WASHINGTON — Whether a Muslim, Christian, Jew or a Hindu, being more devout to one’s religion makes him/her more opposed to homosexual practices, according to a new study based on surveys by the leading international pollster Gallup.
"The proportion of residents who say their communities are not good places for gays or lesbians to live increases dramatically in countries where more people say religion is important in their daily lives," Brett Pelham, senior Gallup analyst and first writer of the study, told IslamOnline.net in an exclusive interview on Wednesday, March 11.
A study based on findings of polls conducted in 129 countries between 2006 and 2008 shows that gays and lesbians are less accepted in highly-religious societies.
Using the percentage of religious people in a given country, all 129 countries are divided into five groups, ranging from the least to the most religious.
"In the world’s least religious countries — which are predominantly European states — a median of 25% report that their communities are not good places for gays and lesbians to live," said Pelham, an associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York.
"At the other extreme, in the ‘most religious’ countries — which are predominantly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East — a median of 84% perceive their local communities this way."
The research did not aim at knowing people’s opinion on homosexuality, but rather the connection between religiosity and perceived acceptance of gays and lesbians.
"We did not want to make value judgments about whether specific lifestyles are good or bad.
"Instead, we try to report what people all over the world believe so that we can better understand the world, including the role of religion worldwide," explained Pelham.
A key finding of the study was the tremendous degree of similarity between religions when it comes to homosexuality.
"Within most faiths, a majority of those who say religion is important in their daily lives say their communities are not good places for gays and lesbians to live."
The researchers said the doctrines of most of the world’s largest religions often take a negative view of same-sex relationships.
However, there are still some variations in the degrees to which homosexuality is rejected.
"Comparing attitudes among respondents who self-identify with the five religions examined here, Hindus are the only group in which less than half say their areas are not good places for gays and lesbians to live.
"The percentages are somewhat higher among Christians, Jews, and Buddhists. Muslims are most likely to say this is the case."
Homosexuality, considered as clearly sinful, is totally prohibited in Islam as well as in all divine religions.
Islam teaches that believers should neither do the obscene acts, nor in any way indulge in their propagation.
Pelham, the senior Gallup analyst, believes that the fact that devout Christians, Jews and Muslims share many views about homosexuality is far more significant than the degrees of rejection to homosexual practices.
"On average, more religious Muslims are not very different from more religious Christians when it comes to reports of what their neighborhoods are like."