Shalom Life | May 24, 2015

Study: Israel Among Least Religious Countries in the World

Some 65% of Israelis say that they are not religious, or identify with atheism

By: Daniel Koren

Published: April 22nd, 2015 in News » Israel

Photo: Religious haredi Jews


For those of you who have never been to Israel, the headline above will shock you, because you've likely been fed a smorgasbord of inconsistent information from the media, from esteemed publications to your friends and family on Facebook.

For those of you who have, however (and not just to Jerusalem), I suspect you're likely among the first to point out that many Israelis you've encountered - particularly in Tel Aviv - aren't actually religious. While people who don't know any better identify Israelis with religious, Hasidic Jews (which is way off), those of us in the know identify them with having tons of tattoos, never attending synagogue, and eating whatever they please - yes, even during Passover.

Like many of us in the West, many Jews in Israel are culturally Jewish and enjoy the traditions, but hardly anything else, and certainly don't identify as 'religious'. That's what makes a new WIN-Gallup International Survey (WIN stands for Worldwide Independent Network of Market Research) so interesting, as it affirms what many Israelis in the West have had to repeatedly explain: Israel, like the United States and Canada, is not actually as religious a country as it's made out to be.

In fact, according to the survey, some 65% of Israelis say that they are NOT religious at all. 63% of Israelis from around the world who participated do identify as religious, but considering the ultra-religious communities across the Diaspora, which are chockfull of Israelis, those numbers do add up.

The survey, conducted at the end of 2014, reports Globes, includes some 63,898 participants from 65 countries, who were asked “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not would you say you are: a. a religious person, b. not a religious person, c. a convinced atheist, d. do not know/no response.”

When it was concluded, 65% of Israelis had declared they weren't religious, and Israel was found to be the 8th least religious country in the world.

Take a minute for that to settle in.

Some 57% of Israelis said they were "not a religious person" with 8% identifying as atheists, and only 30% identifying as religious. In the Palestinian Territories, some 75% said they were religious, with 18% saying they were not religious, and 1% identifying as atheist.

Countries that are less secular than Israel include Germany (59% non-religious), Australia (58%), Switzerland (58%), and the United States, where only 38% of participants identified as non-religious or atheist.

Geographically speaking, Israel leads the way in atheism, according to the study, with 82% of its neighbors in the Middle East and North Africa identifying as religious.

The most religious nations were found to be Thailand (a whopping 94%), Armenia (93%), Bangladesh (93%), Georgia (93%), Morocco (93%), Fiji (92%) and South Africa (91%).

In the U.K., some 30% of participants considered themselves as religious, with 56% of Americans identifying themselves as such.

The least religious nations, according to the study, include China, Hong Kong, Japan, Czech Republic and Spain. Worldwide, 63% of people polled said they were religious, with 22% saying they're non-religious, and 11% classifying as atheist.

Considering the average, Israel is pretty far away from where one would assume.

WIN/Gallup International is comprised of 75 of the largest independent market research and polling firms in the world, covering roughly 95% of the world's market.

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