NZ features mid-way in international God-belief-unbelief study

According to a University of Chicago study 12% of New Zealanders do not believe in God. The figure compares with 52% of East Germans and less than 1% of Filipinos who also do not believe.

However, according to the survey, only 16% of New Zealanders have a strong belief in God, 37% of respondents say they believe in God and have always believed in God while 34% believed in a ‘personal God’.

The survey summarised data from in 1991, 1998 and 2008 and from 30 countries around the world and found that people’s belief in God has changed little, but had diminished over time.

The survey gives particular attention to the increased numbers of those saying they were atheists. Between 1998 and 2008 the number of atheists grew in 23 out of 30 countries. Israel, Russia, and Slovenia however countered the trend, showing a consistent movement towards greater belief.

Belief in God is highest among older people, the study concludes, and increases with age, perhaps due to the growing realization that death is coming closer. 43% of those aged 68 and older were certain that God exists, while an average of 23 percent of people aged 27 and younger were firm believers in God.

The study concludes that while belief in God has decreased in most countries, the annual declines are quite modest.

“It is only the repetition of the modest declines across measures and countries that makes the case for the general dimunition in belief in God,” concludes the study.

The study suggests that in the future, it might be possible that the “pro-belief” exceptions, Israel, Russia and Slovenia, might become more widespread in response to “existential insecurity” or from nationalistic, in-group growth in religious identity, or from some other un-named impetus.

People were asked about their range of beliefs, from atheism to strong belief in God; their changing beliefs over their lifetimes; and their attitudes toward the notion that God is concerned with individuals.

The countries surveyed were Australia, Austria, Chile, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Norway, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States.


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