nonbelievers religious affiliation

Global Increase in Nonbelievers: A Deep Dive

Global data shows a rise in the number of people without religious affiliation1. In the U.S., about 3 in 10 adults reported no religious affiliation, with young adults aged 18-29 being the most likely to identify as nonreligious. This trend is not limited to the U.S., as countries like Japan, Italy, and Israel also show a decrease in religious sentiment. However, organized religion still plays a crucial role in many communities, with two-thirds of U.S. adults identifying as Christian.

What does the recent data say about the global increase in nonbelievers?

Global data indicates a steady rise in the number of people with no religious affiliation. According to an AP-NORC Poll, about 3 in 10 U.S. adults reported no religious affiliation. This trend is more pronounced among young adults, with 43% aged 18-29 reporting no religious affiliation. This shift away from religion is also observed globally; in Japan 70% express nonreligious sentiments, while in Italy less than 20% attend weekly services even though 80% identify as Catholic.

The world is witnessing a steady rise in the number of people claiming no religious affiliation, as evidenced by a new AP-NORC Poll. This shift is not only significant in itself but also due to its implications on various societal aspects.

Religion’s Role in Society: An Overview

Religion has traditionally had a profound impact on society2, shaping politics, influencing art, and permeating everyday life. Its influence, however, appears to be waning as the number of nonbelievers and individuals devoid of religious affiliation continues to rise.

The Numbers: A Closer Look

As per the AP-NORC Poll, approximately 3 in 10 U.S. adults reported having no religious affiliation. This demographic is further divided into two equal halves: individuals who identify as atheist or agnostic, and those who claim their religion as “nothing in particular.”

Youth and Religion: A Generational Shift

The trend of distancing from religion is more pronounced among younger adults. A notable 43% of American adults aged 18 to 29 reported “none” when asked about their religious affiliation. In stark contrast, less than 20% of U.S. adults over 60 identify as “nones.”

A Worldwide Phenomenon: Different Countries, Similar Trends

This shift away from religion isn’t confined to the U.S. alone but is gaining considerable momentum globally. The AP report highlights the scenario in a few countries:

  • In Japan, despite its rich spiritual history, a staggering 70% of the populace express nonreligious sentiments.
  • Italy, where nearly 80% identify as Catholic, sees most treating it as a tradition rather than active faith, with less than 20% attending weekly services.
  • Israel, home to about 7 million Jews, is surprisingly nonreligious. Only 33% of the population practices “traditional” religious worship. The divide between secular and ultra-religious Israelis has seen a significant increase in recent years.

The Challenges: Public Rejection of Religion

However, the narrative changes in many other nations, where public rejection of religion is a challenging endeavor. For instance, in India, a country with a long history of nonreligious movements, most atheists prefer to keep their religious views private. In certain areas, such as northern Nigeria, declaring oneself as an atheist or agnostic can be risky and even dangerous.

The Persistence of Organized Religion

Despite these trends, organized religion continues to be a crucial source of community3 for many, especially in the U.S. Two-thirds of U.S. adults identify as Christian, as per the Pew Research Center. This statistic marks a significant decline from the 1990s, where the figure was around 90%.

The recent data shows that more and more people around the world are not identifying with any religion. In the US, about 3 in 10 adults say they have no religious affiliation, and this is especially true for young adults. This trend is happening in other countries too, like Japan, Italy, and Israel. However, even though less people are religious, organized religion still plays an important role in many communities, with two-thirds of US adults identifying as Christian.

  1. Projected Changes in the Global Religiously Unaffiliated Population | Pew Research Center ↩︎
  2. How Religion Affects Everyday Life | Pew Research Center ↩︎
  3. Religion’s Relationship to Happiness, Civic Engagement and Health | Pew Research Center ↩︎