Apparently, according to a Gallup poll done in 2008. Sri Lanka is 3rd on the list of the most religious countries in the world, after Egypt and Bangladesh, and leaps just ahead, by a whisker, of Congo, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Indonesia, Djibouti and others. At the other end of the spectrum we got the countries who are the least religious, Estonia at 14%, Sweden 17%, Denmark, Norway, Hong Kong, Japan etc. Lists shown below. I’m sure I don’t have to point out some obvious trends, do I?
Lets break down these lists to perform some analysis shall we (data from Wikipedia and CIA Factbook);
Egypt – Approximately 90% adheres to Islam, the rest pretty much Christianity.
Bangladesh – Like Egypt, approximately 90% adheres to Islam, and most of the rest to Hinduism
Sri Lanka – 70% follow Buddhism, 15% Hinduism, 8% Christianity, and the rest Islam.
Indonesia – 86% follows Islam, 8.7 Christianity and the rest a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism
Congo – 50% Christians, and 48% Animists
Malawi – 80% Christian, 13% follow Islam
Senegal – 95% follow Islam
Djibouti – 94% follow Islam
Morocco – 98.7% follow Islam
UAE – 96% follow Islam
A you can see, from this list, Sri Lanka is the only country with a Buddhist majority. Sri Lanka doesn’t have the highest concentration of Buddhists even (Bhutan 66-75%, Burma 90%, Cambodia 95%, Japan 96%, Taiwan 93%, Vietnam 85%). Of course, wealth plays a major factor. Most of the least religious countries are developed or well developed. If you are rich, you have the option of ignoring God, most of the time atleast. If you are poor, you tend to pray to, and ask, God most of the time.
Few of the least religious countries;
Estonia – 76% no religious affiliation
Sweden – 75% Church of Sweden, BUT, that’s because till 1996, people born Sweden automatically became a member of the Church, if one of the parents was a member. Now only if you are christened you become a member, and single digit percentages attend church regularly.
Denmark – 81% members of the Church. According to a 2005 study by Zuckerman, Denmark has the third highest proportion of atheists and agnostics in the world, estimated to be between 43% and 80%.
Norway – 83% members of the Church of Norway.
Czech Republic – 60% no affiliation to any religion, 27% Protestant
Mongolia – 50% Buddhism (!) and 40% listed as having no religion.
Azerbaijan – 96.7% follow Islam. Religious affiliation is still nominal in Azerbaijan; percentages for actual practicing adherents are much lower, according to Wiki
As the report itself point’s out, “Obviously, these data only compare the importance of religion in people’s lives — they say nothing about what being highly religious means in different parts of the world and among different faiths”.
So why do Sri Lankans say they are highly religious?
Is it because the principles and conditions of the religions are being followed meticulously by Sri Lankans? Is it measured by how much the people idolize their god(s) and believe in spiritualism and supernatural powers? Or is it because of the number of times we visit places of worship, and the amount time we spend there? The value of alms and donations we give to the clergy? The involvement of religion in politics? Or is it because we are still a developing nation, education and wealth wise, with a civil war in our hands?
Personally, the results from the Poll are a bit hard to believe, although its a valid poll done by a highly respected agency. But 99%?