The upper left corner (poor and religious) is populated with several Muslim countries. In fact here is the table for some of the top 10 most religious countries:
wow - look at the 99%+ countries. I'm actually surprised that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are not up there (they are at #35 and #38 respectively, with Saudi Arabia at 93% and Pakistan at 92%). It is a bit surprising to see Sri Lanka up there as well, but then 90% of Indians also think that religion is an important part of their lives. Given my recent trip to Malaysia, I will also include it in here: 96%. Wow! And this is inclusive of non-Muslim minorities as well.
If you look at religiosity as a function of median per-capita income, then you also get a pretty clear trend:
Well, explanation for these numbers is one thing. But this, perhaps, also has lessons for the recent tensions over freedom-of-speech in the West versus respect for religion (read Muslims). This is indeed a tough issue - but we don't take into account that, because of global communications, we are now having these debates across cultures with values far far different from each other. An understanding and appreciation of these differences may help in diffusing tensions related to hot-button controversies, such as the recently aborted Qur'an burning stunt in Florida.
As far as the possible explanation for the religiosity-poverty link:
Social scientists have put forth numerous possible explanations for the relationship between the religiosity of a population and its average income level. One theory is that religion plays a more functional role in the world's poorest countries, helping many residents cope with a daily struggle to provide for themselves and their families. A previous Gallup analysis supports this idea, revealing that the relationship between religiosity and emotional wellbeing is stronger among poor countries than among those in the developed world.Now US is an obvious outlier. A few years ago I had a post on a fantastic Atlantic Monthly article analyzing results from the Pew Global Attitudes Project - and the author of the article had made some interesting observations about the connection of wealth with an increasing level of secularization (see Secularization, Wealth and Religiosity, and the discussion therein). But regarding the US issue, the author had suggested that it is the free-market competition of religions in the US (in particular, amongst the various Protestant denominations) that has led to creative innovations with enormous success, both in the US and abroad. I think this is a very interesting point. However, in the same time, there has also been a notable increase in the number of people who do not adhere to any religion ("Nones") in the US. The Atlantic article takes an optimistic approach towards an increasing level of secularism in the world, and despite these new Gallup results, I agree with it, and I think that the ease of cross-cultural exchanges will eventually dilute out these sharp numbers (overall, perhaps a geographically more religiously pluralistic world). But how will that interplay with the poverty-religiosity connection?
Good stuff and fascinating issues. Check out this earlier discussion here, and the new Gallup results here.