross-cultural support for this finding in a study published in March in Science (Vol. 327, No. 5972). He showed that, across 15 diverse societies, people who participated in a world religion were more fair toward strangers when playing economic games than people who were not religious.

The idea that religion evolved to benefit larger social communities also meshes with theoretical work by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt, PhD, and his former graduate student Jesse Graham, PhD, now an assistant professor at the University of Southern California. In an article published in February in Personality and Social Psychology Review (Vol. 14, No. 1), they suggest that religion co-evolved with morality as a way to bind people into large moral communities. Graham and Haidt argue that, through stories and rituals, religions have built on five basic moral foundations: Do no harm, play fairly, be loyal to your group, respect authority and live purely.

What does it take to begin a relationship with God? Do you need to devote yourself to unselfish religious deeds? Must you become a better person so that God will accept you? Learn how you can know God personally.

Human logic recognizes the fact that to get anything precisely done, the task must be led by only one person. For example, there is only one driver for any vehicle. The Quran calls upon the people to reflect on this, saying if there were multiple gods in the heavens and in the earth, it would have been chaos and disarray.

Being part of a community that follows particular customs and rules helps keep a group of people together, and it's noticeable that the Jewish groups that have been most successful at avoiding assimilation are those that obey the rules most strictly - sometimes called ultra-orthodox Jews.

Judaism is a faith of action and Jews believe people should be judged not so much by the intellectual content of their beliefs, but by the way they live their faith - by how much they contribute to the overall holiness of the world.

Trusting people is not a bad idea, in fact, trusting people, certain people is wise and essential. The Bible makes clear from the Book of Genesis that God does not desire for any of us to be alone. God made Eve for Adam, and for each of us God desires companionship in some form.

That is not the case with God. He is a trustworthy refuge, a permanent one, a person to run to and a place to reside. Humans cannot offer that for us and that is why we need to keep our focus on God. He is for us what people never can be, and for that, He will always remain trustworthy.

The existence of suffering is an impossible problem for believers in an all-good, caring God to solve. Even if they use the wiggle room to argue that without some suffering there can be no charity; or that people who do wrong are punished, they cannot account for the suffering of innocent children and animals, or worse, the devout believers in their faith.

To prove this I need only point out that most Western states operate on the basis of a constitution and the rule of law and have nothing to do with religion or the Bible. Killing someone has legal consequences, and most normal people with a conscience regard it as wrong without the need for a cosmic force to tell them.

This is quite apart from the fact that many of the laws in the Bible are just wicked. We have not, thankfully and for the most part, transferred most of Leviticus and Deuteronomy into modern law. Those Islamic states who have, and which enforce Sharia law, are widely regarded as zones of horror by most sensible people.

Helping us today is Bertrand Russell, a Welsh philosopher, aristocrat, and atheist. His work covers every field of philosophy except for aesthetics, and his work in logic was extremely noteworthy. He was also a very public intellectual who regularly spoke to audiences outside of academia. One of these speaking engagements was transcribed and published as Why I am not a Christian. In it, Russell explains why he came to abandon Christianity around the age of 18 and why he never returned to the fold. His brilliant explanation of his reasoning makes him very interesting to those trying to understand why people would choose the atheist worldview.

This perennial favorite argues that lifeforms are so well suited to their environments that a designer must have been involved. Russell dismisses this as absurd. He not only notes that Darwin explains the observed facts better through evolutionary theory but also points out how terrible some of the design choices are if they were, in fact, choices. He asks the audience:

He instead thinks that dogma and religiosity tend to make us worse people, noting how the times in European history which were the least pleasant to live in were the ones which had the most intense religious belief. 041b061a72