MOSCOW, June 17 (RIA Novosti) – About 64 percent of Russians identify themselves as belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church, but many of them have never read the Bible and rarely go to church or pray, a recent poll showed.
Some 52 percent of Russian self-identified Orthodox Christians said that they have never read the New Testament, the Old Testament or other key scriptures, while 24 percent said that they are rare church-goers, and 28 percent hardly ever pray, according to poll results released by the country’s Public Opinion Foundation (FOM) on Friday.
The survey, conducted back in April this year across 43 Russian regions, is partly based on the template of a poll carried out in the United States in 2005 by Newsweek and Beliefnet, the Russian Kremlin-backed pollster said in a report on its website.
The FOM results showed that there are more non-believers in Russia (25 percent) now than in the US back in 2005, when just 6 percent of Americans said they were not religious.
The Russian pollster noted that only 57 percent of those who identified themselves as Orthodox Christians said they believed that the universe was created by God. Some 43 percent think that heaven and hell truly exist, while another quarter believe in reincarnation.
The total number of all Russians surveyed who believe in the universe's divine origin was some 46 percent, while in the US that figure was 80 percent.
In the US, 67 percent of all people who took part in the poll said that they believed souls go either to heaven or hell, while in Russia that number was lower – 34 percent.
The FOM survey, which comprised answers given by 1,500 Russians, has a margin of error of 3.6 percent.
Last week, Russia’s lower house of parliament passed a bill in its final reading that will make offending religious believers’ feelings a criminal offense punishable by up to three years behind bars. The initiative, proposed in the wake of the Pussy Riot trial last year in which three young women were convicted of “hooliganism incited by religious hatred” and sentenced to prison terms for performing a punk protest in Russia’s main Orthodox church, was slammed by critics as taking Russia back to the Dark Ages.
A separate opinion poll conducted by the FOM earlier this year showed that 45 percent of all Russians believed that offending religious believers’ feelings should be a criminal offense. Twenty-two percent said it should not be a crime, and 33 percent could not answer the question.