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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 February, 2004, 14:48 GMT
UK among most secular nations
67% of Britons said they believed in God or a higher power
A survey of people's religious beliefs in 10 countries suggests the UK is among the most secular nations in the world.

Ten thousand people were questioned in the poll by research company ICM for the BBC programme What The World Thinks Of God.

More than a quarter of Britons thought the world would be more peaceful with nobody believing in God, but very few people in other countries agreed.

The survey found the highest levels of belief in some of the world's poorer countries, but also in the world's richest, America.


The countries polled were the US, UK, Israel, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico and Lebanon. The interviews were carried out in January 2004.

The programme producers said: "Overall, the results of our poll show that levels of belief and religious activity in the UK are consistently lower than in most of the other countries polled.

"Only Russia and South Korea produced results similar to the UK. The highest levels of belief are found in the poorer nations of Nigeria, India and Indonesia.

"However, the US also stands out in contrast with the UK. The US is the richest nation polled and yet has a very high level of belief."

Those willing to die for their God, or their beliefs, included more than 90% in Indonesia and Nigeria, and 71% in Lebanon and the US.

Almost 30% of all atheists surveyed said they sometimes prayed
ICM poll
Among Israelis only 37% were willing to take this ultimate step, and only 19% of Britons, 29% of whom said the world would be more peaceful without beliefs in God. Very few people in other countries agreed with this.

Israel and the UK showed a similar temperament when asked another question. On who was to blame for much of the trouble in the world, 37% of Britons and 33% of Israelis said it was people of other religions.

In most of the countries covered, well over 80% said they believed in God or a higher power. In Nigeria the figure was 100% and in the US 91%, with the UK scoring lowest at 67%.

A series of images created for What the World Thinks of God

In Nigeria, Indonesia and Lebanon more than 90% of people said their God was the only true God. In Israel the figure was 70%, but it fell to 31% among Britons.

In Nigeria 91% of people said they regularly attended a religious service, contrasting with 21% in the UK and only 7% of Russians. The average across the 10 countries was 46%.

In most countries well over 80% of the sample agreed that a belief in God or a higher power made people better human beings, with only 56% agreeing in the UK, by far the lowest figure.

The subject of prayer found 95% of Nigerians and 67% in the US claiming to pray regularly.

Those saying they never prayed included 29% of Israelis and 25% of Britons. But across the entire sample, almost 30% of all atheists surveyed said they sometimes prayed.

The Muslim Council of Britain said there had been "a quite clear erosion of the sense of the sacred" in the UK.

Spokesperson Inayat Bunglawala said: "Religion, or Christianity especially, is certainly seen as more and more fair game, as a target to be lampooned, satirised.

"In Islam there is a difference, a clear sense of the sacred. You just cannot trivialise issues to do with God and death.

"These are serious issues in all our lives and ridiculing those concepts has perhaps made religion seem almost an optional extra, if you like."

What The World Thinks of God will be broadcast as follows:

Who or what is most influential in your life?
Your partner / family
Tolerance / Compassion
16101 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

Vote now closed

Why Britain doesn't go to church
17 Feb 04  |  wtwtgod



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