The above results are from an Ipsos MORI from last summer. Please note, the opinions above are restricted only to those who asserted a religious affiliation. Obviously in Saudi Arabia this is irrelevant, as nearly the whole population has a religious affiliation. But it is important in Japan, because there nearly 2 out of 3 individuals in the survey reported no religion, so these are results from the minority who reported having an affiliation (mostly Buddhist). As they say, read the whole thing. Here are some conclusions I drew from these data:
- Even in Saudi Arabia 25 percent of the population would not sign on to a very exclusive reading of their religion. This is not surprising to me. Very exclusive adherence to the proposition that all non-believers are damned is often hard to adhere to in any marginally cosmopolitan circumstance. Obviously there are people who will agree that Gandhi is in hell (this is a litmus test used to smoke out heterodox deviation in some fundamentalist Protestant churches in the USA), or that their close friend is going to hell, but when push comes to shove most people flinch. There seems to be a wide range in responses to this question about religious exclusivism, and I think that’s probably due to differences in priming.
- I have gotten into arguments with Hindus and New Atheists about the exclusive nature of Christianity online. My argument is that they tend to confuse fundamentalist Protestantism with Christianity qua Christianity. If I we believed that Christianity had a basis in truth this sort of attitude might make sense, but as that is not the case I don’t see the line of reasoning where non-Christians can assess who is, or isn’t, exhibiting more fidelity to Christianity. Granted, you can think of religion as a mathematical system where you can test propositions by inference from axioms. But I don’t think that’s too useful, though I see its logical coherency (and even in that case, it is trivially obvious to show that “fundamentalists” are themselves often revisionists who play fast & loose with what might “plainly” be inferred from the source text of a religion). The reality is that in most developed nations the vast majority of Christians no longer adhere to a position exclusivism which has come to make the Abrahamic religions particular distinctive. In fact, if you look at the survey in the results it indicates that Hindus in India are as exclusive in their understanding of their religion as Christians in the United States!
- Speaking of Hindus (and Buddhists to a lesser extent), these data speak to a difference between Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions. Though Hindus are not quite as universalist as Swedish Christians, matching social development they are quite tolerant. The Hindu model in India in a religious sense mixes a moderately high level of commitment with an acceptance of pluralism. This is pretty much the stereotype of Hindus in relation to Abrahamic faiths. In contrast, you have the Muslim model, which combines high levels of commitment with low levels of pluralism. Finally, you have the developed nations model, excepting the USA, which combines low commitment and high pluralism. India and the USA seem to occupy similar space in many ways in these data.
- Finally, in these results Turkey and Saudi Arabia seem to be positioned at the two poles of Islamic piety. I think that that is actually a good choice, as all other data indicates that Tunisia and Egypt would fall in the middle of these extremes (Tunisia closer to Turkey, Egypt to Saudi Arabia). What does that tell us? If you look at the results you’ll see that Turks as a nation seem to express attitudes and sentiments not too far from those of the USA. As I’ve long said, this is an important insight about the Islamic world: one of the most organically secular Muslim nations is in the same zone as the most pious of Western nations (along with Poland and Malta). In many ways the American Republican party today is probably analogous to moderate Islamists of the AKP; though I would suspect that the AKP has a larger “tail” of social conservatism than the Republican party.
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