Wide Variance in Perceptions of Religion in Asia: Survey

Strong support in South, Southeast Asia . . .

Asia varies widely in how people view the role of religion. That was one of the findings of a new Pew Research survey in which respondents were asked whether religion played an important role in their lives. In Japan, 34 per cent said it was “somewhat important” or “very important,” compared to 42 per cent of South Koreans. The numbers were considerably higher in South and Southeast Asia: in India, 17 per cent said religion was “somewhat important,” and 77 per cent said “very important.” In the Philippines and Indonesia, 92 and 98 per cent, respectively, said religion was “very important.”

Within-country gaps . . .

In countries with modest levels of support for religion, there were gaps between those who were politically aligned with the left, centre, or right. On the question of whether a belief in God is necessary to be moral and have good values, there was a 16-point difference in South Korea: 36, 40, and 52 per cent, respectively. In Canada, the gap was 24 points: 11, 24, and 35 per cent, respectively. But on the issue of age, South Korea’s gap was wider than any other country included in the poll. Only 20 per cent of those aged 18-29 felt a belief in God was necessary for morality and good values, as opposed to 33 per cent of those 30-49 and 64 per cent of those 50 and older. Canadian age cohorts fell within a much narrower range: 19, 21, and 29 per cent, respectively.

Immigration driving rise in religion in Canada?

The results of the Pew survey are of more than comparative interest to Canadians. The top two sources of immigration to Canada, according to the 2016 Census, are the Philippines and India. A 2018 poll by Angus Reid and Cardus found that nearly 40 per cent of first-generation immigrants to Canada are religiously committed, about twice as many as for the general population. However, the same poll found that third-generation immigrants were less likely to feel that religion’s overall impact on the world is positive (51%) as compared to first-generation immigrants (64%), which may indicate that the embrace of religion diminishes over time.