Friday, August 24, 2007

The 20 least religious countries in the world

Here's a list of the 20 least religious countries (article) in the world. This is from an encyclopedia chapter summarizing survey data from various countries. Obviously the quality of surveys varies widely across countries, so the author, Phil Zuckerman of Claremont College, gives ranges for each country.

1. Sweden (up to 85% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)
2. Vietnam
3. Denmark
4. Norway
5. Japan
6. Czech Republic
7. Finland
8. France
9. South Korea
10. Estonia (up to 49% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)
11. Germany
12. Russia
13. Hungary
14. Netherlands
15. Britain
16. Belgium
17. Bulgaria
18. Slovenia
19. Israel
20. Canada (up to 30% non-believer, atheist, agnostic)

The big surprises for me is South Korea... I have heard about the Christian revival there & has assumed that the whole society was much more religious and Isreal... for obvious reasons.



Anonymous said...

here's another one of your chances to be wrong...are those 10 countries also counties?

sarah said...

I must be biased by my Minnesota upbringing. I just assumed everyone in Scandinavia is still devoutly Lutheran. Hopefully they at least still eat lefse over there or my whole personal cultural understanding might be undone...Uff da!

Amishlaw said...

Very interesting, but I'm skeptical. The two largest countries that have been officially atheist for the last 50 years, Russia and China, are not even in the top 10? Like you, everything I know and hear about South Korea is that there is a very large Christian population, although less than 50 percent; a very large Buddhist population, still less than 50 percent, and the rest are Shinto and animists. I don't know if an animist counts as an atheist, maybe that accounts for it.

Brad Wright said...

Andy, what can I say? It's a gift.

Sarah, I imagine that Luthern/Scandinavian culture is still alive in well... perhaps in contrast to their faith. :-(

Amishlaw, I hadn't thought about it. I went back to the article, and it ranks Russia 12th and China 36th. The author notes that survey data of China are quite unreliable.

David Weakliem said...

I think the article is kind of misleading in speaking of "atheism", although the ranking of countries seems plausible. There's a substantial number of people who say they believe in some kind of higher power, although not a personal God. The Gallup International Millenium Survey, which included about 70 countries, had a question asking people to choose between these options:
a. There is a personal God
b. There is some sort of spirit or life force
c. I don't know what to think
d. I don't really think there is any sort of God, spirit, or life force.

In Sweden, which is one of the least religious countries in the sample, only 16% chose a, but 52% chose b (15% chose c and 17% d). The real atheists (d) were in a minority everywhere, and there was only one country (Japan) in which c and d together made up more than half.

In this survey, Russia shows up in the middle of the pack, 35% (a) and only 11% (d). The former Communist nations are all over the place, suggesting that the official view of religion didn't have that much impact.

Brad Wright said...

Interesting data from the Gallup International Millenium Survey. This gets at another difficulty... definitions. Response category "B" sounds more like magic than religion, or it least it could be either one. Still, it would be interesting to see how data from this study matched up to Zuckermans.

Waffa said...

Estonia has one of the highest level of irreligious individuals in the world, with OVER 76% of the population stating no specific religious affiliation

why its on 10th ?

And MOST of the people who are religions are RUSSIAns not Estonians

Anonymous said...

Id like to know where the USA comes on this list

Anonymous said...

Almost noone is religious here in Sweden so yes sarah, your Minnesota upbringing were wrong in this area. And we don't eat lefse here, this is actually the first time I've heard about it. And from what I've heard from our neighboring countries religion got little to none impact on peoples lives. Ofcourse there are some religious persons alive here, but there sure aren't many of them!

Ricky Payne said...

I read this and just wanted to add my personal experience of living in the UK. Religion, even moderate religious belief is seen as mumbo jumbo. All you have to do is watch TV here in the UK to see what the general view of religion is. It is mocked on comedy programmes. Dawkins's documentaries are popular and aired often. Most people are out and out atheist. 2 of our 3 main party leaders are atheist and proud, and nobody cares. Jimmy carr, dara o'brien, david mitchell and robert webb, john cleese, stephen fry, david attenborough etc etc most of our national treasures are atheist. Atheism is not forced onto us or anything, it is because of the fact that religion is also not forced onto us that atheism arises. We, on the whole, enjoy free exchange of ideas, and as such the ridiculousness of religion is soon revealed in polite pub conversation and a little secular education creates logical thinkers.

Anonymous said...

Just to second what Ricky said. As a Brit living in the U.S., I find the religious angle the hardest thing to deal with. It is pretty much social and employment suicide to admit to being an atheist in these parts. There may be freedom of religion but there is no freedom from religion.

Anonymous said...

Urm...Isn't the 13th HUNGARY, not HUNGRY?
At least check if the names of the countries are correct when you do a list....
(Sorry,I'm half Hungarian so I get pretty angry when they call my country "Hungry")

Brad Wright said...

Sorry about that...

Anonymous said...

To follow-up on the discussion below - it is refreshing to be originally from America and now living in Britain and to get away from all the religious nonsense in the states that dictates everything from political leaders to science funding - it is a crazy country!!