Essay: The 21st century is a terrible century for atheism

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Are there alarming trends facing the atheist movement? Should militant atheists be alarmed?

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

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.[9]

Pew Research on global 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[10]

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). .[11]

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. [12]

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.[13]

Science 2.0 website statistics on global atheism

The website Science 2.0 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16] 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."[17] 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.[18][19]

According to Slate, "Protestant Christianity has been the fastest growing religion in China."[20] Evangelical Christianity is especially growing sharply in China.[21]

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.[22]

Ethnic Chinese and the rise of Christianity in Southeast Asia

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

Essay: Behold, 7 reasons why militant atheists should be very alarmed!


The material below is from the essay: 7 alarming trends for the atheist movement. Militant atheists surrender now!

School choice movement/homeschooling are growing in the United States. Very bad news for secular/nonreligious education

The atheist movement relies on atheistic/liberal ideology being taught in public schools (see: Atheist indoctrination)

Business Insider declared in 2017:

...homeschooling has quietly experienced a surge in recent years too. Brian Ray, a homeschooling researcher at the National Home Education Research Institute, estimates the number of kids taught at home is growing by as much as 8% a year since the total hovered around 2 million in 2010, according to US Census figures.

That puts the upper estimate at approximately 3.5 million children, far surpassing charter schools... In the age of the internet, they say, when university lectures and guided lessons are getting nearly as good as in-person instruction — and are free from distractions — almost anything can be taught.[23]

The Hill wrote in 2017:

School choice has generated quite a bit of headlines and debate lately. The election of President Trump has amplified that discussion. His pledge to make school choice a centerpiece of his education agenda — a proposal that is attracting much attention and scrutiny — along with his nomination of school choice champion Betsy DeVos for secretary of Education has added fuel to an idea that has gained tremendous traction over the past two decades.

Momentum is growing, and not just because of the recent election results or the DeVos nomination, either. This week is National School Choice Week (Jan. 22 to 28), a time when parents, teachers and students are raising awareness highlighting the difference school choice has made in their lives. Organizers estimate more than 20,000 total events taking place across the U.S., including rallies in Washington, D.C. and many state capitals — the largest ever series of education-related events in the U.S. — and over 500 official proclamations from governors, mayors and county officials.

In addition to traditional schools, public education options now include charter schools, magnet schools, blended and online schools. Their growth can’t be ignored or understated — from one Minnesota state law in 1991 establishing the first charter school to now 43 states, plus the District of Columbia, enacting such laws.

In 2003, there were 3,000 charter schools. Today, however, there are now more than 6,500 charter schools serving nearly 3 million students nationwide. Thousands more students are on waiting lists. Private schools and homeschooling continue to grow, too, as families seek a greater range of options for their kids beyond the traditional public system (between 2007 and 2014, the number of homeschooled children spiked by 17 percent). To compliment that growth, states are enacting school choice-friendly policies such as education savings accounts, opportunity scholarships, inter-district open enrollment, digital course choice and more.[24]

In 2017, the organization Americans United For Separation of Church and State posted an article entitled We’re Fighting A Wave Of Private School Voucher Bills Across The Country. The article indicates: "Although 24 states already have private school voucher programs in place, so far this year, 14 states have introduced legislation that will either create or expand a voucher program."

Americans dissatisfaction with failing public schools is only going to increase - especially in an age of globalization where young people are competing in a global economy. On top of this, increasingly public school graduates will be competing with homeschool and private school educated students.

Muslim young people are not being secularized in Europe. They are more pious than their parents

The Observer declares

Studies show that younger Muslim generations in Europe are actually more jihadist-oriented—some would say more pious—than their elders. There is, however, another factor that runs contrary to conventional wisdom.[25]

An excerpt from the academic paper Religious immigrants will alter the religious landscape of Europe by Kaufmann, Goujon and Skirbekk:

In Europe, there has been less attention paid to fertility differences between denominations. However, several studies have discovered that immigrants to Europe tend to be more religious than the host population and — especially if Muslim—tend to retain their religiosity (Van Tubergen 2006). Though some indicators point to modest religious decline toward the host society mean, other trends suggest that immigrants become more, rather than less, religious the longer they reside in the host society (Van Tubergen 2007). All of which indicates that religious decline may fail at the aggregate level even if it is occurring at the individual level (Kaufmann 2006, 2010). This article thereby investigates the hypothesis that a combination of higher religious fertility, immigration, and slowing rates of religious apostasy will eventually produce a reversal in the decline of the religious population of Western Europe.[26]

A significant portion of Muslim and Christian Pentecostal growth in Europe is under the radar

The military strategists Sun Tzu wrote about knowing thyself and knowing thy enemies in order to prevail in battles/wars.

How much do militant atheists know about the growth of Islam and Christian pentecostalism in the West? Not as much as militant atheists wish!

The Observer also declares

The Pew Research Center reported last July that the Muslim share of the population throughout Europe has grown “about 1 percentage point a decade, from 4 percent in 1990 to 6 percent in 2010. This pattern is expected to continue through 2030, when Muslims are projected to make up 8% of Europe’s population.”

(Note: We could question these statistics’ accuracy. France, for example, prohibits the collecting of census information on race, ethnicity, or religion—making a calculation of the Muslim population difficult.)[27]

And France has Europe's second largest Muslim population.

Also, consider:

On July 12, 2012, the Christian Science Monitor stated:

French scholars say, evangelicalism is likely the fastest-growing religion in France – defying all stereotypes about Europe’s most secular nation... Daniel Liechti, vice-president of the French National Evangelical Council, found that since 1970, a new evangelical church has opened in France every 10 days. The number of churches increased from 769 to 2,068 last year,

In addition, there is Europe's porous border which illegal immigrants are successfully penetrating.[28]

The Telegraph reported:

Europe’s external perimeter is so porous jihadists are able to slip in and out at will – posing a huge challenge for British border security.

Only last week, the scale of the threat was thrown into sharp relief when the EU’s own border agency, Frontex, admitted mass immigration is allowing terrorists to sneak into Europe.

It warned a “staggering number” of EU citizens have travelled to Syria to fight with Islamic State and are now posing as refugees to re-enter Europe.

The danger to Britain becomes even more concerning in light of separate disclosures, which also emerged last week, that illegal immigrants are being smuggled to this country for as little as £100.[29]

Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious fundamentalism is growing in the world and 21st century global atheism is expected to see a decline

First, please read the articles:

Phillip Jenkins published the book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.

Chuck Colson, citing the work of Jenkins, wrote:

As Penn State professor Philip Jenkins writes in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, predictions like Huntingtons betray an ignorance of the explosive growth of Christianity outside of the West.

For instance, in 1900, there were approximately 10 million Christians in Africa. By 2000, there were 360 million. By 2025, conservative estimates see that number rising to 633 million. Those same estimates put the number of Christians in Latin America in 2025 at 640 million and in Asia at 460 million.

According to Jenkins, the percentage of the worlds population that is, at least by name, Christian will be roughly the same in 2050 as it was in 1900. By the middle of this century, there will be three billion Christians in the world -- one and a half times the number of Muslims. In fact, by 2050 there will be nearly as many Pentecostal Christians in the world as there are Muslims today. The American sociologist and author Peter L. Berger introduced the concept of desecularization in 1999. According to Berger, "One can say with some confidence that modern Pentecostalism must be the fastest growing religion in human history."[30]

Religion News reports:

Pentecostalism is one of the fastest-growing movements in world Christendom, with an estimated 500 million followers.

“A century ago the face of European Christianity could have been labeled as white, but now it is increasingly becoming multicolored,” said Israel Olofinjana, a Nigerian-born minister in London told the Times.[31]

For more information, please read: The Real Reason the Pentecostal Movement Keeps Growing

Asian atheism continues to collapse

A majority of the world's atheists are East Asian (see: Most atheists are not white & other non-fairy tales, Discover magazine).

Behold the collapse of Asian atheism via the articles listed below!

Mainstream media, which has been pro-atheism, is in decline

The Media Research Center released a study reporting a pro-atheism bias by major press outlets in the United States. The study found that 80% of mainstream media coverage of atheism was positive and that 71% of Christian-themed stories had an atheist counterpoint or were written from an atheist perspective. The New Atheism movement received significant support from the mainstream media during its early years.

Mr. Secular Leftist, answer me this; "Do you believe that mainstream media is less trusted and in decline? If not, then why was Donald J. Trump elected despite the relentless barrage against him?

Behold, Mass Media In Crisis: The Trust Deficit and Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low

Furthermore, The Guardian declares:

For national newspapers the last couple of years have seemed to be a near-death experience. Paid-for circulation is in decline, but cover prices have frequently risen to mitigate the revenue loss. Where the money has been haemorrhaging is in advertising.

Advertising revenues have a range of identifiable problems. It became clear in the 90s that the internet was going to be massively disruptive to the traditional classified sector. Search for a job, house, holiday, car on the internet and in moments you can see what is available without having to buy a newspaper.[32]

Trend of prominent atheists/agnostics being pessimistic about the future of atheism/secularism

Jürgen Habermas is a prominent German sociologist and philosopher. Habermas describes himself as a "a methodical atheist". In a 2006 essay, Habermas wrote: “secular citizens in Europe must learn to live, the sooner the better, in a post-secular society and in so doing they will be following the example of religious citizens, who have already come to terms with the ethical expectations of democratic citizenship. So far secular citizens have not been expected to make a similar effort.”

Let's fast forward to 2010.

Eric Kaufmann, an agnostic professor whose academic research specialty is how demographic changes affect religion/irreligion and politics, indicated in 2010:

Worldwide, the march of religion can probably only be reversed by a renewed, self-aware secularism. Today, it appears exhausted and lacking in confidence... Secularism's greatest triumphs owe less to science than to popular social movements like nationalism, socialism and 1960s anarchist-liberalism. Ironically, secularism's demographic deficit means that it will probably only succeed in the twenty-first century if it can create a secular form of 'religious' enthusiasm.[33]

Now lets fast forward to 2016.

YouTube atheist Thunderf00t said about the atheist movement after Reason Rally 2016 had a very low turnout:

I'm not sure there is anything in this movement worth saving. Hitchens is dead. Dawkins simply doesn't have the energy for this sort of thing anymore. Harris went his own way. And Dennett just kind of blended into the background. So what do you think when the largest gathering of the nonreligious in history pulls in... I don't know. Maybe 2,000 people. Is there anything worth saving?[34]

So let's review. In 2006, a prominent German atheist Jürgen Habermas warns of a coming post-secular age in Europe. By 2010, the scholar and agnostic Eric Kaufmann admits that agnostics/atheists have become exhausted and lack confidence. By 2016, the prominent YouTube atheist Thunderf00t asks if there is anything worth saving in the atheist movement.

Militant atheists, I am looking forward to 2021! What's so special about 2016? Please continue reading.

Concerning the future of religion/secularism in Europe, Eric Kaufmann wrote :

We have performed these unprecedented analyses on several cases. Austria offers us a window into what the future holds. Its census question on religious affiliation permits us to perform cohort component projections, which show the secular population plateauing by 2050, or as early as 2021 if secularism fails to attract lapsed Christians and new Muslim immigrants at the same rate as it has in the past. (Goujon, Skirbekk et al. 2006). This task will arguably become far more difficult as the supply of nominal Christians dries up while more secularisation-resistant Muslims and committed rump Christians comprise an increasing share of the population.[35]

In a 2010 paper entitled Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, Professor Eric Kaufmann wrote:

What of European Christianity? The conventional wisdom holds it to be in free fall, especially in Western Europe. (Bruce 2002) This is undoubtedly correct for Catholic Europe, while Protestant Europe already has low levels of religious practice. Yet closer scrutiny reveals an increasingly lively and demographically growing Christian remnant. Several studies have examined the connection between religiosity - whether defined as attendance, belief or affiliation - and fertility in Europe. Most find a statistically significant effect even when controlling for age, education, income, marital status and other factors...

Moving to the wider spectrum of European Christianity, we find that fertility is indeed much higher among European women who are religious...

Today, most of those who remain religious in Europe wear their beliefs lightly, but conservative Christianity is hardly a spent force. Data on conservative Christians is difficult to come by since many new churches keep few official records. Reports from the World Christian Database, which meticulously tracks reports from church bodies, indicates that 4.1 percent of Europeans (including Russians) were evangelical Christians in 2005. This figure rises to 4.9 percent in northern, western and southern Europe. Most religious conservatives are charismatics, working within mainstream denominations like Catholicism or Lutheranism to ‘renew’ the faith along more conservative lines. There is also an important minority of Pentecostals, who account for .5% of Europe’s population. Together, charismatics and Pentecostals account for close to 5 % of Europe’s population. The proportion of conservative Christians has been rising, however: some estimate that the trajectory of conservative Christian growth has outpaced that of Islam in Europe. (Jenkins 2007: 75).

In many European countries, the proportion of conservative Christians is close to the number who are recorded as attending church weekly. This would suggest an increasingly devout Christian remnant is emerging in western Europe which is more resistant to secularization. This shows up in France, Britain and Scandinavia (less Finland), the most secular countries where we have 1981, 1990 and 2000 EVS and 2004 ESS data on religiosity...

Currently there are more evangelical Christians than Muslims in Europe. (Jenkins 2007: 75) In Eastern Europe, as outside the western world, Pentecostalism is a sociological and not a demographic phenomenon. In Western Europe, by contrast, demography is central to evangelicalism’s growth, especially in urban areas. Alas, immigration brings two foreign imports, Islam and Christianity, to secular Europe.[36]

External links


  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.
  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 Science 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
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  25. [