PARIS - A new global survey has found that religiosity was in decline around the world, with more people declaring themselves as atheists, a trend attributed to growing economic prosperity.
"Obviously, there were all the scandals in the Church over that period -- that was massive," Sinead Mooney, deputy managing director of the RED C Research company in Dublin, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Mooney was referring to repeated revelations of child sexual abuse by priests that have gravely damaged the image of Roman Catholicism in Ireland.
"Also, as countries get richer, they tend to lose some sense of religion," she said.
"We did become richer -- at least at the beginning of that period."
The survey, by the WIN-Gallup International network of opinion pollsters, found a steep drop in religiosity around the world.
It found that average religiosity in the 57 countries included in the poll was 59 percent, a decline of 9 points since 2005.
Vietnam led the world countries in the drop in religiosity by 23 percent in the same period.
Traditionally Catholic Ireland registered the second-greatest drop in the number of people calling themselves religious.
The survey of 51,927 people showed that the number of Irish who consider themselves religious had fallen by 22 percent in 2011, from 69 percent in 2005.
The poll also found that the number of people declaring themselves to be convinced atheists rose from 4 percent worldwide in 2005 to 7 percent this year.
The countries where most people self-identified as religious were Ghana (96 percent), Nigeria (93 percent) and Macedonia (90 percent).
The most convinced atheists were found in Japan (31 percent), Czech Republic (30 percent) and France (29 percent).
Ireland was found to be joint seventh among the most atheistic of the 57 countries.
Africa topped the list of most devout regions of the world, with 89 percent calling themselves religious, Reuters reported.
Latin America came in the second place with 84 percent, South Asia (83 percent) and the Arab world (77 percent).
North Asia came in the least religious at 17 percent, followed by East Asia at 39 percent.
North America reported 57 percent religiosity, Western Europe 51 percent and Eastern Europe 66 percent.
Religious attachment ran high in what the survey called global flash-points -- mostly Muslims-majority Iraq (88 percent), Pakistan (84 percent), Afghanistan (83 percent) and Palestinian territories (65 percent).
The survey offered no analysis of its results other than providing figures supporting a decades-old trend of religiosity dropping in most countries as economic development progresses.
It was not clear why Vietnam, where the communist government has allowed some religious freedom but also harassed some faith groups in recent years, led the world in the drop in religiosity.Britain was not included in the survey because of technical problems when it was carried out from last November to January, Mooney said.