South Caucasians imagine God as merciful, loving, and omnipresent

YEREVAN, OCTOBER 8, ARMENPRESS. In accordance with the report examining religiosity and religious practices in the South Caucasus most of all people proclaim themselves as believers in Armenia and then in Georgia. Azerbaijan has relatively small rates in this respect. “Armenpress” News Agency introduces report titled “Religiosity in South Caucasus” issued by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers. The report concludes with data on different conceptions of God and adjectives used to describe God in the South Caucasus.

To gauge religious self-identification, the CB asks, “Overall, how religious would you say you are?” Measured on a 1 to 10 scale where 1-3 means “not at all religious”, 4-7 means “somewhat religious” and 7-10 indicates “religious,” the majority of people in Armenia (91%), Azerbaijan (70%), and Georgia (85%) consider themselves to be “religious” or “somewhat religious”. When taken together, the percent of those who say “religious” or “somewhat religious” has remained more or less consistent from 2010 to 2012, except for in Azerbaijan which has experienced an increase from 57% in 2011 to 70% in 2012.

The majority of Armenians (92%) and Georgians (84%) identified as religious, well above the global average (59%). In fact, Armenians ranked as the third most inclined population to identify as religious from all the surveyed populations (tied with Fijians). Georgians ranked within the top 10 at the same level as Pakistanis. Azerbaijanis were less inclined to identify as religious (44%), below the average and occupying a position between Canada and the Netherlands. In all three countries women are more likely than men to say religion is very important in their daily lives. However, there were no significant differences between age groups from 2010 to 2012 on this question when rather and very important are taken together. Yet, in 2012 those 18-35 years old were more likely to say religion is “very important” in their daily lives (61%) than those 56 and older (50%) in Armenia. In contrast, those 56 and older in Azerbaijan were more likely religion is very important (43%) than those 36-55 (33%) and 18-35 (30%).

The data show that religious attendance decreased in all three countries from 2010 to 2012. Almost twice as many people in 2012 said they attend religious services only on special holidays in all three countries than in 2010. Yet, the percentage of those who said they “never” attend religious services or “once a week and more often” remained comparatively stable. Among the three groups, Azerbaijanis noted having attended religious services the least.

With the different religious context in mind, the CB asked people to indicate which adjectives they felt described God from a given list: distant, wrathful, ever-present, loving, forgiving and punishing. The majority (81%-96%) in all three countries say God is forgiving, loving and ever-present. Around a third of Georgians and Azerbaijanis describe God as distant and wrathful, while a much greater percentage of Armenians 78% and 56%, respectively, say the same.

Self-identification as religious and religious attendance are much lower in Azerbaijan than in Georgia and Armenia.

The Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC) is a network of resource, research and training centers established in 2003 in the capital cities of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia with the goal of strengthening social science research and public policy analysis in the South Caucasus. A partnership between the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Eurasia Partnership Foundation and local universities, the CRRC network offers scholars and practitioners stable opportunities for integrated research, training and collaboration in the region.

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