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Religiosity reigns in US, on the wane in Western Europe

Timothy Jones
September 7, 2018

A new data analysis shows US adults are more religious than those in Western Europe. Even those who have no religious affiliation are more likely to believe there is a God — and to pray.

People praying in Seattle in the US state of Washington
Image: picture-alliance/ZUMA Wire/P. C. Gordon

Both Christian and religiously unaffiliated US adults are much more religiously observant than their counterparts in Western Europe, according to a new analysis of data collected by the US Pew Research Center in 2014 and 2017.

Sixty-eight percent of US Christians said religion was important in their lives, as compared with just 14 percent in Western Europe. But even among US adults who identified as religiously unaffiliated, 13 percent considered religion as a significant factor, against just 1 percent of Western Europeans.

In fact, the data shows that US "nones" — people who identify as atheist, agnostic or "nothing in particular" — are in some cases as religious as or more religious than Christians in Western Europe. For example, 20 percent of US adults who are unaffiliated pray daily, while just 6 percent of Christians in the UK do so. And 27 percent of American "nones" believe in God "with absolute certainty," compared with 12 percent of Christians in Germany.

The number of "nones" in the US and Western European countries such as Germany and the UK is roughly equal, at around a quarter of the population.

Read more: German church membership continues to drop

Americans believe in 'all-powerful God' 

US Christians are roughly twice as likely as Western European Christians to attend religious services at least monthly (64 to 31 percent).

And some six out of 10 Americans believe in an all-powerful God, compared with a median in Western Europe of 25 percent. Just 10 percent of US adults do not believe in any form of higher power, as against 26 percent of adults in Western Europe.

The belief in God as described in the Bible is also much more prevalent in the US: Fifty-six percent of Americans have faith in the biblical depiction of God, almost twice as many as in Western Europe (27 percent).

The analysis drew on the Pew Research Center's 2014 US Religious Landscape Study, a 2017 study of Christianity in 15 countries in Western Europe and an online survey conducted in 2017 on what Americans mean when they say they believe in God.

The Pew Research Center is an independent fact tank based in the US capital, Washington, DC, that carries out research on social and demographic trends.

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