A new worldwide study by Pew Research demonstrates a strong correlations between poverty, age and educational disadvantage with the assumption that belief in a god is necessary for morality.
The study analyses data from more than than 40,000 people in 40 countries who were asked: “Do you need God to be moral?”. It found that citizens of poorer countries are far more likely to assume that belief in a god is a requirement for morality. In the wealthier countries of Europe and Asia high proportions of people reject the notion that God is necessary for morality, while Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East (with the exception of Israel) show much stronger opinions that goodness requires godliness. Much of Latin America is also in line with this view. The US however remains an exception and an enigma. 53% of Americans surveyed consider belief in god necessry for morality, this being far more than the citizens of any European country surveyed and far more than the Canadians surveyed, of whom only 31% felt goodness requires godliness.
Not surprisingly, the study also found significant divides based on age and education, particularly in Europe and North America. In general, individuals age 50 or older and those without a college education are much more likely to link morality to religion. In the U.S. for example, a majority of individuals without a college degree (59%) say faith is essential to be a moral person, while only 37% of college graduates say the same.