Atheist Population

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The current atheist population mostly resides in East Asia (particularly China) and in secular Europe/Australia primarily among whites.[1] See: Western atheism and race

In respect to the atheist population of the world, there have been many studies in regards to the atheist demographics and in regards to the percentage of atheists in various geographic areas. Concerning the atheist population as a percentage of various countries' populations, specific research on atheists conducted in 2006 suggests that the true proportion of atheists is 4% in the United States, 17% in Great Britain and 32% in France. However, how one defines atheist can skew the results of polls (see: Definition of atheism). For example, in 2008, the American Religious Indentification Survey (ARIS) reported 1.6% of Americans self-identified themselves as atheists. [2] In 2007, Pew Forum estimated that 1.6% of Americans are atheists.[3]

Financial Times (FT)/Harris Poll among adults in 5 countries in 2006

A survey published in the 2005 Encyclopedia Britannica stated that 2.3% of the world's population consists of individuals who profess "atheism, skepticism, disbelief, or irreligion, including the militantly antireligious."[4] In regards to the 2.3% figure just mentioned, the 2005 survey cited by Encyclopedia Britannica survey did not include Buddhist in regards to the 2.3% figure and Buddhism can be theistic or atheistic.[5][6] Ipsos, a major global market research company, published a report on report on religious belief/skepticism from a worldwide perspective and the report provides various statistics gained from survey results.


Lack of significant global outreach by Western World atheists

African Christians clapping at an open air meeting. In recent years, Christianity has seen a rapid growth in Africa.[7]

In 2005, there were four times as many non-Western World Christians as there were Western World Christians.[8]

Western World atheists have not engaged in a significant amount of global outreach.

See also: Global atheism and Global Christianity and Christian evangelism

The former Soviet Union had a worldwide expansionist policy as far as spreading atheistic communism.[9] The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a spike in religious affiliation, both in Russia and in Eastern Europe.[10]

The atheist community in the Western World has not had significant outreaches to spread atheism outside the Western World. On the other hand, historically, Christians have made great evangelism efforts to reach every people group across the earth. In 2005, there were four times as many non-Western World Christians as there were Western World Christians.[11] Doing overseas evangelism/outreaches, often requires significant hardships/persecution and Western atheists have been unwilling to endure such hardships in order to spread atheistic ideology (see: Atheism and hedonism).

Christianity is rapidly growing in China. China is on course to have the largest Christian population in the world by 2030.[12] See also: Growth of Christianity in China

Lack of significant outreach to racial minorities in the Western World

See also: Western atheism and race and British atheism and American atheism and Global atheism

The atheist community has not had significant outreach to racial minorities within the Western World whereas Christians have done this (particularly among the poor).[13]The atheist Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson declared “If mainstream freethought and humanism continue to reflect the narrow cultural interests of white elites who have disposable income to go to conferences then the secular movement is destined to remain marginal and insular.”[14]

For information on the changing racial demographics of the Western World, please see: Global atheism

Global decline of atheism

See also: Global atheism

Atheists as a percentage of the world's population have declined since 1970 and atheism is expected to face long term decline.[15][16][17][18]

On July 24, 2013, CNS News reported:

Atheism is in decline worldwide, with the number of atheists falling from 4.5% of the world’s population in 1970 to 2.0% in 2010 and projected to drop to 1.8% by 2020, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Mass."[19]

In 2011, the American Spectator citing research published in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research reported that atheism is on the decline as a whole in terms of adherents.[20]

In 2009, the book A sceptics guide to atheism indicated: "A worldwide poll taken in 1991 put the global figure for atheists at just 4.4% of the population. By 2006 it was estimated that only 2% of the world population were atheists."[21]

Decline of atheism in terms of global adherents is expected to accelerate

See: Decline of atheism in terms of global adherents is expected to accelerate

American atheism

See also: American atheism

The Pew Research Center reported in 2013: "The number of people who identify themselves as atheists in the United States has been rising, modestly but steadily, in recent years. Our aggregated data from 2012 show that 2.4% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 1.6% in 2007."[22]

The Birkbeck College, University of London professor Eric Kaufman wrote in his 2010 book Shall the Righteous Inherit the Earth? concerning America:

High evangelical fertility rates more than compensated for losses to liberal Protestant sects during the twentieth century. In recent decades, white secularism has surged, but Latino and Asian religious immigration has taken up the slack, keeping secularism at bay. Across denominations, the fertility advantage of religious fundamentalists of all colours is significant and growing. After 2020, their demographic weight will begin to tip the balance in the culture wars towards the conservative side, ramping up pressure on hot-button issues such as abortion. By the end of the century, three quarters of America may be pro-life. Their activism will leap over the borders of the 'Redeemer Nation' to evangelize the world. Already, the rise of the World Congress of Families has launched a global religious right, its arms stretching across the bloody lines of the War on Terror to embrace the entire Abrahamic family.[23]

Atheists have low retention rate compared to other worldviews

Atheists have low retention rate compared to other worldviews

Atheist Prison Population

Irreligious prison population

Lack of sound leadership

See also: Atheism and leadership

Using academic studies, survey data and other information, supporters of the Question evolution! campaign maintain that there is a lack of sound leadership within the agnostic/atheist and evolutionist communities in dealing with the global decline of atheism and agnosticism.


Male and female demographic imbalances

See also: Atheism and women

Surveys by country

In November of 2010, Discover magazine published survey results published by the World Values Survey which showed significant differences between the percentage of men and women who are atheists for various countries.[24]

United States surveys

A 2008 study by Trinity College found that women are significantly more religious than men in America.[25] In 2007, the Pew Research Center found that American women were more religious than American men.[26]

Atheism and the internet

See also: Atheism and the internet and Atheistic bullying

During the period of 2007 to 2012, the atheist community made a concerted effort to spread atheism through means of the internet. However, leading atheist websites have seen plunges in web traffic during this same period and during the first half of 2012.[27]

For more information please see:

Atheist PZ Myers says atheists are largely a population of internet nerds and geeks

See also: Internet atheism and Atheism and marriage and Atheism and women

In 2013, the atheist PZ Myers declared:

If we're going to expand our base and we're going to draw in more people to recognize the virtues of living in a secular world, we need to appeal to more than just that geek and nerd subset of the population. We need to have a wider base. ...I seriously believe that we're on the cusp of a crisis. We're not there yet but it's looming in front of us. Will we adapt and thrive and change the world? Or will we remain an avocation for a prosperous and largely irrelevant subset of the population? Will we become something more than a scattered society of internet nerds? That's what we have to do.[28]

In response, Evolution News and Views wrote:

A crisis looms, in Myers's view, because he looks around himself and sees a not very promising basis for a mass movement. He's right. There is indeed a quality of geeky isolation from reality, common sense, and the fullness of life that I see as a motif in atheist and Darwin activism alike.[29]

See Also

External Links


  1. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, May 23, 2013
  3. Pew Forum - 2007 - Key findings on religious belief in America
  7. The African apostles: How Christianity exploded in 20th-century Africa
  8. Is Christianity taking over the planet?
  9. America Coming to Terms: The Vietnam Legacy By Nguyen Anh Tuan, page 82
  10. [Global Study: Atheists in Decline, Only 1.8% of World Population by 2020] by Michael W. Chapman, CNS News, July 24, 2013 - 2:18 PM
  11. Is Christianity taking over the planet?
  12. China on course to become 'world's most Christian nation' within 15 years by Tom Phillips, The Telegraph, April 19, 2014
  13. Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
  14. Atheism’s white male problem: A movement needs a moral cause beyond glamorizing disbelief by CJ Werleman, Salon, October 4, 2014
  15. Study: World is becoming more religious
  16. Globally the worldviews of atheism and non-religious (agnostic) are declining while global Christianity is exploding in adherents
  17. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary - Status of Global Missions
  18. Gordon-Conwell Seminary - Status of Global Mission, 2014, in the Context of AD 1800–2025
  19. Global Study: Atheists in Decline, Only 1.8% of World Population by 2020]
  21. A sceptics guide to atheism, page 4
  22. Facts about atheists
  23. Why are 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  24. Sex differences in global atheism, part N
  27. Internet atheism: The thrill is gone!
  28. [ in Seattle, PZ Myers Reflects Candidly on His Constituency
  29. [ in Seattle, PZ Myers Reflects Candidly on His Constituency
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