Why are Muslims more religious? A CNN Editorial

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) – Every religion has its true believers and its doubters, its pious and its pragmatists, but new evidence suggests that Muslims tend to be more committed to their faith than other believers.

Muslims are much more likely than Christians and Hindus to say that their own faith is the only true path to paradise, according to a recent global survey, and they are more inclined to say their religion is an important part of their daily lives.

Muslims also have a much greater tendency to say their religion motivates them to do good works, said the survey, released over the summer by Ipsos-Mori, a British research company that polls around the world.

Islam is the world’s second-largest religion – behind Christianity and ahead of Hinduism, the third largest. With some 1.5 billion followers and rising, Islam’s influence may be growing even faster than its numbers as the Arab Spring topples long-reigning secular rulers and opens the way to religiously inspired political parties.

But while there’s no doubt about the importance of Islam, experts have different theories about why Muslims appear to be more religious than members of other global faiths – and contrasting views on whether to fear the depth of Muslims’ commitment to their faith.

One explanation lies in current affairs, says Azyumardi Azra, an expert on Islam in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim majority country.

Many Muslims increasingly define themselves in contrast with what they see as the Christian West, says Azra, the director of the graduate school at the State Islamic University in Jakarta.

More than nine out of 10 Muslims said their faith was important in their lives, while the figure was 86% for Hindus and 66% for Christians.

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28 replies

  1. Adversity makes people more religious and that may be part of the reason, why Muslims seeing political turmoil all over the Muslim world are more religious.

    Another point to consider for the non-Muslims is to weigh the possibility that there may be greater element of truth in Islam compared to the other religions, so Muslim’s belief is not like Christmas emphasis on imaginary Santa Claus but something much deeper, rooted deeply in their consciousness and daily experience.

  2. Some food for thought

    I am quoting here from the original CNN article:

    The third majority Muslim country in the study is Turkey, which has a very different relationship with religion. It was founded after World War I as a legally secular country. But despite generations of trying to separate mosque and state, Turkey is now governed by an Islam-inspired party, the AKP.

    Turkey’s experience shows how difficult it can be to untangle government and religion in Muslim majority countries and helps explain the Muslim commitment to their religion, says Azyumardi Azra, the Indonesia expert.

  3. My ideas about separation of Mosque-Church and State

    To pretend that Islam has nothing to say about politics, human rights or economics is fraught with error and likely to backfire, as we have seen in the Turkish experience.

    On the other hand by acknowledging that Islam has stood for and should continue to stand for the highest ideals of individual human dignity and freedom of religion, we can not only enlightens the Muslims but also the non-Muslims.

    Here is my collection of articles about Religion, politics and human rights:


  4. How to achieve separation of Mosque-Church and State
    To share my insight as to how separation of Mosque-Church and State will be achieved in the Muslim Countries, let me first quote from the original CNN Editorial:

    “He notes that there has been no ‘Enlightenment’ in Islam as there was in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, weakening the link between church and state in many Christian countries.

    ‘Muslim communities have never experienced intense secularization that took place in Europe and the West in general,’ says Azra. ‘So Islam is still adhered to very strongly.'”

    This quote implies two things, firstly a suggestion that Muslim countries may need to follow the course of Europe. Secondly, by minimizing the role of Islam in daily life we will achieve separation of Mosque-Church and State.

    I will suggest the opposite. Firstly, Muslim countries will have a separate and different course to achieve the desired goal of Separation of Mosque-Church and State. Secondly, rather than minimizing Islam, it should be used as a force or tool, if you will, to achieve the separation and enshrining human dignity and individual religious freedom. As the golden verse that emphasizes religious freedom in the Holy Quran, ‘there is no compulsion in religion,’ follows physically and metaphorically the crown verse of the Holy Quran (2:256), which emphasizes special attributes of the Almighty God!

  5. Islam is a male dominated religion. In it, women are, at best, second class beings (in most Islamist countries they can’t even vote). Violence against women is rampant, tolerated and at times encouraged. The religion appears strongest in countries where there is widespread poverty and state-sponsored terrorism, where religion is used to teach hatred and violence. The ignorant are usually “more religious”.

  6. Yes, plenty of violence in both. But you would think that we’d have progressed at least a little in the past several thousand years. Seems lessons are hard learned.

  7. For clarification, though I don’t necessarily view organized religion as the cause of group violence, it is almost always used as justification for it. And that goes for ALL organized religions.

  8. Chritian Hitler killed 6 millions Jews, mostly ,non-combatant men, women & children.
    Christian Serbs raped 50,000 women, killed 200,000 men & displaced several million Bosnians.
    Is this Bible/Christ’s teaching ?
    Mr Lundrum,you live in a glass house. Dont throw stones at others.
    You will never understand that Islam is a complete code of life, covering both religious & secular aspects of life.
    Time & space does not allow me to discuss the Biblicl teaching & status of women in Chritian countries.

  9. Who said I was a christian? I’m not. And Hitler certainly wasn’t. There is plenty of genocide to go around, and there are mass graves all around the planet to prove it. I don’t think it’s limited to any one religion.

  10. Moors did establish a multi-religious society for several centuries.

    Rather than quibbling about minor details, the more important issue is to examine the foundation of religious tolerance in different scriptures, cultures or civilizations. I posted an article today, An invitation to other religions: demonstrating human rights and Universal Brotherhood from their scriptures:


  11. Yes, you are correct re the moors, sorry, my mistake. Though I will have to say that I would think it more important to talk about religious tolerance in actual practice in the world today instead of writings thousands of years old.

    But, if this is a purely theoretical discussion, then the Quran at 1300 years old, the Torah at 3300 years old, and the Hindu Veda’s at 3500 years old would, I guess, be the main ones – what others would you consider pertinent?

  12. Is it not time for the agnostics and atheists to hold an Ecumenical Council and come up with their Bible or Constitution and share with the world, a shared foundation of their morality and ethics?

    Otherwise their tall claims to morality and ethics, to the theist at least, seem merely shifting sand!

  13. See : Atheism: A Philosophical Justification by Michael Martin
    and Buddhism Without Beliefs by Stephen Batchelor

    And I don’t claim to be more moral than you, I leave that up to the religions themselves that each claim to be the exclusive path to some eternal existence.

  14. Thank you for sharing these books. I will try to get to these.

    But, ultimately these books may turn out to be one person’s opinion.

    What my hope is to have agnostics and atheists to give us a common official position, so we could examine the merits or limitations of their position in a pragmatic fashion; rather than one atheist at a time versus two billion Christians or 1.5 billion Muslims at a time.

    Additionally, they will themselves nullify a lot of fluff created by each other. For example, Bertrand Russell, is more candid than some of the contemporary atheists. He wrote in a Free Man’s Worship:

    “That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.”

    The modern atheists are not so candid about relationship between atheism and purpose of life and universe.

    Best Regards!

  15. ah yes, “the soul”. I have to say that I’m quite content to go about my life here on earth, without causing harm to anyone else, enjoying those around me, and enjoying whatever uncertain amount of time I have here, without a requirement for eternal life or salvation or to worship another being.

    I work hard, to feed and care for my family, and share what I can with those in need. I enjoy intellectual stimulation and discussion, and am reasonably well educated. I live in a country in which I am free to live as I please. I’m happy living my life in what I feel is the best way I can.

    I already have a published set of rules for “my beliefs”, they are contained in the laws of the United States, and the published findings of real science. These published writings, combined with my personal experiences over the decades I’ve been alive are what I live by. Seems more than sufficient for me.

  16. From a previous comment: “greater element of truth in Islam”

    Actually Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and every other cult ever invented is completely false. It’s all childish magical supernatural nonsense. Any sane person knows there’s no magic in the universe therefore there’s no magical Allah or magical God. 21st century science has repeatedly shown that supernatural is not necessary and just plain stupid.


  17. James – Just to comment on your blog website title “Darwin Killed God”. You realize that the evolution remains a theory at best, and no matter how hard atheists try to make it appear a “proven fact”, it will never answer a fraction of the questions raised by merely observing creatures.

    Science – as valuable it is – will always open up more questions than close ones, whenever a new biological, astronomical, physical or chemical fact is discovered, you can simply ask “But why does that happen this way?” and you will find that using science as a way to prove that our existence happened by accident will backfire on you.

    All these precise, universal and balanced rules in nature allowed us to progress and enjoy easier lives thanks to scientific advances. Instead of just applauding ourselves for being intelligent animals that are developed enough to use those rules to progress in this accidental existence, maybe we should once be thankful how perfectly crafted this accident turned out to be in all of its aspects (physical, biological, chemical, …etc), I mean, I’m glad that this evolution did not produce human beings with one leg and unbalanced bodies – I would not have loved having to jump to work maintain my balance instead of just walking.

    Anyway, this accident is just so amazingly perfect that it’s too bad to not have anyone to thank to.

    Thank you Allah for showing me the way..

    • There is no contradiction between evolution and the existance of a creator. The only difference in the views is whether the evolution is ‘guided’ (by the creator of every thing) or ‘happened just by chance’. Personally of course I think evolution was guided by the creator and could not have happened ‘just by accident’.

  18. I think there are contradictions between the theory of evolution and creationism, well at least if you’re a christian. The bible is very specific in genesis how god created earth, men, women and animals but now that we have more clues as to where we actually come from some people like to think that this all happened with intelligent design. I don’t like to attack other peoples beliefs but that is hardly any different than when the christian church said the sun revolved around the earth and executed anyone who would oppose their teachings.

    I think what I’m trying to say is that intelligent design can’t be proven to be false because it can’t be proven as a theory at all in the first place. if we as the human race decide that this idea with no evidence sounds like what we want to hear and accept it as fact we will eventually lose interest in finding the origin of our existence and the universe. I’m just another man I can’t tell you what you have to believe in but if we had accepted that God didn’t give us wings because we weren’t meant to fly, the world would be a lot different today.

  19. on my comment above I didn’t mean to say people who believe in intelligent design force others to believe in what they believe in, I think I phrased that wrong.

    People who believe in intelligent design are great people like anyone else I just think the whole thing sounds kind of ‘convenient’ but I have to admit I’m pretty bias about the idea that life is spontaneous an organic. I find the idea very beautiful and romantic.

  20. @A.N

    I think you’re confusing ‘HYPOTHESIS’ with ‘THEORY’.
    a hypothesis is basically an idea given to explain a phenomenon.

    A theory is an explanation to phenomenon given using experiment and observation(scientific method) and confirmed repeatedly. (Theory relativity, Atomic theory and many others)

    The common misconception you’re making is that you think that if a theory accumulates enough evidence it will eventually become a law but a theory will always remain a theory and a law will always remain a law no matter what. however both theories and law are proven using the scientific method and both are known as scientific fact, unlike a hypothesis which is just an idea to explain how a phenomenon may work and if after experiment and observation with enough evidence it’s proven to be correct it maybe become a theory.

    Just to give you an example and since I don’t want to beat a dead horse and talk about intelligent design again, let’s talk about the hayflick limit. The hayflick limit is a theory that basically explains that the limit a normal fetal cell in a cell culture will divide is between 40 to 60 times and then stop. This is also considered to be the reason why we age but before we knew this Alex Carrell a nobel prize winning surgeon had stated that the a fetal cell in a cell culture under the right conditions could divide an unlimited amount of times (immortality), back then this was a widely believed hypothesis.

    Alex Carrell had no real evidence to show this but it sounded about right so other scientists just belived the hypothesis to be true, until Leonard Hayflick in the Wistar institute in Philadelphia discovered after 40 to 60 divisions a cell enters the senescence phase because each mitosis shortens the telomeres in a human DNA making cell division eventually impossible.

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