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Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Many people in U.S., other advanced economies say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral

Janell Fetteroff & Sarah Austin
Pew Research Center
Originally published 20 APR 23

Most Americans say it’s not necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values, according to a spring 2022 Pew Research Center survey. About two-thirds of Americans say this, while about a third say belief in God is an essential component of morality (65% vs. 34%).

However, responses to this question differ dramatically depending on whether Americans see religion as important in their lives. Roughly nine-in-ten who say religion is not too or not at all important to them believe it is possible to be moral without believing in God, compared with only about half of Americans to whom religion is very or somewhat important (92% vs. 51%). Catholics are also more likely than Protestants to hold this view (63% vs. 49%), though views vary across Protestant groups.

There are also divisions along political lines: Democrats and those who lean Democratic are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners to say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral (71% vs. 59%). Liberal Democrats are particularly likely to say this (84%), whereas only about half of conservative Republicans (53%) say the same.

In addition, Americans under 50 are somewhat more likely than older adults to say that believing in God is not necessary to have good values (71% vs. 59%). Those with a college degree or higher are also more likely to believe this than those with a high school education or less (76% vs. 58%).

A chart showing that Majorities in most countries say belief in God is not necessary to be moral.

Views of the link between religion and morality differ along similar lines in 16 other countries surveyed. Across those countries, a median of about two-in-three adults say that people can be moral without believing in God, just slightly higher than the share in the United States.