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Gütersloh, 15/12/2009

America's Religiosity Unique Among Industrialized Countries

Picture of a Holy Bible.

People are more religious in the United States than in any other industrialized country according to an international poll by the Bertelsmann Stiftung. The survey found 89 percent of Americans are religious, and 62 percent are highly religious. At the same time, religion plays a much less important role in European industrialized countries such as France, Great Britain, Germany. The findings come from the Bertelsmann Stiftung's Religion Monitor, which surveyed 21,000 people in 21 countries on issues of religiosity and faith.

The poll also found that 85 percent of Americans believe in God and life after death, 80 percent pray regularly, and 75 percent attend religious services or visit a place of worship, with one in two Americans doing so at least once a week. In contrast, 48 percent of Britons, 46 percent of Frenchmen and 28 percent of Germans and Austrians are non-religious. In Europe, only strongly Catholic Poland and Italy are as religious as the United States. Globally, the level of American religiosity ranks between that of Europe's industrialized countries and that of developing or emerging countries such as Brazil, Guatemala and Nigeria.

The results contradict the view held by many Europeans that the world is becoming increasingly secular. "The United States demonstrates that the role of religion does not necessarily decline even when countries have achieved considerable economic, social and cultural progress," said Dr. Martin Rieger, director of the Religion Monitor. He noted that historical differences account for the gap between American and European religiosity. "The Enlightenment in young, free America included a vigorous religious vision. In Europe, which was shaped by clerical feudalism, the Enlightenment came only after a struggle against the institutional church," added Rieger.

American religiosity is also unique in its vitality among all age groups. Eighty-nine percent of American 18- to 29-year-olds are religious or highly religious. The corresponding percentages are 89, 88, 93 and 90 for those aged 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and over 60. European religiosity, however, declines from one generation to the next.

Religious convictions also play a significant role in Americans' political views, though there are differences among denominations. Sixty-five percent of U. S. Catholics say that their religious beliefs moderately or substantially affect their political views, while 76 percent of Protestants, including evangelicals, charismatics and pentecostals, agree with that statement. In Europe, 27 percent of respondents report that religion plays a role in their political decisions, and only 12 percent are strongly influenced in this regard by their religious convictions.

About the Study:
The Religion Monitor study was conducted at the end of 2007, (updated 2008) and surveyed people from all continents (except Antarctica) and of world religions. Participants were asked nearly 100 questions on five core dimensions of religiosity: interest in religious topics; belief in God or the divine; public and private religious practices; religious experiences; and the relevance of religion to everyday life. Results were condensed into an index that classifies individuals as highly religious, religious or non-religious.

The Religion Monitor on the Internet:
The Bertelsmann Stiftung offers Internet users the opportunity to complete the questionnaire used internationally by the Religion Monitor. The website allows users to identify their own religiosity profiles and compare them with the average responses in their countries of origin.

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