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Four in five Aussies ‘completely comfortable’ around people with different religious beliefs

But it’s not all good news

Three in five Aussies think religion does more harm than good, according to new data by the latest Ipsos Global @dvisor survey.

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Only Belgium (68 per cent) had a higher proportion of people who agreed that religion does more harm than good. Germany and Spain were on par with Australia at 63 per cent.

But on a hopeful note, a staggering 84 per cent of Australians agreed with the statement, “I am completely comfortable being around people who have different religious beliefs than me.”

“While many of us do not have a positive view of religion, we are not translating this negativity to fear or dislike of individuals who have different beliefs to our own.” – David Elliott

Commenting on the findings, David Elliott, Director of the Ipsos Social Research Institute in NSW, said, “Australia is one of the more negative countries regarding the perceived harm that religion does, with six in ten stating that it does more harm than good.”

“However, closer to home, a clear majority are comfortable being around people who have different religious beliefs than their own, and four in ten agree that religious practices are an important factor in the moral life of our country’s citizens.

“While many of us do not have a positive view of religion, we are not translating this negativity to fear or dislike of individuals who have different beliefs to our own.

“In this regard, we are among the more tolerant nations globally. This tolerance may reflect our multi-cultural society or, maybe, [it is] driven by beliefs that negative impacts of religion are more an issue globally than locally.”

Karl Faase is CEO of Olive Tree Media, which together with several other organisations produced the Faith and Belief in Australia report in May 2017. Faase told Eternity, “[In the Faith and Belief in Australia report] when people were asked specifically what they thought of Christians, 92 per cent said they knew someone who was a Christian, and when they were given 20 options of what they thought of Christians, the top five outcomes were positives.”

Non-Christians who knew at least one Christian described them as caring (41 per cent), loving (35 per cent), kind (35 per cent), honest (32 per cent) and faithful (31 per cent) in the Faith and Belief in Australia report. Christians were also described as hypocritical (17 per cent), opinionated (18 per cent), judgemental (20 per cent), intolerant (12 per cent) and rude (four per cent).

“So while we are told that people don’t like Christians, research we’ve done on Australians’ opinion of Christians actually reflects the [Ipsos] research suggesting people are comfortable with people of other faiths and view Christians as people with positive values,” says Faase.

The Ipsos poll, conducted among 17,401 adults across 23 countries, also asked respondent to respond to the statement, “My religion defines me as a person.” One in four (27 per cent) Aussies strongly or somewhat agreed with that statement.

Agreeing that religion defines them as a person were 23 per cent of Britons, 49 per cent of Americans, and 70 per cent of Indians.

Half of all respondents across the 23 countries agreed that religious practices are an important factor in the moral life of their country’s citizens.

In Australia, 44 per cent of people agree that religion plays an important role in the moral life of the nation. Only one in four (25 per cent) agree that religious people make better citizens.

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