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About Atheism and Atheists:

Estimated Number of Atheists by country during 2005 & 2012.

Sponsored link.

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See also another essay that shows past polls on the number
of Atheists in the U.S.drastically underestimate their number.

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Worldwide survey of Atheists:

WIN-Gallup International reported data on Atheism and religiosity in a series of surveys. The data was collected in 45 countries during 2012 and a lesser number of countries in 2005.

Pollsters asked the question:

"Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious persons, or a convinced atheist?

The group calculated the "Atheism index" for each country. They define this as the percentage of the population of each country who describe themselves as a "convinced atheist in response to the above question. 1

Curiously, the UK is not included in their survey. The probably have a high Atheism Index because the number of adults there who are not affiliated with any faith group is quite high. Many of them would be Atheists, although some would probably describe themselves as Agnostics, secularists, simply solitary practitioners of a religion, or as "spiritual but not religious."

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Results of the surveys:

11 countries reported a high Atheism index (AI) of 10% or more during 2012:

Country
AI during 2005 AI during 2012 Difference over seven years
China
-
47%
-
Japan
23%
31
8 percentage points
Czech Republic
20
30
10
France
14
29
15
South Korea
11
15
4
Germany
10
15
5
Netherlands
7
14
7
Austria
10
10
0
Iceland
6
10
4
Australia
-
10
-
Ireland
3
10
7


Another 11 countries reported an intermediate Atheism index (AI) of 6 to 9% during 2012:

Country
AI during 2005 AI during 2012 Difference
Canada
6%
9%
3 percentage points
Spain
10
9
-1
Switzerland
7
9
2
Hong Cong
-
9
-
Sweden
-
8
-
Belgium
-
8
-
Italy
6
8
2
Argentina
2
7
5
Russian Federation
4
6
2
Finland
7
6
-1
South Sudan
-
6
-

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23 countries reported an low Atheism index (AI) of 0 to 5% during 2012:

Country AI during 2005 AI during 2012 Difference
Moldova
2%
5%
3%
United States
1
5
4
Poland
2
5
3
South Africa
1
4
3
Bosnia & Herzegovina
9
4
-5
Ukraine
4
3
-1
Colombia
3
3
0
Cameroon
5
3
-2
India
4
3
-1
Peru
2
3
1
Serbia
4
3
-1
Bulgaria
5
2
-3
Pakistan
1
2
1
Ecuador
1
2
1
Kenya
0
2
2
Lithuania
2
1
-1
Romania
1
1
0
Macedonia
3
1
-2
Nigeria
1
1
0
Malaysia
4
0
-4
Ghana
0
0
0
Vietnam
1
0
-1

Among countries with a:

  • High Atheism Index (AI), Atheism generally made major gains between 2005 and 2012.

  • Intermediate Atheism Index, Atheism either gained or was stable. Two countries showed a loss in AI, but this change was within the margin of error and thus was not statistically significant.

  • Low Atheism Index, changes were mixed.

There are some some reasons why the data collected may not be accurate:

  • In China, which is officially an Atheist country with few civil liberties, it takes a lot of courage for an adult to admit that she or he is "a religious person."

  • In countries with a theocratic government which grant few few civil liberties and almost no religious liberty to its citizens and residents, it takes a lot of courage for an adult to admit that they are an Atheist or not a religious person. That is probably why Afghanistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia were not included in the survey.

  • Even in countries in which there is freedom of expression and religion, there is often a major public prejudice against Atheists; they are generally viewed as being intrinsically immoral people. Thus, it takes courage for Atheists who are contacted by phone by a stranger claiming to be from an anonymous polling agency to admit that they are an Atheist. An innovative polling technique estimates that 26% of U.S. adults are Atheists, a much larger value than the 3% and 11% reported by well established polling agencies. More details.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism - 2012: Press Release: Table 4: Trends in Atheism index among 39 countries surveyed in both waves," WIN-Gallup International, 2012-JUL-25, at: http://redcresearch.ie/

Site navigation:

 Home > Religions of the world > Atheism > here

or Home > Christianity > Christian personalities > God > Atheism > here

or Home > Religious information > God > Atheism > here

or Home > Spirituality > God > Atheism > here

No copyright claimed because the data was extracted from the survey
Original posting: 2012-AUG-12
Latest update: 2018-SEP-24
Author: B.A. Robinson

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