Survey of Western beliefs in sin

Americans are twice as likely to believe in hell and the devil as their European counterparts, according to preliminary analysis of a wide-ranging survey on sin conducted in nine Western countries.

The survey, for which between 1,200 and 2,000 people have been questioned since 1978, showed belief in sin was highest in Northern Ireland - 91 percent - and lowest in Denmark - 29 percent. The Observer newspaper published a preliminary analysis of the findings. The survey, conducted by Jesuit professor Jan Kerkhofs of Belgium's Louvain University, is described as the biggest ever undertaken in the West.

The findings also showed the Irish hold the rosiest view of mankind, with 34 percent of those polled believing people were essentially good. The figure for the French - the most pessimistic - was 5 percent. The majority of those questioned said honesty was the most important quality to be instilled in a child, followed by tolerance and respect for other people. The British ranked good manners second. An international team of academics carried out the survey, which indicated the Ten Commandments' rules on killing, stealing, and honoring parents rated high.

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