Where does religion have its strongest foothold?
The answer is Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. At least that was the conclusion of the latest Pew Research Institute survey of attitudes about religion around the world — a look at 24 countries based on thousands of interviews. Indonesia came in first with 99 percent of the population rating religion as important or very important in their lives — and it topped everyone else in the “very important” slot at 95 percent. Beyond that 80 percent of those surveyed in Indonesia say they pray five times a day every day — adhering to one of the five pillars of Islam.
Indeed Islam is well represented in the top five countries where religion is valued in life — with Tanzania, Jordan, Pakistan and Nigeria following Indonesia.
At the bottom of the chart was France, where only 10 percent saw religion as very important and 60 percent said they never pray.
Indeed the wealthier, more developed nations in the world seem to care less about religion. Does that means circumstances trump faith? Or does it say more about the kind of faith involved? The Pew report drew few conclusions on that front but did say that Muslims consistently rated religion as central to their lives. By one estimate every fourth person on the planet is a Muslim, many living in some of its poorest quarters.
One anomaly in the new report involves the United States — and it may help explain to puzzled outsiders why faith is often wrapped in the the flag when it comes to politics and elections. In the list of countries rating the importance of religion, America, wealth not withstanding, lands about in the middle — with 55 percent saying religion is very important. That compares, for example, to 13 percent in Japan, 18 percent in Britain and 22 percent in Germany. In addition, 33 percent of Americans say they pray at least once a day, and only 11 percent say they never do.