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That’s me in the corner

That’s me in the spotlight

Losing my religion

— R.E.M.

“In God we trust” may be emblazoned on the greenback. But for many of us, it seems the more we have, the less we trust.

A recent Pew Research Center study shows a powerful link between prosperity and prayer: “Religious commitment” is more muted in wealthier countries, although not in the United States.

“A country’s wealth – as measured by per capita gross domestic product (GDP) – is associated with its average rate of daily prayer,” the Pew study said.

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“Countries with higher levels of wealth typically have lower levels of prayer, and vice versa,” the report added.

“In every surveyed country with a GDP of more than US$30,000 per person, fewer than 40 per cent of adults say they pray every day – except in the United States. On this measure, the U.S. (where 55 per cent of adults pray daily) is a major outlier; of 102 countries studied, it is the only one with higher-than-average levels of both prayer and wealth.”

(It’s important to note that I’m referring to just one element of a 100-page report that looks at religion around the world, on issues ranging from education to age. And, more importantly, not distinguishing between religious groups.)

Equality also plays a role here, the Pew study found.

“Societies with very unequal distribution of income tend to be more religious, while those who live in relatively egalitarian societies say religion is less important, on average,” the report said.

“Over all, regardless of how religious commitment or prosperity are measured, the general pattern holds: Religious commitment is lower in places where life is easier,” it added.

“And in places were life is steadily becoming easier, the theory goes, younger adults generally are less religious than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.”

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Per cent who say religion is very

important in their lives

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THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PEW RESEARCH CENTER

Per cent who say religion is very important in their lives

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100%

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THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: PEW RESEARCH CENTER

Pew compared the frequency of daily prayer to wealth, measured by per capita GDP in 2015, adjusted for purchasing power parity.

On that scale, Norway was the most extreme, with 20 per cent praying daily and per capita GDP at US$70,000, followed by some European and Nordic countries, Australia and Canada.

In Canada, 25 per cent said they pray daily, while the wealth measure topped US$45,000.

A further breakdown showed 67 per cent of Canadians affiliated with a religion, 20 per cent who attend religious ceremonies weekly, and 27 per cent who say religion is “very important.”

For those under the age of 40, it looks like this: 49, 16 and 22 per cent. And for those 40 and up: 77, 22 and 30 per cent.

(And for the record, R.E.M. has said Losing My Religion had nothing to do with religion.)

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