The Most Atheist Countries in The World
The development of culture, countries, and even entire empires has been forged in the name of organised religion. Historically, it would often show and dictate a person’s worldview, their level of education; even their role within a community.
But today, the significance of religion is not what it used to be. According to PEW Research, those with no religious affiliation, who they call “nones”, are growing faster than ever before. In North America, they are the second largest religious group, and in the US, they’ve surpassed catholics and all non-christian faiths.
With such an influx of people who aren’t committed to a spiritual deity, we wanted to know: what are the most atheist countries in the world?
Well, first of all, analyzing non-religiosity is difficult, because the term can cover a lot of different belief systems.
There’s Positive Atheism
Which is a belief that there are no gods; Agnosticism, the belief that the existence of gods is unknowable; and those who don’t ascribe to any major religion, but are nonetheless spiritual. Estimates by sociologists and analysts peg the total number anywhere from half a billion, to over one billion, based on this range of definitions.
According to PEW, roughly 76% of the world’s non-religious population lives in Asia and the Pacific. Where deity-based religion is historically less influential than it is in western-european countries.
By comparison, about 12% of the rest live in Europe, and another 9% combined live in North and South America. So while Europe remains overwhelmingly religious, it may come as a surprise to find that the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in the world.
In a 2015 poll, nearly three quarters of respondents declared themselves religiously unaffiliated, the highest percentage in all of Europe.
One of the biggest reasons is that throughout the twentieth century, while Catholicism was dominating the rest of the continent, they saw religion as an outdated relic of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Then, in the mid-twentieth century, the country became part of the Soviet Bloc which, under communism, evaded a religious slam. By 1993 when Czechoslovakia dissolved into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, there was no historical religion to cling to, and today an overwhelming majority of Czechs claim their religion as “nothing in particular”.
Another country that when surveyed claimed its population as atheist is Japan. But in a very unique way. Nearly eighty percent of the country actually practices a form of ethnic religion called “Shinto”, and is therefore, technically, highly religious.
But Shinto, by its very nature, doesn’t rely on a central deity and its reference as an actual religion is a relatively recent classification. For much of its history it was considered a philosphical mythology that focused on nature as a source of spirituality.
It’s believed that all natural things have spirits which are sometimes referred to as Gods. So the distinction of Shinto being an atheist religion is surprising, but accurate.
With no scripture or dogmatic beliefs, they consider practitioners of Shinto atheists, making Japan one of the most uniquely atheist countries in the world.
However, in both practice and demographics, the largest collection of atheists is in China. Countrywide only seven to nine percent of the population claims belief in a higher deity. This lack of religion has deep historical and political roots, starting with the widespread adherence to Confucianism.
Not unlike Shinto, Confucianism is considered a humanist religion or philosophy, and it doesn’t have central deities. Alongside Buddhism and Taoism, these three spiritual religions have shaped a communal but atheist culture.
Additionally, China has been a communist country since 1949. And just like the formerly soviet Czechoslovakia, China deliberately avoids a religious ideology. Religion is seen as a tool used to oppress common citizens and it was explicitly outlawed by the country’s central leader, Mao Zedong.
Today, a number of laws and regulations so prohibit religious observation. For example, holders of public office are not allowed to practice any religion, and in 2016, new education rules banned parents from promoting religious beliefs in their children or in schools.
Overall, China is by far the most atheist country in the world. As an addendum, we have to mention North Korea. The rogue state is impossible to accurately survey, but likely has one of the lowest rates of organized religion.
Why? Because organized religion is firmly discouraged in favor of worshiping the country’s leaders. Instead, many North Koreans practice the atheist traditions of Korean Shamanism and Cheondoism.
In spite of the growing popularity of atheism in formerly religious regions, like North America and Europe, the movement is unlikely to take over the rest of the world. In areas such as the Middle East and Africa, rates of atheism are incredibly low: between one and five percent while their populations are growing exponentially.
In fact, statistically, those who are religiously unaffiliated tend to be older, and have fewer children than those who are religious. According to PEW, by 2060 the world will have more religious adherence than ever before, and its likely that religion will continue to shape global society as we know it. So which countries are overwhelmingly dictated by religion, and what effect has it had on them?
Well, one country would be The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Find out a little about its war-torn history and just how powerful it really is today by watching this video.
This article can be found as a video here.