What Percentage of the World Population Is Atheist?

Religion has played a substantial role in the history of the world, with many countries, wars, and significant historical events all linked back to religious ideologies.

While billions of people worldwide follow organized religion, millions more do not subscribe to religious faith. Those individuals are referred to as atheists. Atheism is a rejection of deities and their existence.

An estimated 7% of the global population is atheist. That’s around 500 to 700 million people worldwide who do not believe in gods or practice organized religion.

Keep reading to learn more about atheism and how it’s on the rise.

Table of Contents

What is an atheist?

An atheist is someone who disbelieves in gods. Atheism in and of itself is not a belief system or a religious group, rather it is a rejection that deities actually exist. While the majority of people belong to some sort of belief system centered around religious books or spiritual people, atheists do not practice religion or belong to a church or mosque of any kind.

There’s an ongoing debate over atheists and non-religious people. Millions of individuals don’t necessarily practice religion in their day-to-day lives but wouldn’t describe themselves as firm non-believers or atheists. There are also agnostics, who don’t believe it’s possible to know whether or not a god exists.

Overall, atheism is gradually on the rise in many countries as more people move away from organized religion. At the same time, atheism is unlikely to become the norm anytime soon, as irreligious countries tend to have some of the lowest birth rates. Also, religious countries have higher birth rates, so religious beliefs are more likely to be passed down from generation to generation.

What countries have the most atheists?

Certain parts of Europe have higher rates of non-religion than North America, including atheists and agnostics. While in the U.S., atheists account for somewhere between 16% and 30% of people, many other nations have upwards of 50% to 70% of people identifying as non-believers.

While it’s impossible to know for sure how many atheists there are in the world, these countries lead the way in people with an absence of religious or spiritual reliefs.

  1. Czech Republic – 76.4%
  2. North Korea – 71.3%
  3. Estonia – 59.6%
  4. Japan – 57%
  5. China – 52.2%
  6. South Korea – 46.4%
  7. Latvia – 43.8%
  8. Netherlands – 42.1%
  9. Uruguay – 40.7%
  10. New Zealand – 36.6%

Do atheists know about religion?

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There are many reasons why someone may be an atheist. Their parents and extended family may be atheists, or they may come from a very religious background. They may not know enough about religion to feel confident in their beliefs, or they may be highly knowledgeable about religion and have reached their own conclusions that way.

In fact, more atheists are well-informed about religious teachings. A Pew Research Center survey about religious knowledge in 2019 found that atheists performed the best in a fact-based religion quiz, getting 18 of 32 questions correct compared to 14 for the average American adult.

Also, atheists performed just as well, if not better, than Christians on Christianity questions. Many atheists are familiar with concepts such as Easter’s commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection, they just hold non-beliefs compared to more religious people.

What does agnostic mean?

When discussing atheism, the term agnostic often comes up. Agnosticism is the belief that the existence of a divine or supernatural being is unknowable and not something that can be confirmed or denied. Those holding agnostic beliefs are different from atheists who firmly do not believe in gods, as agnostics aren’t sure one way or the other.

Agnostic is often linked to terms like questioner, doubter, or skeptic. Religious people can also be agnostic, so although they may follow a religion or practice some religious beliefs, they aren’t convinced of the existence of gods.

Despite the confusion between atheists and agnostics, these types of beliefs are on the rise in countries like the U.S., where now 3 in 10 adults classify their religious beliefs as none.

What are the characteristics of atheists?

Atheists come from all walks of life just like religious believers. Atheism has been on the rise in much of the western world in recent decades, as nations move away from heavy reliance on religion and people focus more on scientific rather than religious beliefs.

Men are more likely to be agnostic or atheist than women. In America, seven out of 10 atheists are men, and they typically are aged in their 30s or 40s. White people are more likely to be atheists, and about 40% are well-educated with a college degree. Another interesting fact about American atheists is that they tend to be affiliated or at least aligned with the Democratic Party and more liberal policies.

Worldwide, women are more likely to be religious than their male counterparts. 83.4% of women identify as religious, compared to 79.9% of men. Females are more likely to pray and partake in religious beliefs and practices around the world, even though many religions still have a predominantly male presence in leadership roles.

What are the most common religions?

While atheists account for about 7% of the global population, they are vastly outnumbered by those who follow a religion. Now, there are millions of people who belong to a certain religion that have their fair share of questions or may hold similar beliefs to atheists and agnostics. Still, it’s impossible to know for sure due to changing religious beliefs around the world.

That being said, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism remain the most common religions throughout the globe. Many atheists may end up as non-believers after growing up in religious households and reaching this conclusion on their own.

Here’s a breakdown of the most widespread religious groups in the world to give you a better idea of what people believe.

  1. Christianity – 2.4 billion – 31.2%
  2. Islam – 1.8 billion – 24.1%
  3. Hinduism – 1 billion – 15.1%
  4. Buddhism – 500 million – 6.9%
  5. Folk religions – 405 million – 5.7%
  6. Sikhism – 30 million – 0.3%
  7. Judaism – 14 million – 0.2%