More Likely to Believe in Heaven than in Hell
Two thirds of respondents around the world claim they are religious. Slightly more people believe in God and there is a life after death – according to a majority around the world. A majority also agree that there is a heaven and hell (although we are more confident in the “Good place” than the “Bad one”). Whether religious or not most people seem to believe that there is some mighty power beyond our understanding – a God.
Religious beliefs are more influenced by education, age and personal income.
These are some of the highlights from the special poll conducted by Gallup International Association (GIA) in 61 countries covering over two thirds of the global population (and more than 90% of those countries which are free to conduct and publish opinion research). The poll celebrates GIA’s 75th anniversary.
Religious affiliation around the world.
Two thirds (62%) of respondents around the world say they are religious, with one in four saying that they are not religious. Atheists account for 10%. The rest are not sure.
A few years ago (2016), GIA asked the same question. Overall attitudes towards religion seem relatively stable, as in 2016 again two thirds (62%) said they were religious and 25% that they were not. Atheists were 9%. It’s a similar pattern in the same questions also asked in 2014.
Our current wave of polling further confirms that age, income, and education seem to be important defining demographics for one’s religiosity. The higher the income and education, the lower the likelihood is that someone will self-define as a religious person. The lower the age – the higher is the declared religiosity.
People in EU and East Asia+Oceania are the least religious with shares of around 40% confirming religiosity. People of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and non-EU European countries on the other hand express much stronger religious affiliation (as much as 90% in some countries)
These attitudes in different regions remain stable. In 2014 and 2016, Africa and the Middle East stood out as most religious regions, according to people’s personal declarations. Western Europe, Asia, Oceania were regions where people defined themselves much less as religious. Asia was once again the region with the largest number of atheists.
Some major countries such as USA and Russia show a slight shift in their citizens’ religious attitudes over recent years. For instance, 56% (US) and 70% (Russia) of people in 2014 said they were religious. Two years later the US remains the same while Russia drops to 61%. Today the share of those who define themselves as religious is almost equal – 60% in the States and 62% in Russia.
Our most religious countries in the survey now are Kenya, Senegal, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Kosovo. Least religious are people in Japan, Czech Republic, Sweden and Vietnam.
God and Afterlife
More people believe that there is a God. While 62% self-identify as religious, 72% say that there is a God. Just under one in seven (16%) however do not believe that any God exists. 10% are not sure.
Those attitudes appear largely stable over recent years, although the belief in God has even has slightly increased from 71% in 2016. MENA, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia show significantly larger shares of people confirming the existence of God. Most doubtful are people in EU and East Asia+Oceania. North America sees more of a division in opinion, while Latin America and European countries outside EU score on the rather higher end of affirmation of God’s existence.
Most respondents around the world (57%) think that there is a life after death. One in four (23%) do not believe that anything happens when we die. 15% cannot say.
Regions such as MENA, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are among places where people are most prone to believe in the afterlife. The European Union again stands out as the place where people are the least convinced that anything happens after we die. Non-EU European countries, East Asia and North America are somewhere in-between.
People in such countries as Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Libya, Senegal and Indonesia are more likely to believe in life after death. Japan, Vietnam and most EU countries seem most sceptic.
Heaven and Hell
59% believe in heaven, with one in four denying its existence. Fewer people (yet still a majority, 53%) believe in hell.
Religious beliefs are much more constant and sustainable and thus less prone to short term change. Yet on all indicators it seems that there is a slight, almost unnoticeable, shift around the world towards more religion. Maybe in times of crisis people are more prone to turn to religion and transcendental explanations?
Kancho Stoychev, president of GIA:
“Religion is such a complex social relation that defining religiosity only through formal criteria like frequency of visiting religious services, following given restrictions or behavioral practices might be misleading. On the other side measuring religiosity only through self-assessment carries a dose of uncertainty. But if we accept the concept that religiosity is first (and maybe only) а deep personal matter then “How I feel” is the important indicator.”
Sample Size and Mode of Field Work:
A total of 57 768 persons were interviewed globally. In each country a representative sample of around 1000 men and women was interviewed during August-October 2022 either face to face, via telephone or online.
The margin of error for the survey is between +3-5% at 95% confidence level.
About Gallup International
Gallup International Association (GIA) is the leading global independent association in market research and opinion polling.
For over 75 years Gallup International members have demonstrated their expert ability to conduct multi-country surveys on a comparable basis and deliver the highest quality. Our more than 100 members and partners are leading national institutes with a profound local knowledge of research methods and techniques, statistical sources, customs and culture differences of its own country and carefully selected by the Association Board. With only one member agency per country, members work together on a daily basis to share knowledge, new research techniques and tools, as well as to provide the most appropriate solutions to international research projects and service our clients to the best of our abilities.
For more information:
Kancho Stoychev (in Sofia), +359 88 8611025
Johnny Heald (in London), +44 7973 600308
Dr Munqith Dagher (in Baghdad) +962 7 9967 2229
Steven Kang (in Seoul) +82-2-3702-2550
Antonio Asencio Guillen (in Madrid) +34 608191334
For further details see website: www.gallup-international.com