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Title: Irreligion  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Demographics of atheism, Atheism, Christianity in Asia, Nontheism, Secularism
Collection: Irreligion
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Irreligion (adjective form: non-religious or irreligious) is the absence of religion, an indifference towards religion, a rejection of religion, or hostility towards religion.[1] When characterized as the rejection of religious belief, it encompasses explicit atheism, religious dissidence, and secular humanism. When characterized as hostility towards religion, it encompasses anticlericalism, antireligion, and antitheism.

When characterized as indifference to religion, it is known as apatheism. When characterized as the absence of religious belief, it may also include deism, implicit atheism, "spiritual but not religious", agnosticism, pandeism, ignosticism, nontheism, pantheism, panentheism, religious skepticism, and freethought, depending upon individual definitions, and the distinction between different senses of the word religion. Irreligion may include some forms of theism, depending on the religious context it is defined against; for example, in 18th-century Europe, the epitome of irreligion was deism.[2]

Several comprehensive global polls on the subject have been conducted by Gallup International: their 2012 poll found that 23% of the world population is not religious, 13% were "convinced atheists", and between 2005 and 2012 world religiosity decreased by 9 percentage points.[3] However, their 2015 poll found that only 22% of the world population is not religious and only 11% were "convinced atheists".[4] According to Pew Research Center projections, the nonreligious, though temporarily increasing, will ultimately decline significantly by 2050 because of lower reproductive rates and ageing.[5]

Being nonreligious is not necessarily equivalent to being an atheist or agnostic. A Pew Research Center global report in 2012 noted that many of the nonreligious actually have some religious beliefs. According to the study, "belief in God or a higher power is shared by 7% of Chinese unaffiliated adults, 30% of French unaffiliated adults and 68% of unaffiliated U.S. adults."[6] The majority of the nonreligious (76%) are concentrated in Asia and the Pacific, while only a small portion comes from Europe (12%) or North America (5%).[6]


  • Human rights 1
  • Demographics 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5

Human rights

In 1993, the UN's human rights committee declared that article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief."[7] The committee further stated that "the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views." Signatories to the convention are barred from "the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers" to recant their beliefs or convert. Despite this, minority religions still are still persecuted in many parts of the world.[8][9]

Most Western democracies protect the freedom of religion, and it is largely implied in respective legal systems that those who do not believe or observe any religion are allowed freedom of thought.

A noted exception to ambiguity, explicitly allowing non-religion, is Article 36 of the [10] Article 46 of China’s 1978 Constitution was even more explicit, stating that "Citizens enjoy freedom to believe in religion and freedom not to believe in religion and to propagate atheism."[11]


Although 10 countries listed below have non-religious majorities, it does not mean that majority of the populations of these countries don′t belong to any religious group. For example, 67.5% of the Swedish population belongs to Lutheran Christian Church,[12] while 58.7% of Albanians declare themselves as Muslims. Also, though Scandinavian countries have among the highest measures of nonreligiosity and even atheism in Europe, 47% of atheists who live in those countries are still members of the national churches.[13]

A Pew 2015 global projection study for religion and nonreligion, projects that between 2010 and 2050, there will some initial increases of the unaffiliated followed by a decline by 2050 due to lower global fertility rates among this demographic.[14] Sociologist Phil Zuckerman's global studies on atheism have indicated that global atheism may be in decline due to irreligious countries having the lowest birth rates in the world and religious countries having higher birth rates in general.[15]

Gallup Religiosity Index 2009 (light color indicates religious, dark nonreligious)[16]

The tables below order the percentage of a country's population that are nonreligious from highest to lowest.

Country Percentage of population
that is non-religious (+20%)
Date and source
 Estonia 70.4 [17]
 Czech Republic 67.8 [18]
 Vietnam 63 [17][19]
 Denmark 61 [17]
 Netherlands 56 [17][20]
 Sweden 54 [17]
 Albania 52 [21][22][23]
 Japan 52 [17]
 Azerbaijan 51 [24]
 China 50.5 [17][19][25]
 Uruguay 47 [26]
 France 44 [17]
 Russia 43.8 [19]
 Belarus 43.5 [19]
 South Korea 43 [19][27]
 Finland 42.9 [17]
 Hungary 42.6 [19]
 Ukraine 42.4 [19]
 Iceland 42 [28]
 New Zealand 41.9 [29]
 Latvia 40.6 [19]
 United Kingdom 39 [30]
 Belgium 35.4 [19]
 Germany 34.6 [31]
 Luxembourg 29.9 [19]
 Slovenia 29.9 [19]
 Chile 25.0 [32]
 Canada 23.9 [33]
 Spain 23.3 [34]
 Slovakia 23.1 [19]
 United States 22.8 [35]
 Australia 22.3 [36]
  Switzerland 21.4 [37]
Country Percentage of population
that is non-religious (-20%)
Date and source
 Lithuania 19.4 [19]
 Guatemala 18.3 [38]
 Italy 17.8 [19]
 Argentina 16.0 [39]
 Nicaragua 15.7 [40]
 Belize 15.6 [41]
 South Africa 15.1 [42]
 El Salvador 14.6 [43]
 Croatia 13.2 [19]
 Austria 12.2 [19]
 Portugal 11.4 [19]
 Costa Rica 11.3 [44]
 Puerto Rico 11.1 [19]
 Bulgaria 11.1 [19]
 Philippines 10.9 [19]
 Honduras 9.0 [32]
 Brazil 8.0 [45]
 Ecuador 7.9 [46]
 Ireland 7.0 [47]
 Mexico 7.0 [32]
 India 6.6 [19]
 Venezuela 6.0 [32]
 Serbia 5.8 [19]
 Peru 4.7 [19]
 Poland 4.6 [19]
 Greece 4.0 [19]
 Panama 3.0 [48]
 Turkey 2.5 [19]
 Romania 2.4 [19]
 Tanzania 1.7 [19]
 Malta 1.3 [19]
 Iran 1.1 [19]
 Uganda 1.1 [19]
 Nigeria 0.7 [19]
 Thailand 0.27 [49]
 Bangladesh 0.1 [19]

See also


  1. ^
    • Includes rejection.
  2. ^ Campbell, Colin. 1971. Towards a Sociology of Irreligion. London:McMillan p. 31.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ The Religiosity Index is a measure of the importance of religion for respondents and their self-reported attendance of religious services. For religions in which attendance at services is limited, care must be used in interpreting the data. (Gallup WorldView) Archived April 29, 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i , edited by Michael Martin, University of Cambridge Press, 2007Cambridge Companion to AtheismZuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns", from the
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag Dentsu Communication Institute Inc., Research Centre for Japan (2006)(Japanese)
  20. ^ Knippenberg, Hans "The Changing Religious Landscape of Europe" edited by Knippenberg published by Het Spinhuis, Amsterdam 2005 ISBN 90-5589-248-3, page 92
  21. ^ US Department of State - International religious freedom report 2006
  22. ^
  23. ^ Some publications
  24. ^ Publications are taken from Gallup
  25. ^ Some publications
  26. ^
  27. ^ According to figures compiled by the South Korean National Statistical Office.
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ German Worldview Research Group (2010)
  32. ^ a b c d
  33. ^ Canada 2011 census
  34. ^ [2] Socialogical Research Centre, January 2012
  35. ^
  36. ^ "Census shows result of mining boom, with increased cost of housing and higher wages", PIA AKERMAN, The Australian, 21 June 2012.
  37. ^
  38. ^ The Latin American Socio-Religious Studies Program / Programa Latinoamericano de Estudios Sociorreligiosos (PROLADES) PROLADES Religion in America by country
  39. ^ Gallup-Argentina survey
  40. ^
  41. ^ Gallup-Belize survey
  42. ^ [3] Güney Afrika 2001 census Archived April 11, 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^
  44. ^ International Religious Freedom Report 2008: Costa Rica. United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (September 14, 2007). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  45. ^
  46. ^ (Spanish) El 80% de los ecuatorianos afirma ser católico, según el INEC
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^

Further reading

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