Religiosity related to economic development

NEW DELHI: Is there a strong connection between the religiosity of a country and its level of development? The latest Pew Global Attitudes study seems to suggest there is one. It reveals there is a connection between how religious a country is and its economic status.

For example, in the poorer nations of Africa and Asia, religion remains central to the lives of the people while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations of Europe. This pattern is consistent across most regions and countries.

However, there are some exceptions, including most notably the US. Unlike what its prosperity may indicate, the Americans are much more religious than many Western European countries. Some other nations too deviate from the pattern. These include the oil-rich Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

In much of Africa, Asia, and West Asia, there is a strong consensus that belief in god is necessary for morality and good values.

While throughout much of Europe, the majority thinks morality is achievable without faith. Opinion in the US is divided, while 57% say that one must believe in god to have good values and be moral, 41% disagree. The middle-income people from the former Eastern bloc counties emerge as the least religious.

The study also throws up some interesting features about the Islamic countries and countries with a dominant Muslim population. Most of them are seeing a struggle between Islamic fundamentalism and those who want to modernise.

While most people agree that religion and politics do not mix, the trend is moving in the opposite direction in two major Muslim countries. Both of them are key allies of the US. While the support for strict separation between religion and government is growing in Pakistan, in Turkey support for separation has declined significantly in the past five years.

Similarly, while the majority of Latin American, Eastern European, and African countries say women should choose their own husbands, people in South Asia and most Arab countries say a woman’s family should choose whom she marries or both should have a say.

On whether Muslim women should wear the veil. The majority of Muslims say women should have the right to decide whether they should wear the veil. More women feel this way than men.

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