Last modified on 7 April 2017, at 01:19

Global atheism statistics

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.[1] See: Global atheism

Below are some global atheism statistics from research organizations and scholars.

The global atheism and religious demography research below covers the time period from 1900 to the end of 2016. In addition, the research below includes irreligion/religion demographic projections going as far as 2100.

Percentage of the world's population who are atheists - statistics and trends

As a percentage of the world's population, atheism peaked in 1970.[2] Global atheism is expected to decline in the 21st century and beyond in terms of its global market share.[3]

Encyclopedia Britanica statistics on global atheism

According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, 2% of the world's population self-identifies as atheist and the average annual global change for atheism from 2000 to 2010 was −0.17%.[4] See also: Desecularization

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."[5] 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.[6][7]

Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary statistics

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 (GCTS) in South Hamilton, Mass."[8]

GCTS Tables on the decline/growth of atheism/Christianity/other religions, by year

Data compiled by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS):

Given the information in the resources directly above, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, expects the global atheist population to shrink in its total number of individuals in 2017.

If CSGC is correct, then not only is the global market share for atheism going downward, but now the actual number of atheists in the world is going down as well. Specifically, CSGC is projecting that from the midpoint of 2016 to the midpoint of 2017, the total number of atheists in the world is going to go from 138,101,000 individuals to 137,041,000 individuals. That is a net loss of 60,000 atheists in the world during this period.[9]

2100 projection by Dr. Todd M. Johnson

Dr. Todd M. Johnson is associate professor of Global Christianity and director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, Massachusetts. He is co-author of several important resources in the emerging field of religious demography, including The World’s Religions in Figures (2013) and Atlas of Global Christianity (2009).

If present trends continue, Johnson projects that by 2100 two-thirds of the world’s population would be either Christian or Muslim.[10]

Pew Research on global atheism

See also: American atheism and French atheism

"Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population." - Pew Research, The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050[11]

For addition information on the future of American atheism, please see:

Eric Kaufman on global atheism as a percentage of the world's population

Eric Kaufmann, a professor at Birkbeck College, University of London whose work focuses on how demographic changes affects religion/politics, points out that that the atheist population has a sub-replacement fertility rate while religious fundamentalists have high rates of birth (See: Atheism and fertility rates). .[12]

On December 23, 2012, Professor Eric Kaufmann who teaches at Birbeck College, University of London and whose academic research specialty is how demographic changes affect religion/irreligion and politics, wrote:

I argue that 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious.

On the other hand, the secular West and East Asia has very low fertility and a rapidly aging population... In the coming decades, the developed world's demand for workers to pay its pensions and work in its service sector will soar alongside the booming supply of young people in the third world. Ergo, we can expect significant immigration to the secular West which will import religious revival on the back of ethnic change. In addition, those with religious beliefs tend to have higher birth rates than the secular population, with fundamentalists having far larger families. The epicentre of these trends will be in immigration gateway cities like New York (a third white), Amsterdam (half Dutch), Los Angeles (28% white), and London, 45% white British. [13]

Win-Gallup International statistics on global atheism

See also: WIN/Gallup International studies on global atheism and religion

The Observers reported: "The WIN/Gallup International poll from 2012 found that 13% of the global population was atheist. By 2015, the number of atheists had dropped by two percentage points.[14]

Science 2.0 website statistics on global atheism

The website Science.20 declared on July 14,2015:

Atheism as a belief system has peaked and its share of humanity is shrinking, demographic studies indicate. Win/Gallup’s 2012 global poll on religion and atheism put atheists at 13%, while its 2015 poll saw that category fall to 11%. Other figures suggest the changes have deep, broad roots.

First, a community’s possession of atheistic world-views—for whatever reason—correlates with low or negative birth rates. The most significant examples are East Asian and European countries, which are at “below replacement” rates of birth, shrinking at speed.

Second, “forced” atheism has been disappearing steadily over the past 40 years and we see a corresponding surge of people towards spiritual clusters. In percentage terms, 1970 may be considered the high point for global atheism and agnosticism. As communism weakened, and eventually collapsed in 1989, there was a significant resurgence of religious belief (see chart below). The same thing is now happening in China.

Third, the surge of popularity for a novel type of “evangelical atheism” which began about a decade ago appears to be losing some of its steam. The movement’s celebrity leaders have fallen out of the bestseller lists, and are often now criticized by their former cheerleaders in newspaper columns. After a high-publicity start in 2013, Sunday Assemblies have plummeted out of the limelight and growth has been glacial.

And the near future? The latest global data also shows that young people, classified as those under 34, tend to be measurably more religious (66%) than older ones (60%). “With the trend of an increasingly religious youth globally, we can assume that the number of people who consider themselves religious will only continue to increase,” said Jean-Marc Leger, President of WIN/Gallup International Association.

..the view that atheism will sweep the globe to produce a non-believing utopia is extremely unlikely. The shrinking of the skeptical share of humanity is inevitable, as Welsh geneticist Steve Jones has stated

..the data suggests that the global proportion of atheists will fall, while the number of pro-spiritual, pro-science middle group will grow.[15]

Ipsos statistics on global atheism

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.

W. Edwards Deming Institute and World Future society projection on religion/irreligion

See also: Growth of evangelical Christianity

In 2012, the W. Edwards Deming Institute published a report by the World Future Society which indicated:

In 2100, however, the world will likely be only 9% unaffiliated — more religious than in 2012. The peak of the unaffiliated was in 1970 at around 20%, largely due to the influence of European communism. Since communism’s collapse, religion has been experiencing resurgence that will likely continue beyond 2100. All the world’s religions are poised to have enormous numeric growth (with the exceptions of tribal religions and Chinese folk religion), as well as geographic spread with the continuation of migration trends. Adherents of the world’s religions—perhaps particularly Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists—will continue to settle in the formerly Christian and ever-expanding cities of Europe and North America, causing increases of religious pluralism in these areas. Christians and Muslims together will encompass two-thirds of the global population—more than 7 billion individuals. In 2100, the majority of the world’s 11.6 billion residents will be adherents of religious traditions.[16]

Projected decline of global atheism statistics

Projected decline of atheism in various regions

Geographic distribution of the world's atheists

See also: Atheist population and Asian atheism and Secular Europe

The current atheist population mostly resides in East Asia (particularly China) and in secular Europe/Australia primarily among whites.[17] See: Global atheism and Western atheism and race

Razib Khan points out in Discover Magazine, "most secular nations in the world are those of East Asia, in particular what are often termed “Confucian societies.” It is likely therefore that the majority of the world’s atheists are actually East Asian."[18] See: Asian atheism

Chinese atheism and the growth of Christianity in China

See also: Growth of Christianity in China and East Asia and global desecularization

In front of the Great Hall of the People in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

China has the world's largest atheist population.[19][20]

According to Slate, "Protestant Christianity has been the fastest growing religion in China."[21] Evangelical Christianity is especially growing sharply in China.[22]

On November 1, 2014, an article in The Economist entitled Cracks in the atheist edifice declared:

Officials are untroubled by the clash between the city’s famously freewheeling capitalism and the Communist Party’s ideology, yet still see religion and its symbols as affronts to the party’s atheism...

Yang Fenggang of Purdue University, in Indiana, says the Christian church in China has grown by an average of 10% a year since 1980. He reckons that on current trends there will be 250m Christians by around 2030, making China’s Christian population the largest in the world. Mr. Yang says this speed of growth is similar to that seen in fourth-century Rome just before the conversion of Constantine, which paved the way for Christianity to become the religion of his empire.[23]

Ethnic Chinese and the rise of Christianity in Southeast Asia

See: Ethnic Chinese and the rise of Christianity in Southeast Asia

See also

Notes

  1. Global Study: Atheists in Decline, Only 1.8% of World Population by 2020
  2. Atheism Peaks, While Spiritual Groups Move Toward Convergence by Nury Vittachi, July 14, 2015, website Sciene 2.0
  3. Religion: Year in Review 2010: Worldwide Adherents of All Religions. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc.. Retrieved on 2013-11-21.
  4. http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9432620
  5. http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/beliefs/atheism.htm
  6. http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9432620
  7. Global Study: Atheists in Decline, Only 1.8% of World Population by 2020
  8. Global data upend usual picture of Christianity trends, World Council of Churches
  9. The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050, Pew research
  10. 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious, Tuesday, April 30, 2013
  11. What it's like to be an atheist in the world today (Part One), The Observers
  12. Atheism Peaks, While Spiritual Groups Move Toward Convergence by Nury Vittachi, July 14, 2015, website Sciene 2.0
  13. The 22nd Century at First Light: Envisioning Life in the Year 2100: A special report by members and friends of the World Future Society, Religious Belief in 2100 by Gina A. Bellofatto
  14. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post, May 23, 2013
  15. Most atheists are not white & other non-fairy tales, Discover magazine
  16. Top 50 Countries With Highest Proportion of Atheists / Agnostics (Zuckerman, 2005)
  17. A surprising map of where the world’s atheists live, Washington Post By Max Fisher and Caitlin Dewey May 23, 2013
  18. When Will China Become the World’s Largest Christian Country?, Slate
  19. In China, a church-state showdown of biblical proportions
  20. Cracks in the atheist edifice, The Economist, November 1, 2014