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The religious world is growing, fast

Worshippers at a mosque in Somalia, where 98% of people said religion was very important to them. Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Pew's study on religion around the world shows significant generation gaps, with younger people less likely to consider religion a very important part of their lives.

The flipside: Populations are growing fastest in countries that tend to be very religious (particularly in sub-Saharan Africa) and shrinking in some of the world’s least religious countries (Japan, Eastern Europe). Thus, the authors write, “it is not necessarily the case that the world’s population, overall, is becoming less religious.”

  • The U.S. is right at the global average, with 53% of people considering religion a very important part of their lives. It is also a massive outlier: Every other country among the world’s wealthiest is far less religious. Compare: Canada (27%), U.K./Germany/Japan (all 10%), Israel (36%).
  • Religious observance tends to be higher in countries with lower levels of education and higher levels of income inequality. “Regardless of how religious commitment or prosperity are measured, the general pattern holds: Religious commitment is lower in places where life is easier.”
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