Citizens from wealthy nations are less likely than citizens from poor nations to see religion as an important role in their daily lives, according to a recent report from The Pew Research Center.
But the United States, the world's wealthiest country, is a bit of an outlier. Americans also believe religion is an important part of daily life.
“In general, people in richer nations are less likely than those in poorer nations to say religion plays a very important role in their lives,” according to Pew. “But Americans are more likely than their counterparts in economically advanced nations to deem religion very important.”
In fact, 54 percent of Americans said religion was a very important part of their life, which was more than double that of other wealthy nations, like Canada (24 percent), Australia (21 percent) and Germany (21 percent) — the next three wealthiest countries after the U.S. in the study. Pew based a country’s wealth on its gross domestic product per capita.
The United States ranked close to Greece, which has experienced economic problems over the last five years, in terms of religiosity.
So why is the United States the outlier? Because Americans see belief in God as a prerequisite for having good morals, which increases religiosity across a nation, Pew reported.
“People in richer nations tend to place less emphasis on the need to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values than people in poorer countries do,” according to Pew.
Back in 2013, CBC News’ Kazi Stastna reported that people from underdeveloped and poor nations often look to God and their religion to help them cope with the stresses and troubles they face every day. These stresses are brought on by poverty, Stastna reported.
"One thing we do know is that it's only popular in societies that … have enough rate of dysfunction that people are anxious about their daily lives, so they're looking to the gods for help in their daily lives,” Gregory Paul, a paleontologist from Baltimore, told CBC News. “It's not fear of death that drives people to be religious, and it's not a God gene or a God module in the brain or some sort of connection with the gods; it's basically a psychological coping mechanism."
Other experts told Stastna that religion becomes less important in wealthy nations because their economic advantages make them less prone to death and misfortune.
"The United States is one of the wealthier societies, and yet, it's still quite religious," Phil Zuckerman, a sociology professor at Pitzer College, told CBC News. "I think it's when you have what we might call 'existential security' — so, wealth and prosperity are part of that, but by that we (also) mean the bulk of people in society have access to housing, health care, jobs. They live in a relatively stable, democratic society without much in the way of existential threats to their lives or their culture."
Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.