Survey: Over 40% of Bulgarians do not Believe in Hell and Heaven

Society | March 20, 2023, Monday // 13:40
Bulgaria: Survey: Over 40% of Bulgarians do not Believe in Hell and Heaven @Pixabay

53% of Bulgarians claim to be religious. Nearly a third (29%) do not perceive themselves as religious people, and a tenth are atheists (9%). Another 10 percent can't decide how to answer. Bulgaria is rather in the middle (or even slightly below it) of the "ranking" of declared religiosity - below the average levels on a global scale, but far from the extremely low levels observed in other countries. Bulgaria is close in attitudes to the other eastern EU countries.

These attitudes have remained rather stable in our country in recent years - the share of those who define themselves as religious remains the same, but atheism seems to be growing. There is a minimal decline in the share of those who say they are not believers. In 2014, again every second Bulgarian (52%) defined themselves as religious. 36% then say they are not believers, and 3% are atheists. A few years later, in 2016, the attitudes were practically the same – 51% defined themselves as religious people, 36% – as non-religious, 3% are atheists, and the rest could not answer.

In our country, as well as in most countries of the world, those who believe in the existence of God (58%) seem to be more than those who define themselves as believers in general. Nearly a quarter believe there is no God, and 15% are not quite sure. Few do not know how to answer. The answers of the Bulgarians are again approaching the average registered for the EU - closer to those of the respondents from the eastern countries of the Union. Belief in the existence of God in our country has remained at the same declared levels in recent years.

Bulgarians seem to be skeptical about life after death. 34% in our country believe that there is, but 39% do not believe that something happens after our life ends. 20 percent are not sure, and a few cannot answer. According to this indicator, the attitudes registered in our country are below the average for the EU - both for the countries from the western part of the Union and from the east. Nevertheless, the share of those who declared that they believe that there is life after death in our country is more than the one registered in 2016 - 29%.

Our society is rather skeptical about the existence of heaven (32% say there is, but 42% say there is none) and hell (29% believe, and 43% do not). The attitudes declared by the Bulgarians coincide with the registered average for the Union, which also turns out to be among the most skeptical regions regarding the belief in hell and heaven. According to this indicator, however, the faith declared now in our country is higher than in 2016. Then 23% believed in hell and 25% - in heaven.

Around the world

Two-thirds of the world's population claim to be religious. There are slightly more people who say they believe in God. According to the majority of the world, there is life after death. The majority also agree that there is a hell and a heaven. Religious beliefs are mostly influenced by education, age and personal income.

These are some of the findings of a special survey conducted by the Global Association "Gallup International" (GIA) in 61 countries, covering two-thirds of the global population (and over 90% of countries that freely conduct and publish opinion polls). The study is part of the special research program for the 75th anniversary of the Gallup International World Association.

Religious affiliation around the world

Two-thirds (62%) of respondents worldwide say they are religious, and one in four say they are not religious. Declared atheists are 10%. The rest are not sure of their answer.

A few years ago (2016), Gallup International asked the same question. In general, attitudes towards religion appear to be relatively stable – in 2016, again two-thirds (62%) said they were religious, and 25% said they were not. Atheists are then 9%. The pattern of public attitudes around the world to the same questions asked in 2014 is also similar.

People in the EU and East Asia and Oceania appear to be the least religious, with shares of around 40% affirming that they are religious. People from sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and non-EU European countries, on the other hand, are much more likely to report being religious (up to 90% in some countries).

These attitudes in different regions of the world have also remained stable over the years. In both 2014 and 2016, Africa and the Middle East stood out as the most religious regions, according to respondents' self-reported responses. Western Europe, Asia, Oceania are among the regions where people define themselves as religious much less often. Asia is again the region with the largest number of self-identified atheists. Some major countries such as the US and Russia have seen a slight shift in religious attitudes in recent years. For example, 56% in the US and 70% in Russia said they were religious in 2014. Two years later, attitudes in the US remained the same, while in Russia the share of declared believers fell to 61%. Today, the share of self-identified as religious is almost equal - 60% in the United States and 62% in Russia.

The most religious countries in the world in the survey are now Kenya, Senegal, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Kosovo. The least self-reported religious are people in Japan, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Vietnam.

Most people believe there is a God after all. While 62% self-identify as religious, 72% say there is a God. 16 percent do not believe that God exists. 10% are not sure.

These attitudes appear largely stable in recent years, and there are indications that belief in God may have even risen slightly from 71% in 2016. The Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are among the regions where significantly a large proportion of people affirm the existence of God. To a significantly greater extent, citizens of the European Union, East Asia and Oceania doubt the existence of God. In North America, there is a greater division of opinion about the existence of God, while non-EU European countries and Latin America score significantly higher on the scale affirming the existence of God.

Most respondents worldwide (57%) believe there is life after death. However, almost one in four (23%) do not believe that anything happens after our lives are over. 15% cannot say.

Regions such as the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa are among the places where people are most likely to believe in an afterlife. The European Union again stands out as the place where people are least convinced that something happens after our lives end. Non-EU European countries, East Asia and Oceania, and North America are somewhere in the middle.

People in countries like Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Libya, Senegal and Indonesia are more likely to believe in life after death. Japan, Vietnam and most EU countries seem the most skeptical.

59% of people in the world believe that there is a paradise, and one in four denies its existence. Fewer people (but still a majority – 53%) believe that hell also exists.

Sample size and registration method:

A total of 57,768 people were interviewed globally. In each country, around 1,000 people were interviewed face-to-face, by phone or online between August and October 2022. The statistical error in the study is in the range of ±3-5% with a confidence interval of 95%.

In Bulgaria, the research was financed and conducted by "Gallup International Balkan" for the world Association "Gallup International".

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Tags: heaven, hell, Bulgarians, religious

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