America is unusual among countries in that it is at once religiously devout, religiously diverse and religiously tolerant. The co-author of a book on the subject discusses ways in which religion divides American society but also other ways in which it is united by religion, or at the very least, in spite of religious differences.
While Hamas and Hezbollah continue to receive mixed ratings from Muslim publics around the globe, opinions of al Qaeda and bin Laden are consistently negative. Meanwhile, most Muslims surveyed welcome a significant role for Islam in their countries’ politics, and most also say democracy is preferable to any other kind of government.
Indonesia, where President Barack Obama will visit this month and where he spent part of his childhood, is among those countries of the globe where such restrictions and hostilities are highest.
Religious beliefs continue to be influential in shaping some Americans' views about social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. Far fewer cite religion as a top influence on issues such as immigration, the environment and poverty.
Coverage of a pastor's plans to burn the Koran and the controversy over the planned Islamic center completely overshadowed coverage of Sept. 11 commemorations.
The public continues to express conflicted views of Islam.
Favorable views of Islam have declined since 2005, but a plurality still says Islam does not encourage violence more than other religions. More Americans agree with those who object to the building of the center in New York, but a majority also say that Muslims should have the same rights as other religious groups to build houses of worship.
Pakistanis have grown markedly less concerned about extremist groups, and are far more worried about the external threat from India. America's image remains negative and support for U.S. involvement in the fight against extremists has waned. Many Pakistanis endorse extreme views about law, religion and society.
The French public overwhelmingly endorses a ban on full Islamic veils in public places, and majorities in other Western European nations surveyed would also welcome such a ban in their countries. In contrast, most Americans would oppose prohibiting Muslim women from wearing full veils in public.
New "conscience protection" cases have emerged in the health care area expanding the debate beyond abortion and birth control to discrimination protection for certain groups, notably gays and lesbians.