What’s the one thing majorities in many countries around the world see as absolutely essential to leading a moral life?

That’s the question the Pew Research Center set out to answer when it commissioned a study in 40 countries, finding that clear majorities in 22 of those nations think it is necessary to believe in God in order to have good values.

This belief is nearly universal in Africa and the Middle East, regions in which faith is often ingrained in culture. Interestingly, there is only one country surveyed in the Middle East in which majorities did not embrace this notion — Israel.

“At least three-quarters in all six countries surveyed in Africa say that faith in God is essential to morality. In the Middle East, roughly seven-in-ten or more agree in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Lebanon,” according to Pew’s research. “Across the two regions, only in Israel does a majority think it is not necessary to believe in God to be an upright person.”

See the data below:

Image source: Pew Research Center

Image source: Pew Research Center (data for countries with a * comes from 2011; all other national data was collected in 2013)

In many nations, though, only small minorities believe that it is necessary to believe in God in order to be a moral person.

Consider China, where only 14 percent of respondents said that it is necessary to embrace the almighty to be moral; 75 percent believe that the connection is not necessary. In France, the proportions are similar, with 15 percent answering affirmatively and 85 percent embracing the notion that a belief in a higher power isn’t required for one to live a moral life.

But in America, a majority of Americans (53 percent) do believe that embracing God is essential to being a good person, with 46 percent standing in disagreement. In 2007, these proportions were 57 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

While there may be an assumption fewer Americans believe that belief in God is essential to personal morality, it should be noted that only 47 percent of the nation believed that a higher power and morality were tied together when the question was asked back in 2002.

The U.S. stands apart from other wealthy nations as having a majority that still believes that morality is predicated upon belief in a higher power, as wealthier nations tend to not see as deeply a tie between the two paradigms.

Pew derived this data from surveys conducted among 40,080 individuals in 40 countries between 2011 and 2013. The survey methods can be found here and full results are here.

(H/T: Huffington Post)

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