Faith is in retreat, atheism is on the march. But only in China does a majority positively state they don’t believe in God.
Never mind whether you regularly visit a place of worship: do you consider yourself a religious person? Yes, said 62% of 60,000 people across 68 countries polled by WIN/Gallup for a survey published in 2017. Back in 2005, the score for that answer was 77%.
Minus 15 percentage points in just 12 years – that’s a fairly steep decline. Does that mean that atheism is gaining ground worldwide? Yes, but not by as much as these figures seem to suggest, for three reasons.
Firstly, because there’s a large and growing middle between those who positively believe in God and those who positively don’t. In 2005, just 5% of those surveyed in 2005 considered themselves ‘convinced atheists’ – the remaining 18% were non-religious or ‘don’t knows’. In 2017, the fish-nor-fowl brigade had grown to 30%. ‘Convinced atheists’ had increased as well, but only to 9%.
The most godless country in the world, however, is China. According to the survey, fully 67% of respondents in China considered themselves ‘convinced atheists’ – more than double the percentage in the world’s second-most atheistic country, Japan (29%). South Korea, at #5 in the ranking (with 23%) is another East Asian centre of atheism; but 18 of the other 20 leading countries are in Europe.