The religiosity of Filipinos
This Easter and Ramadan, let us be mindful that we Filipinos are one of the most religious of peoples on the planet. This fact is based on the four cross-country surveys on religion of the International Social Survey Program (issp.org) during 1991-2018.
Hard belief in God. In 2018, the 78 percent of (adult) Filipinos that said—“I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it”—was the third-highest proportion among the 33 countries surveyed—henceforth called the Rest of the world, or ROW for short. No.1 was Georgia (86 percent), which is mainly Orthodox Christian, and No. 2 was Turkey (84 percent), which is mainly Muslim. The ROW average was only 34 percent.
(The ROW includes: Austria, Bulgaria, Chile, Croatia, Czechia*, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Japan*, South Korea, Lithuania, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Russia*, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States. In those marked *, the majority of respondents were not raised in any religion.)
In Spain, which brought Catholicism here half a millennium ago, the “hard-believers” in God have fallen to 30 percent. In the US, which introduced Protestantism here a century ago, they are only 53 percent.
Atheists, who say “I don’t believe in God,” are only 1 percent of Filipinos; but they are 15 percent in ROW and 17 percent in Spain. Agnostics, who say “I don’t know whether there is a God and I don’t believe there is any way to find out,” are only 3 percent of Filipinos; but are 11 percent in the ROW, and also in Spain.
Some Filipinos are soft-believers: “While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God,” 10 percent. Some switch off-and-on: “I find myself believing in God some times, but not at others,” 5 percent. Some use a different term: “I don’t believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a Higher Power of some kind,” 3 percent. These three soft/weak categories together are only 18 percent of Filipinos, versus a 40 percent plurality in the ROW. Isn’t this a comparative advantage for us?
Beliefs about the afterlife. Let us compare Filipinos (PH) to other peoples (ROW) in terms of beliefs that certain things definitely or probably exist:
Life after death: PH 83, ROW 51; Heaven: PH 95, ROW 48; Hell: PH 79, ROW 39; Religious miracles: Ph 68, ROW 46.
The numbers are percentages of those surveyed in 2018. We Filipinos are quite different from other peoples. Who are closer to the truth, and why does it matter?
Best-quality cross-country social surveys. In 1990, Social Weather Stations became the 12th member of ISSP, which now counts 43 countries. The ISSP is a democratically-organized—one country, one vote—consortium that conducts surveys for cross-country analysis on topics relevant to the social sciences. The subject matter, sub-topics, composition of the questionnaire drafting committee, and final wording of each question (in British English, the base language; local translation is done by each member) are all decided by vote.
A module has exactly 60 “ticks” or multiple-choice items: no less, so as to maximize data gathered, and no more, so as to minimize the cost. It is replicated after some years, with 40 items maintained for time-series analysis, and 20 revised to meet new circumstances.
ISSP has no membership fees. Each member is responsible for attending the annual meeting and doing its own country-survey; it then deposits the data in the archives (in Germany and Spain) that make the global dataset available for free to social scientists worldwide, whether affiliated to ISSP or not.
Failure to do two surveys or attend two annual meetings will suspend the member’s voting rights; a number of countries are out of ISSP due to this. The reward for membership is participation in the survey design and the priceless learning from fellow scientists in this enterprise.
Over the years, the modules have been: Role of Government; Social Networks; Social Inequality; Family and Changing Gender Roles; Work Orientations; Religion; Environment; National Identity; Citizenship; Leisure Time and Sports; and Health and Health Care. ISSP 2022 is on the Family; ISSP 2023 will combine National Identity and Citizenship; ISSP 2024 will be new, on Digital Societies.
SWS has done all ISSP modules since 1991, without fail. It does not need election surveys to keep busy.
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