Best of AW

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Is Atheism Increasing in world Population?


 ....There is another rash of statements about atheism increasing world wide, but most of them by atheists. Atheists are notorious for trying to inflate their figures. I've seen them try to claim all Buddhists as atheists, I even saw one try to claim all Hindus as atheists! Now they have a couple of impressive sounding sources to back up the idea of an increase in world wide figures: article on Christian Science Monitor and a world wide polling organization, Win-Gallup International. This is not to be confused with the Gallup organization, they broke off of them. While I am not judging their validity as a polling company  we have good reason to doubt their veracity in this matter. I'm also disappointed in the SCM article SCM is a find source, but in this case they fall for the old problem of not distinguishing between those not affiliated with any religion vs. real atheists. Christian Science monitor says atheism is on the rise.

Atheism is on the rise in the United States and elsewhere while religiosity is declining, according to a new worldwide poll. “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” conducted by WIN-Gallup International headquartered in Switzerland, found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 – when the poll was last conducted – to 60 percent. Those who said they were “convinced” atheists rose from 1 to 5 percent. And 33 percent of the people polled said that they don’t consider themselves as a “religious person."[1]
CSM is siting the Win-Gallup International poll, that's important becuase we have reason to doubt their findings. Ryan Cragun, a University of Tampa sociologist of religion doubts that it really rose.[2]
....The article has huge inconsistancy:

"That view seems consistent with a study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in 2009 showing that 5 percent of Americans at that time said they did not believe in God or a universal spirit, but only 24 percent of the nonbelievers actually called themselves atheists."[3]

The CSM article is quoting a follow up to the 2007 Pew study which I have shown stands behind most of the religious landscape data  reported on in the media. This is 2009 follow up.[4] However, contrary to what was said, the follow up does not show that atheism is rising it doesn't een show that doubt about God's existence is on the rise, it shows only that people not affiliated with any religious orgnaiztion is on the rise. These are not he atheists.Pew study shows unaffiliated grew but CSM is confussing that with atheist. not affiliated is not atheist. Original Pew study of 2007 distinguishes. 15% non affiliated and only 1.6% atheist. But, the 2009 study distinguishes it too. the graph shows unaffiliated just under 20% but the atheists half up to between one and 5%. more like 3%.

2/3 of unaffiliated say they believe in God.

"However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor."[5]

Two thirds say they believe in God that doesn't mean that 1/3 are atheists. There's another category of "don't know" one might also count a category of "higher power" apart from belief in God per se.. It's all a matter of how one wants to draw up the categories. The article speaks of these groups in this way:

"Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%)."[6]
Atheists and agnostics, which the article says make up 6% of U.S. Population. If we assume half and half, fair, 3% for atheists which is I've been saying all along. Pew study of 2007 distinguished between "none" and "athiest" and found 1.6% were actual atheists. 3% is on the margin of error and supports findings by Gallup and tv network polls.[7] The point is the statement in CSM that the WGI data supported by the Pew data is totally false. The Pew Graph shows my  math is correct by listing atheists as between 1 and 5%. That pertains to the U.S. What about international figures?

Win-Gallup intentional Figures:

Their poll was 57 countries around the glob. For example they list Japan in top 10 atheist countries and give it 30% atheist.[8] My study of Japan on Doxa (not a true study but my own researches) show that Japan's Chrsitain base had been underestimated, they give the percentage of adults overall who are religious as 30%.[9] Japan has a done a lot to keep their traditional faith as part of their life style. My article on AW shows there is quite a bit of religious faith designed into the culture..[10] WGI puts atheism high in a handful of countries, China, Japan, Ches republic, France, all between 20-30%. then Germany, Netherlands, Austria, 15-14%, Iceland, Australia and Ireland, 10%. Wait, where is Russia? Where is Sweden and Denmark. This is the top 10 these countries we would expect to find there are not there. In fact this would give Sweden lower than 10% since it's not in the list and the lower end of the list is 10%. Yet Greely found that Northern European countries were 10% in hard core atheism and former West Germany was the only one with high levels of hard core atheism. Greely's categories were more extensive.[11]

  1. The proportion is above 10% only in former socialist countries (12.4% in Russia, 13.9% in Slovenia, and 11.3% in Hungary) and in the Netherlands (11.4%) and in Israel (12.1%).
  2. In the other eleven countries, the highest rates of Hard Core atheism are in Norway (6.7%) and Britain (6.3%). Thus if latent demand for religion is excluded only from the Hard Core atheists, there is still the possibility of a large clientele for those firms which might venture into the religious market place in such supposedly "secularized" countries as Norway and Britain.[12]

Atheism may have risen in the Netherlands since the Greely study, because he puts it 11% and GWI puts it at 14. Then Greely is segmenting "hard care" and GWI is not.GWI finds religiosity down 9%, this is compared to similar study done in 2007. They find atheism up 3%. The find 59% of the world is religious, 23% is non religoius, 13% atheist. They do seem to be distinguishing bewteen non religious and atheist.
....One of the main problems I have with this is their lack of definition of atheism. They don't distinguish bewteen hard core and soft core as Greely does. The Communist countries were only successful in East Germany in making hard core atheism a major force in their society. The others have it below 10% in most  cases. One would expect that with force of society driven that way it would be a lot more successful. In Greely's study hard core meant they agree that they do not believe in God and the "defiantly" do not beieve in after life.

Use of the data in other venues

All over the net I find these figures tossed around and misused.
Demographics of atheism wiwi. Include "great scientists." that doesn't effect the percentage of general population. Their source is the CSM article that is not distinguishing between unaffliated who believein God and atheism.

The percentage of the public agreeing with all three statements has shifted little since the first Pew Research values survey in 1987. That year, 68% of respondents agreed with all three statements; this year 67% do so.Biased article "the blaze" (August 9,2012) tries to say that "nones" are ahtiest but we ahve seen half believe in God. Nonetheless, there are some demographic and partisan differences over religious values. In the current survey, 68% of Millennials say they never doubt the existence of God, a decline of 15 points since 2007. Over this period, the proportion of older age cohorts expressing firm belief in God has remained stable.[13] is typically misleading. They show several options:

16% of the world (1,1 billion) profess to be secular/non-religious/agnostic/atheist. It is thought that about 2.5 % of these are atheist. However, the figure is vague because many atheists don't proclaim their belief for fear of reprisal.[14]
where is that from? they don't say.then:

 An additional 6% of the world population are Buddhist. Conceptually Buddhism is atheistic in that it does not believe in a supreme being or creator.
You can't count Buddhists as atheists. It's only in the West that they would even dream of thinking this way. Asian Buddhists think its' insane. Many Buddhists in Asia do have gods and they all have a concept called "Buddha mind" which is much like Paul Tillich's idea of God as being itself. American atheists who don't read theology began the propaganda device of using Buddhism as an example of atheism to inflate their numbers. Then the article by Ansers draws upon Adheret' reports that 16 percent of people are non-religious. This includes atheists and agnostics.

what they don't say is that the category is said to be half Atheist/agnostic. that means we can say 8% are atheist/agnostic so 4% are atheist. When we look at these it seems the fist answer above is also from the same source. So they are just using adherents as their only real  source. Then they recite without attributing any source: 1.1 billion people are estimated to be nonthiest/atheist.
From a current estimated population of 6.7 billion, that is approximately 15%. according to whom? So we have to watch out when talking about statistics of what percentage is atheist.
...There is cause for concern, but not for panic. The real loss of concern is the loss of Religiosity. I intend to deal with that on Metacrock's blog.
...Most of the use made of the such statistics is irresponsible, even article in good publications getting it wrong.Most of it is used for shock effect or to back to an ideological assumptions. We have to careful and make extra effort to check out the statistician. It does seem there is a loss of religious feeling, and defiantly Christianity is being tarnished we need to take that seriously. I think it's the right wing Republican Chrsitians in America and their unflinching support of big money and the rich, their driving relentless right wing politics that is turning people off the gospel.


[1] CSM article
[2] Ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Pew Religious Froum"nones on the rise," the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life, a proeject of the Pew Research Center. May 8, 2013,  URL:
[6] Ibid,  Pew Research Center calculations based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s August 2012 Current Population Survey, which estimates there are 234,787,000 adults in the U.S. (return to text)
[7] Doxa: Christian Thought in the 21st Century, Atheist Inflation. URL:
[8]WIN-Gallup International
[9]Doxa, ibid, "more People claim Chrsitain faith in Japan" the figrues from Gallup (the real Gallup organization March 8, 2006).
[10] "Zuckerman part 3," Atheistwatch, Thurdsay, April 1st 2010, URL:
[11]Andrew Greely, and The Demand for Religion: Hard Core Atheism and Supply Side Religion.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Pew 2009 followup, ibid.
what percentage of the world are atheist?"

No comments: