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24 September 2014
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Britain is one of the most secular nations in the world, a new poll in 10 countries finds

Levels of religious belief and activity in the UK are far lower than in almost all other countries surveyed across the globe in a special poll undertaken for the BBC.

The ICM poll of 10,000 people in the USA, UK, Israel, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico and Lebanon was carried out for What the World Thinks of God - BBC TWO, Thursday 26 February, 9.00pm.

Jeremy Vine hosts What the World Thinks of God

It reveals that only 46% of respondents in the UK said they have always believed in God - 27% less than the average.

Only Russia (42%) and South Korea (28%) were lower.

Furthermore just 52% of UK respondents believed God (or a Higher Power) created the universe, compared to 85% in the USA, 83% in Mexico, 99% in Indonesia and 96% in Lebanon.

The highest levels of belief are found in the poorer nations of Nigeria (98%), India (92%) and Indonesia (97%).

However, the USA - the richest nation polled - has a very high level of belief.

Only 13% of those polled in America said they found it hard to believe in God (a Higher power) when there was so much suffering in the world.

Yet this compares to more than half (52%) of those polled in the UK - the highest of all the countries - and more than twice the average. The figures for Lebanon were 2% and Nigeria 12%.

The survey found that only 19% of those in the UK said they would die for their God/beliefs.

This compares to 37% in Israel, 90% of those polled in Indonesia and Nigeria, and 71% in the USA and Lebanon.

A staggering 78% of those polled in the USA claimed to have studied religious texts, by far the largest figure, followed by 51% in Nigeria and 42% in the UK. This compares to an average of 33%.

The poll also looked at the place of religion in the world.

Almost a third (29%) of people in the UK believe that the world would be a more peaceful place without beliefs in God but very few people in other countries agreed.

Just 6% of those polled in America agreed with this view, 11% in Israel and 9% in India. The average across all ten countries was 10%.

Only 15% of those polled in America blamed people of other religions for much of the trouble in the world compared with more than a third (37%) in the UK and 33% in Israel.

This figure fell to 8% of those polled in Indonesia, 24% in Lebanon and 17% in India.

The poll also looked at levels of attendance at organised religious services in the UK compared to the rest of the world.

Across the ten countries, an average of 46% regularly attend a religious service but the figure was 21% in the UK, the second lowest behind Russia (7%).

The highest figure was 91% for Nigerians, with 54% in the USA.

Furthermore just 29% of UK respondents said they had been encouraged to believe in God by someone outside their family, compared with 57% in the USA.

With regards to prayer, a total of 95% of Nigerians polled said they prayed regularly as did 67% of those polled in the USA with further numbers praying occasionally at times of crisis.

28% in the UK said they prayed regularly and 41% in Israel.

However 25% of people in the UK and 29% of people in Israel said they never prayed.

The poll did reveal however that nearly 30% of all atheists polled admitted they prayed sometimes.

Asked whether a belief in a God/higher power makes for a better human being, well over 80% of people in most countries agreed, but by far the lowest figure was in the UK with just 56%.

Furthermore, just 42% of UK respondents believed God (or a higher power) judges their actions and the way they lived their lives compared to 76% in America, 72% in Israel, 81% in Nigeria and an average of 70%.

Exploring the issue of tolerance of different religions the poll found that more than 90% of all respondents in Nigeria, Indonesia and Lebanon believed their God was the only true God.

This compares to 70% in Israel and just 31% in the UK.

The majority of those polled when asked if they believed death was the end disagreed.

This was the case for more than half of the UK respondents (51%), 79% of those polled in Nigeria, 75% in Lebanon and 74% in the USA.

Looking at how attitudes change across different religions, the poll found that while 85% of Hindus and 83% of Muslims said they prayed regularly, only 65% of Christians did and barely a third (38%) of Jews.

When asked if their God was the only true God, 95% of Muslims said yes, compared with 68% of Christians and 66% of Jews.

But when asked if other religions were to blame for the troubles in the world, 34% of Jews agreed, while only 24% of Christians, 18% of Hindus and 14% of Muslims agreed.

Notes to Editors

In January 2004 the independent opinion research company ICM conducted a survey of 10,000 people in 10 different nations for the BBC programme What the World Thinks of God.

The countries surveyed were the USA, UK, Israel, India, South Korea, Indonesia, Nigeria, Russia, Mexico and Lebanon.

Please credit BBC TWO's What The World Thinks of God for the use of any of the material in the poll.

All the BBC's digital services are now available on Freeview, the new free-to-view digital terrestrial television service, as well as on satellite and cable.

Freeview offers the BBC's eight television channels, interactive services from BBCi, as well as 11 national BBC radio networks.



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