In the past, Americans have been unusual in their beliefs about God—when compared with the rest of the world. While atheism has grown elsewhere, many Americans continued to hold onto traditional values, especially when it comes to belief in God.
But, is this still true today? Is America really so different from other countries, now?
We have a definitive answer, based on the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), a systematic effort to monitor a wide range of beliefs and attitudes in many different nations. A new compilation of ISSP data by Tom Smith of the University of Chicago focuses on beliefs about God and is one of our main sources this week. Before I divulge any findings …
Do you agree or disagree with the following:
I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it.
I don’t believe in God.
These are strong statements. The first one excludes doubts about God’s existence. The second flatly denies the existence of God. There are positions one could take between these two strong statements, but today we focus on these two.
If you agreed with the first statement, then you have plenty of company—at least in America. About six of ten Americans (61%) say God exists without a doubt. A higher percentage is found in only four other nations of the 30 nations included in the analysis: Poland (62%), Israel (66%) and the Philippines (84%). At the low end are Japan (4%), East Germany (8%), Sweden (10%) and the Czech Republic (11%).
Only 3% of Americans say they don’t believe in God. As we’ve discussed before, there is a vocal but very small minority of Americans who are “good without God.” This percentage is lower in only three nations: Chile, Cyprus and the Philippines. Atheists are the majority in East Germany, with 52% saying they do not believe in God. High levels of disbelief (though still minorities) occur in the Czech Republic, France, The Netherlands, and Sweden.
Are you surprised by the continuing uniqueness of Americans when it comes to beliefs about God?
What’s your belief concerning God?
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Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an experiment in civil dialogue about American values.