COLUMN: Beliefs in God around the world: Do you have doubts?
Editor's note: This post is part of a series by Dr. Baker on Our Values about core American values. This week Dr. Baker is discussing belief around the world, and where Americans stand in comparison.
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 Programme (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 10 Americans (61 percent) 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 percent), Israel (66 percent) and the Philippines (84 percent). At the low end are Japan (4 percent), East Germany (8 percent), Sweden (10 percent) and the Czech Republic (11 percent).
Only 3 percent 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 percent 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?
Dr. Wayne E. Baker is a sociologist on the faculty of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Baker blogs daily at Our Values and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.