WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Followers of the world’s major faiths, including those in countries torn by sectarian violence, insist that religion is not the cause of unrest, according to a global survey on religion released on Thursday.
The thousands of Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims surveyed in Israel, India, South Korea, the United States, and other areas, also said they thought that more piety would improve their countries.
“There is so much association of religion with strife in the news,” said William Green, a religion professor at the University of Rochester in New York, and a leader of the study. This survey indicates “we may be missing a broader dimension” of the picture, he said.
“The notion that people think the more religious society will help a country certainly suggests that they’re not afraid of religion,” Green told a news conference about the poll, conducted in eleven countries by the University of Rochester and Zogby International.
In India, torn by frequent Hindu-Muslim violence, 65 percent of Muslims and 55 percent of Hindus said they disagreed that religion was the source of trouble and unrest.
In Israel, 90 percent of Muslims and 44 percent of Jews said they disagreed. Forty-six percent said they agreed and 10 percent said they were unsure. More than 3,000 people have been killed in violence since the September 2000 start of a revolt for statehood by the majority Muslim Palestinians against the Jewish state.
More than 4,000 self-described Jews and Muslims in Israel and Hindus and Muslims in India, as well as Christians and Buddhists in South Korea and Roman Catholics and Protestants in the United States were surveyed for the study. Orthodox Russians, Saudi Arabian Muslims and Peruvian Catholics were also interviewed.
A majority ranked religion as high a priority as family, education and wealth and far above politics, according to the survey results.
The results also challenged notions that religious adherents believe their own faith is the only path to God. A majority of Orthodox Russians, Muslims in Israel and India, Catholics and Protestants in the United States and the Peruvian Catholics said other beliefs might or did offer paths to God and salvation, according to the survey.
However, just 14 percent of South Korean Christians and 20 percent of Muslims in Saudi Arabia agreed with that statement.
The same tolerance did not extend to approval of interfaith marriage.
Only American Protestants and Catholics and Peruvian Catholics overwhelmingly approved of interfaith marriages, as opposed to South Korean Christians, Indian Hindus, Israeli Jews and Saudi, Indian and Israeli Muslims.
Green said survey data suggested that Muslims in general approved of interfaith marriage for men but not for women.
“People hold an attitude of reasonable equality in terms of their judgment of other religions and in terms of their judgment of individuals, of people who are of different religions, but that doesn’t mean that they want them as in-laws,” he said. “There are other factors there, not all that may be religious.”
The interviews were conducted in person and over the telephone from January to March. The margin of error for India, Peru, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and South Korea was plus or minus 4 percent; for the United States it was plus or minus 3.6 percent.