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Friday, March 02, 2007

Atheists and Agnostics

Here's a list of various countries with the percentage of atheists + agnostics. In most cases the total comes from the number who self-identify as people who do not believe in God. The number who feel comfortable labeling themselves as atheists is usually about 1/4 of the total.

The data is mostly from ...
Zuckerman, P. (2005) "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns ", chapter in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK

Greeley, A. (2003) Religion in Europe at the End of the Second Millennium. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers
It is summarized on the Adherent Statistics website.

Czech Republic
Saudi Arabia
United Kingdom
United States
 Norris and Inglehart (2004)
Bibby (2002)
Greeley (2003)
Greeley (2003)
Greeley (2003)
Kedem (1995)
Greeley (2003)
Greeley (2003)
Greeley (2003)
Greeley (2003)
Froese (2004)
Zuckerman (2005)
Greeley (2003)
Greeley (2003)
Zuckerman (2005)
Encyclopedia Britannica


  1. I'm surprised at the UK. With all the god delusional stuff that Tony Blair et al have been supporting for the past little while, I'd have thought they would be approaching US territory, or at least Canada territory.

  2. I looks like we Canadian atheists still have some work to do.

    1. For crying out loud.....taking the message of the the eternal nap in a dust blanket to the world as a Darwin thumper....aye?

  3. I'll bet the real number in the US is significantly higher, given the very real social pressure against openly declaring one's disinclination to believe in fairy tales.

    And good on the Czechs! I would not have guessed that one, though as a longtime fan of "The Good Soldier Svejk" perhaps I should have. Makes me want to down a Pilnser Urquell in their honor.

  4. If those numbers would somehow include the relative distance from the most religious countries, then I'd know where to move to.

  5. Darn, it's so hard to find a good source of root beer in France.

  6. The UK number sounds about right to me. I would guess another 40 percent would be deist (ie people who say 'there must be some higher power' but don't want to call themselves atheists.), which is why there is a lot more belief in new age "woo" in the UK than there is religious belief.

  7. I am skeptic to religious statistics, since a comment elsewhere made me take a very quick peek into it. Unfortunately I can't find the comment, but the gist was that the numbers varies hugely.

    For example, large phone polls to other means concluded that nonreligious in Sweden may be anything from 20 % to 70 %! Meanwhile, a consistent European poll group report the number of self-confessed swedish atheists to be steady at 7 % 1980-2000 IIRC, consistent with 1 of 2 Adherents studies claiming 8 %, but far from the 12 % claim (1/4 of 46 %) here or 17 % from the last Adherents study.

    A Swedish atheist site claimed that Adherents, which is an internet statistics aggregator, had problems with conflating religious nontheists with their religion. Meanwhile Adherents claim that about half of their nontheist statistics are just that.

    Where are the meta-statisticians when we need them?

  8. Alas, not much detail about South America in, and the few global numbers they give are below 1%. However, the last census in Chile (which is known to be a conservative and catholic country) gave us over 8%. Not much, but more than the 5% of ten years before, making atheist/agnostics the fastest growing 'faith'. Moreover, the numbers are better among young people, which gives some hope for the future. And, needless to say, they are best (about 20%) among those that have 6 or more years of higher education. I was away from the country at the time, but strived (and managed) to be counted :-)

  9. If that's only 1/4 of the real figures, then 176% of us Brits must be atheists...

    I've never felt so proud ;-)

  10. You include agnostics?

    Good grief ... I thought they'd gone over to the Dark Side and were now part of The Enemy!! :-)

  11. Scott asks,

    You include agnostics?

    Yes, unfortunately one has to do this to get an accurate picture of non-believers. There are far too many people who are afraid of the word "atheist" so they won't self-identify as atheists.

    I wish we didn't have to do this. It would be nice if people would wake up to the fact that an atheist is just a person who doesn't believe in God(s). You can be an atheist agnostic or a theist agnostic so calling yourself an agnostic doesn't really identify whether you are a believer or a non-believer. Nevertheless, the vast majority of people who call themselves "agnostics" are really atheists going out of their way to avoid taking a stance.

  12. Hi all,

    I want to make a contribution to this issue. I think in Turkey atheists + agnostics are %20-25 of population whick mean we have 14-17.5 million non-believers in Turkey.

  13. RE: "... a longtime fan of 'The Good Soldier Svejk'..."

    Make sure you get the new translation of The Good Soldier Svejk available at More information about the Svejk phenomenon at http://SvejkCentral.

    Also, Svejk is on FaceBook now: