China's atheism notwithstanding, researcher notes worldwide religious trend

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |

WASHINGTON (Christian Examiner) -- Noting a growing "trend of religious youth globally," a noted statistician has predicted a rise of religion worldwide.

"Religion continues to dominate our everyday lives and we see that the total number of people who consider themselves to be religious is actually relatively high," Jean-Marc Leger, president of WIN/Gallup International said in a news release.

"[W]e can assume that the number of people who consider themselves religious will only continue to increase," Leger said.

While nearly 61 percent of people living in China confirm they are atheists, only six percent in the United States lay claim to such a distinction.

Six out of 10 people worldwide says they are "religious," one in five reports they are "not religious" -- and one in 10 says they are a "convinced atheist."

The world's most populous country is also the least religious, according to a new study which reports 90 percent of all Chinese consider themselves to be atheists or not religious -- a trend likely spawned after decades of communist rule.

Sweden and the Czech Republic top the list of 65 countries surveyed by Gallup International -- which show a deep trend towards atheistic materialism.

In Africa and MENA (Middle East and North Africa), 86 percent and 82 percent, respectively,of  the people consider themselves to be religious. Thailand is the most religious of the countries surveyed, with 94 percent of those surveyed saying they are religious, and two percent reporting they are convinced atheists.

Fifty-six percent of Americans consider themselves to be religious, while 33 percent do not. In addition to six percent claiming to be convinced atheists, about five percent either did not provide an answer or said, "I do not know."

The End of Year Survey questioned 63,898 persons globally, to include about 1,000 in each country face-to-face, on the telephone, or online -- from September through December 2014.

Only eight percent of all Swedes attend religious services regularly, according to the Swedish government, with 76 percent of Swedes claiming to be non-religious and 17 percent claiming to be confirmed atheists.

In the Czech Republic, 75 percent of the population claims to be non-religious with nearly a third of the population, 30 percent, reporting they are convinced atheists.

Hong Kong joins China as the other Asian country in a high number of people reporting to be non-religious, with 70 percent who claim that distinction, along with 34 percent who say they are convinced atheists.

The study found those people younger than 34 might be more religious than those who are older. This contrasts with an earlier study showing millennials may not identify with any religion.

The full survey is here.