From a cultural relations perspective, it’s important to remember that more than eight out of ten people worldwide identify with a religious group and that religion is an essential component of individual and group identity for many.
The surveys in this report demonstrate that vast majorities of Brits and Americans agree that freedom of religion or belief is both a fundamental human right and a fundamental guiding principle of the UK and the US. However, the British Council’s meetings of experts working at the centre of religion and international affairs suggest that foreign policy bureaucracies remain ill-equipped to engage effectively with religious actors.
By examining public attitudes towards various aspects of religion and belief, we hope to prompt transatlantic dialogues on key aspects of the perspectives presented in this report.
- 80 per cent of people in the UK and 89 per cent of people in the US are in overall agreement that freedom of religion or belief is a fundamental human right (page 12).
- 73 per cent of people in the UK and 86 per cent of people in the US also agree freedom of religion is an important foundation of their respective societies, yet 57 per cent of Americans “strongly agree” with this assertion compared to 37 per cent of people in the UK (page 14).
- Overall, people in the UK and the US are more likely to agree than disagree that “countries with more religious freedoms are more peaceful than countries with fewer religious freedoms" (page 17).
- Brits and Americans are also more likely to agree than disagree that countries with greater religious freedoms have stronger economies and are more innovative societies than countries with fewer religious freedoms (page 20 and 22).