Across Western Europe, there are mixed opinions on the influence of religion. Those who are religious are more likely to agree that it gives them a sense of meaning and purpose in life. But those who are not religious are more likely to say that it does not help them choose right from wrong.
Some of the negative things people attribute to religion include concepts of original sin, divine wrath, and eternal punishment. They also can create a fearful mental environment for many. These beliefs can lead physicians to provide patients with poor coping mechanisms, which increase the likelihood of ill health and mortality.
These beliefs can also justify the exclusion of members of minority groups. Similarly, traditional religions have often provided a ground for action, giving society confidence in uncertain times. They have often been deeply rooted in doctrines, creeds, and rituals.
In Western Europe, more than half of adults agree that religion gives them meaning. But fewer than half of Europeans agree that religion helps them choose right from wrong. In Portugal, Ireland, Italy, and Norway, respondents have a more positive view of religion.
The Netherlands, Sweden, and Denmark have a clear majority of adults who disagree with the statement that religion causes harm. A fifth of adults in Italy and Portugal voice a negative opinion. But a substantial share of the public in each of these countries says they are spiritual but not religious.
Some of the most commonly held beliefs include belief in astrology, fate, and reincarnation. These beliefs are more common in Europe than in the U.S.