Across the globe, people have differing views of religion. In Western Europe, for example, there is a wide gulf between those who think that religion is helpful to them and those who believe that it is harmful to them. In Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, more than half of adults say that religion causes harm to them.
In contrast, the same survey shows that the majority of adults in Italy, Portugal, and Austria, say that religion gives them a sense of meaning. The findings also show that people in these countries tend to be more positive about religion than those in the United States, which has the lowest percentage of adults who feel that religion is beneficial to them.
Those who identify as practicing Christians have more positive attitudes than those who are religiously unaffiliated. For instance, 98% of practicing Christians disagree with statements that religion is harmful. In contrast, only 85% of secular groups agree with the same statement.
In the United States, more than three-quarters of those who are ages 18 to 34 describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. Those who are college-educated are more likely to be both. In addition, those who are religious are more likely to engage in spiritual practices.
In contrast, people who consider themselves neither religious nor spiritual are more likely to believe that there are no spiritual forces in the universe and that there is no need to believe in a higher power. They are also less likely to say that they have a soul, and they are more likely to disagree with statements that religion is more harmful than beneficial.
Among Europeans who consider themselves neither religious nor spiritual, the median number is 53 percent. The survey indicates that fewer than half of these adults agree with the statement that religion gives them a sense of meaning, and fewer than half of them agree with the statement that religion helps them choose right over wrong. This result is primarily based on a sample that includes a representative sample of adults aged 18 to 34. Those who are neither religious nor spiritual are more likely to agree with negative statements about science and to disagree with the statement that religion causes harm to individuals.
This survey results indicate a polarization of terms, which may be influenced by differences in the level of observance. Some people may claim that they are “spiritual but not religious,” and that their belief in God is based on a personal preference rather than on an official faith. Those who are religious are more likely to agree with the statements that religion provides them with moral guidance and that it gives them a sense of meaning. In addition, the respondents who are religious are more likely to engage in religious practices and to believe that their religion gives them a sense of purpose.
In the United States, about a third of Christians have a negative view of religion. A small minority of these individuals disagree with the statements that religion causes more harm than good, and that there are no spiritual forces in the universe.