"Faith and Global Policy Challenges"

by Steven Kull, John Steinbruner, Nancy Gallagher, Clay Ramsay, Evan Lewis, Jonas Siegel, Kevin Jones, Stefan Subias

A CISSM/PIPA/Knowledge Network poll dated December 2011

The complete survey questionnaire and raw data for this study is also available.

Religious communities have long been involved in matters of public policy, from working to address global poverty to defining the terms of “just” military action. Yet, to a great extent, they have been slow to consider how their religious and moral convictions apply to the security challenges posed by the modern era, especially climate change and nuclear weapons. These newer challenges relate to more traditional public policy concerns of religious doctrines. For example, the deleterious effects of climate change are expected to disproportionately affect the poor. Likewise, nuclear war would have an extraordinarily destructive impact on civilian populations. And yet, the public discourse of religious thought has not fully considered the moral implications of these challenges.

Some religious thought leaders have tried to stimulate a broad discussion about how religious principles apply to international policy problems. To date, concepts such as “stewardship” and “creation care” are cited as rationales for organized religious involvement in a range of global issues, including climate change and nuclear weapons.

It remains unclear how these and other religious and moral concepts shape thinking about global policy challenges for different denominations and individuals. How many people recognize the connections between their spiritual beliefs and global policy challenges? And how do ideas about moral and religious responsibilities translate into beliefs about appropriate action by individuals, faith communities, and national governments? What are the similarities and differences in how these concepts are applied to different challenges such as climate change, global inequality, and nuclear weapons? Additionally, how do these responsibilities and actions square with the recommendations of policy experts, such as international treaties that proscribe or limit certain behaviors?

In an effort to understand how the general public and individuals with specific religious traditions think that their spiritual faith intersects with global policy challenges, the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and its Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) conducted a public opinion poll. This poll is part of a larger effort to engage faith communities in addressing these challenges. As national governments and civil society contend with these issues, the involvement of religious communities and the application of their convictions could prove decisive.

This research was completed with support from the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

View the findings from related CISSM/PIPA public opinion polls on public attitudes toward international security issues.