Aus­tralians view re­li­gion as do­ing more harm than good

Waikato Times - - World -

AUS­TRALIA: A big­ger share of Aus­tralians than re­spon­dents in most other coun­tries think re­li­gion does more harm than good, new polling has re­vealed.

But they are also more com­fort­able with re­li­gious di­ver­sity than the in­ter­na­tional av­er­age.

The sur­vey of more than 17,000 peo­ple across 23 coun­tries by polling firm Ip­sos found opin­ion is evenly di­vided about the in­flu­ence re­li­gion has in so­ci­ety.

It showed 49 per cent of re­spon­dents across all coun­tries agreed with the state­ment ‘‘re­li­gion does more harm in the world than good’’.

But the pro­por­tion of Aus­tralians agree­ing was well above the in­ter­na­tional av­er­age at 63 per cent.

‘‘Aus­tralia is one of the more neg­a­tive coun­tries re­gard­ing the per­ceived harm that re­li­gion does,’’ David El­liott from the Ip­sos So­cial Re­search In­sti­tute said.

Only Bel­gium (68 per cent) had a higher pro­por­tion than Aus­tralia who agreed re­li­gion does more harm than good, while Ger­many and Spain were on par with Aus­tralia.

Even so, Aus­tralia had an above-av­er­age share who felt ‘‘com­pletely com­fort­able’’ be­ing around peo­ple with dif­fer­ent re­li­gious be­liefs to their own (84 per cent).

‘‘While many of us do not have a pos­i­tive view of re­li­gion, we are not trans­lat­ing this neg­a­tiv­ity to fear or dis­like of in­di­vid­u­als who have dif­fer­ent be­liefs to our own,’’ El­liot said.

‘‘In this re­gard, we are among the more tol­er­ant na­tions glob­ally. This tol­er­ance may re­flect our multi-cul­tural so­ci­ety or maybe driven by be­liefs that neg­a­tive im­pacts of re­li­gion are more an is­sue glob­ally than lo­cally.’’

The 2016 cen­sus found a record 29.6 per cent of Aus­tralians de­scribed them­selves as hav­ing ‘‘no re­li­gion’’, up from 22 per cent five years ear­lier, while a fur­ther 9.6 per cent did not state a re­li­gious af­fil­i­a­tion.

Just over 60 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion iden­ti­fied with a re­li­gious faith on cen­sus night.

But the Ip­sos Global @dvi­sor sur­vey found only 27 per cent of Aus­tralians agreed with the state­ment ‘‘my re­li­gion de­fines me as a per­son’’. That was well be­low the share of Amer­i­cans agree­ing with the state­ment (49 per cent) but higher than in Great Bri­tain (23 per cent). Ja­pan had the low­est share who felt re­li­gion de­fines them as a per­son (14 per cent).

In­ter­na­tional opin­ion was also split when it comes to the im­por­tance of re­li­gion to a na­tion’s ‘‘moral life’’. Half of those across the 23 coun­tries sur­veyed agreed with the state­ment ‘‘re­li­gious prac­tices are an im­por­tant fac­tor in the moral life of my coun­try’s cit­i­zens’’. Only about four in 10 Aus­tralians con­curred with that state­ment, a much smaller share than the two in three Amer­i­cans who agreed.

One in six world­wide said that they ‘‘lose re­spect for peo­ple’’ after find­ing out that they are not re­li­gious. The share of Aus­tralian re­spon­dents shar­ing that sen­ti­ment was even smaller at one in eight.

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