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Eco-Community with Spirit

Politics, Not Religion, Spurs Violence, Pollsters Told

William Scott Green, professor of religion at the University of Rochester, said a study of the religious beliefs and practices of 11 religious groups in seven countries showed that most people saw religion as a positive thing."If you look at Israel and India, where there is violence that we associate with religion, the majority of people in both of those places say that the violence is political rather than religious," Scott Green said."That's a very important result [because] we didn't ask them if it's associated with their own religion, we just asked the generic question, so that the judgment that the violence is political rather than religious is a judgment in principle about their own religion and about their neighbor's religion," Scott Green added.

John Zogby, whose Utica, N.Y-based international polling firm conducted the research together with staff of the University of Rochester from January through March of this year, said the study found that religion is extremely important to its adherents worldwide."

It's a very private and personal sort of thing, as well as a familial thing. Most people in most countries told us that they learn their religious values and principles from a parent, from a grandparent or from someone within their own family."Fewer told us of the importance of religious leaders among most of the religions that we surveyed," Zogby said.

Pollsters questioned Christians and Buddhists in South Korea; Orthodox Christians in Russia; Catholics and Protestants in the United States; Hindus and Muslims in India; Jews and Muslims in Israel; Muslims in Saudi Arabia; and Catholics in Peru.

Researchers interviewed 600 people in India, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia and South Korea; 593 Jews, Muslims and Druze in Israel; and 795 Catholics and Protestants in the United States.In all cases, except among Russian Orthodox Christians, being actively religious is more important than being politically active, Zogby said.

Among the questions asked was: "Should there be more religion in your society?""Majorities in most countries said yes, which is not a mandate for extremism as it is more a desire to inject what people consider as very positive in their lives into the values of their society as a whole," Zogby said.

Researchers saw three faces of Islam in the three countries polled and empirical evidence that Islam, like Roman Catholicism, adjusts itself to its national surroundings."We have a tendency - and I think here in the States especially - to see religion from the point of view of the most intense leaders and most intense followers utilizing religious symbols for their own political ends, whereas in reality, the people we polled do not see religion intersecting with politics or government but see it mainly as a personal thing, a code of ethics, a measurement for how well they are doing in their society," Zogby said.Another surprising finding was that most American Catholics and mainline Protestants don't hold exclusive views about their religions, Scott Green said.

In fact, 95 percent of Catholics and 92 percent of mainstream Protestants regard people of other religions as equal to them. Sixty-three percent of Catholics and 61 percent of Protestants surveyed say their religion is but o­ne of many paths to God."People believe that a more religious society - we didn't ask about a more religious government, but a more religious society - will help their country, so o­n a national and religious measure, people think religion will do more good than harm," Scott Green said.