A NEW global poll of people in 40 countries by the Pew Research Center concluded that many people around the world think it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. This view was more common in poorer countries than in wealthier ones.
In 22 of the 40 countries, a clear majority of people surveyed said that it was necessary to believe in God to be a moral person and have good values. Survey results varied by country, but this belief is highly prevalent, if not universal, in Africa and the Middle East. At least three-quarters of people in all six countries surveyed in Africa say that faith in God is essential to morality. In the Middle East, roughly seven-in-ten or more agree in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Lebanon. Across the two regions, only in Israel does a majority think it is not necessary to believe in God to be an upright person.
The link between faith and morality is also strong in Asia and Latin America. For example, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and Malaysians almost unanimously think that belief in God is central to having good values. People in El Salvador, Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela overwhelmingly agree. However, most Chinese take the opposite position — that it is not necessary to be a believer to be a moral person. And in Latin America, the Chileans and Argentines are divided.
In North America and Europe more people believe that non-religious people can also be moral. At least half of the people surveyed in North America and Europe take this view. In France, Spain, the Czech Republic and Britain, about eight-in-10 people believe non-believers and can upright people.
Only 23 per cent of those surveyed in Australia thought morality was linked to belief in God.
The survey was conducted among 40,080 people between 2012 and 2013.
The survey is, of course, questionable. Many people have strong moral commitments without any religious foundation. Morality belongs to all of us as human beings.