03/18/2008, 00.00
RUSSIA
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Russians believe in God and in the Church’s role in support of social mores

by Maria Anikina
A survey shows that 42 per cent of those interviewed considers themselves religious and that 16 per cent prays one or more times a day. For 45 percent the degree of influence the Church exerts on politics is satisfactory.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Most Russians believe in God, consider themselves religious and Orthodox, view faith as the first source of meaning for life and eternity and that the Church’s main role is to support social mores, this according to a survey conducted in February by the Levada Analytical Center.

According to the findings, 42 per cent of the Russian population is religious; 33 per cent is not very religious and only 20 per cent says they are not religious at all.

Religious beliefs are stronger among people at the lower end of the socio-economic scale but also for those with high social status; among women (51 per cent vs 30 percent among men) and the elderly (29 per cent among in the 18-24 year age group; 38 per cent in the 25-39; 44 per cent in the 40-54, and 49 per cent for those 55 and over).

As for membership in the Russian Orthodox Church, 71 per cent of respondents say they feel a part of the Church (compared to 60 per cent in 2004 and 69 per cent in 2007). Muslims constitute 5 per cent; Catholics are 1 per cent; Atheists 5 per cent and 15 per cent do not follow any religion.

When it comes to specific beliefs, a third say that “God exists’ and had “no doubts” about his existence; 21 per cent “believe that God exists but sometimes have doubts” about it; another 14 per cent believe from time to time. One tenth does not believe in God’s existence; 9 per cent is not sure and does not believe one can prove his existence; 11 per cent believes in some higher power (but not in God.)

Answering the question “What do people find in religion?”,  31 per cent said “moral norms of everyday life;” 12 per cent of them gain “consolation and relief from pain;” 11 per cent of Russians find in religion “salvation, a way to eternal life;” the same number of believers chose “purification of soul. “

For 36 per cent of respondents, religion gives meaning to life; 29 per cent believe it helps people to be more tolerant and support hardships; 18 per cent believe that it is necessary for them as believers. However, for 22 per cent religion means nothing in their lives.

As for prayers, 34 per cent said they never do, compared to 7 per cent who do it several times a day and 9 per cent who do it once a day. For another 10 per cent weekly prayers are compulsory, whilst another 16 per cent prays few times a month. The remaining 24 per cent prays but rarely.

As for the Church’s social role 46 per cent believe that is has a role to play in supporting  social mores; 37 per cent for spiritual needs; 31 per cent for charity and ideas of mercy; 30 per cent for help to the poor; and 29 per cent to help maintain cultural traditions.

By contrast, 15 per cent believe that religious organisations should not interfere in social life at all (compared to 11 per cent in a 1998 survey). Fewer people (22 per cent vs 27 per cent in 1998) believe the Church should support social, national and political consensus.

Overall 45 per cent of Russians view positively the Church’s influence on politics; 18 per cent believe it is excessive; another 18 per cent believe it should be greater, whilst 19 per cent could not answer.

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