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"Irreligious" redirects here. For the album by Moonspell, see Irreligious (album).
Not to be confused with secularity.

Irreligion (adjective form: non-religious or irreligious) is the absence of religion, an indifference towards religion, a rejection of religion, or hostility towards religion.[1] When characterized as the rejection of religious belief, it includes explicit atheism, religious dissidence, and secular humanism. When characterized as hostility towards religion, it includes anticlericalism, antireligion, and antitheism.

When characterized as indifference to religion, it includes apatheism. When characterized as the absence of religious belief, it may also include deism, implicit atheism, spiritual but not religious, agnosticism, pandeism, ignosticism, nontheism, pantheism, panentheism, religious skepticism, and freethought. Irreligion may include forms of theism, depending on the religious context it is defined against. In 18th-century Europe, the epitome of irreligion was deism.[2]

Several comprehensive global polls on the subject have been conducted by Gallup International: their 2012 poll found that 23% of the world population is not religious, 13% were "convinced atheists", and between 2005 and 2012 world religiosity decreased by 9 percentage points.[3] However, their 2015 poll found that only 22% of the world population is not religious and only 11% were "convinced atheists".[4] According to Pew Research Center projections, the nonreligious, though temporarily increasing, will ultimately decline significantly by 2050 because of lower reproductive rates and ageing.[5]

Being nonreligious is not necessarily equivalent to being an atheist or agnostic. A Pew Research Center global report in 2012 noted that many of the nonreligious actually have some religious beliefs. According to the study, "belief in God or a higher power is shared by 7% of Chinese unaffiliated adults, 30% of French unaffiliated adults and 68% of unaffiliated U.S. adults."[6] The majority of the nonreligious (76%) are concentrated in Asia and the Pacific, while only a small portion comes from Europe (12%) or North America (5%).[6]

Human rights[edit]

In 1993, the UN's human rights committee declared that article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief."[7] The committee further stated that "the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views." Signatories to the convention are barred from "the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers" to recant their beliefs or convert. Despite this, minority religions still are still persecuted in many parts of the world.[8][9]

Most Western democracies protect the freedom of religion, and it is largely implied in respective legal systems that those who do not believe or observe any religion are allowed freedom of thought.

A noted exception to ambiguity, explicitly allowing non-religion, is Article 36 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (as authored in 1982), which states that "No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion."[10] Article 46 of China’s 1978 Constitution was even more explicit, stating that "Citizens enjoy freedom to believe in religion and freedom not to believe in religion and to propagate atheism."[11]


Main article: Irreligion by country

Although 10 countries listed below have non-religious majorities, it does not mean that majority of the populations of these countries don′t belong to any religious group. For example, 67.5% of the Swedish population belongs to Lutheran Christian Church,[12] while 58.7% of Albanians declare themselves as Muslims.[citation needed] Also, though Scandinavian countries have among the highest measures of nonreligiosity and even atheism in Europe, 47% of atheists who live in those countries are still members of the national churches.[13]

A Pew 2015 global projection study for religion and nonreligion, projects that between 2010 and 2050, there will some initial increases of the unaffiliated followed by a decline by 2050 due to lower global fertility rates among this demographic.[14] Sociologist Phil Zuckerman's global studies on atheism have indicated that global atheism may be in decline due to irreligious countries having the lowest birth rates in the world and religious countries having higher birth rates in general.[15]

Gallup Religiosity Index 2009 (light color indicates religious, dark nonreligious)[16]

The tables below order the percentage of a country's population that are nonreligious from highest to lowest.

Country Percentage of population
that is non-religious
Date and source
 Czech Republic 67.8 2011[17]
 Sweden 46–85 (average of 65.5) [18]
 Vietnam 46.1–81 (average of 63.55) [18][19]
 Denmark 43–80 (average of 61.5) [18]
 Netherlands 51.3–61 (average of 56.1) [18][20]
 Albania 52 [21][22][23]
 United Kingdom 39–65 (average of 52)
 Japan 84% [18]
 Azerbaijan 51 [25]
 China 8–93 (average of 50.5) [18][19][26]
 Estonia 49 [18]
 Uruguay 47 [27]
 France 43–54 (average of 48.5) [18]
 Russia 48.1 [19]
 Belarus 47.8 [19]
 South Korea 46.5 [19][28]
 Finland 28–60 (average of 44) [18]
 Hungary 42.6 [19]
 Ukraine 42.4 [19]
 Iceland 42 2012[29]
 New Zealand 41.9
(89.9% census response rate)
 Latvia 40.6 [19]
 Belgium 35.4 [19]
 Germany 34.6 [31]
 Chile 33.8 [19]
 Ecuador 30.0 [32]
 Luxembourg 29.9 [19]
 Slovenia 29.9 [19]
 Venezuela 27.0 [19]
 Canada 23.9 2011[33]
 Spain 23.3 [34]
 Slovakia 23.1 [19]
Country Percentage of population
that is non-religious (2006)
Date and source
 Australia 22.3 [35]
  Switzerland 21.4 2012[36]
 Mexico 20.5 [19]
 United States 19.6 [37]
 Lithuania 19.4 [19]
 Italy 17.8 [19]
 Argentina 16.0 [38]
 South Africa 15.1 [39]
 Croatia 13.2 [19]
 Austria 12.2 [19]
 Portugal 11.4 [19]
 Puerto Rico 11.1 [19]
 Bulgaria 11.1 [19]
 Philippines 10.9 [19]
 Brazil 8.0 [40]
 Ireland 7.0 [41]
 India 6.6 [19]
 Serbia 5.8 [19]
 Peru 4.7 [19]
 Poland 4.6 [19]
 Greece 4.0 [19]
 Turkey 2.5 [19]
 Romania 2.4 [19]
 Tanzania 1.7 [19]
 Malta 1.3 [19]
 Iran 1.1 [19]
 Uganda 1.1 [19]
 Nigeria 0.7 [19]
 Thailand 0.27 [42]
 Bangladesh 0.1 [19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Campbell, Colin. 1971. Towards a Sociology of Irreligion. London:McMillan p. 31.
  3. ^ "Global Index of Religion and Atheism" (PDF). WIN/Gallup International. Retrieved 13 January 2015. 
  4. ^ "Losing our Religion? Two Thirds of People Still Claim to be Religious" (PDF). WIN/Gallup International. WIN/Gallup International. April 13, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Why People With No Religion Are Projected To Decline As A Share Of The World’s Population". Pew Research Center. April 5, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b "The Global Religious Landscape - Religiously Unaffiliated". Pew Research Center. December 18, 2012. 
  7. ^ "CCPR General Comment 22: 30/07/93 on ICCPR Article 18". 
  8. ^ International Federation for Human Rights (1 August 2003). "Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran" (PDF). Retrieved 3 March 2009. 
  9. ^ Davis, Derek H. "The Evolution of Religious Liberty as a Universal Human Right" (PDF). Retrieved 3 March 2009. 
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ People's Republic of China 1978 Constitution (PDF). 1978. p. 41. Retrieved 2014-02-02. 
  12. ^ "Kyrkan i siffror, Swedish Lutheran Christian Church in numbers". 
  13. ^ Zuckerman, Phil, ed. (2010). "Ch. 9 Atheism And Secularity: The Scandinavian Paradox". Atheism and Secularity Vol.2. Praeger. ISBN 0313351813. 
  14. ^ "The Future of World Religions: Population Growth Projections, 2010-2050". Pew Research Center. April 5, 2012. 
  15. ^ Zuckerman, Phil (2007). Martin, Michael, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism. Cambridge Univ. Press. p. 59. ISBN 0521603676. 
  16. ^ The Religiosity Index is a measure of the importance of religion for respondents and their self-reported attendance of religious services. For religions in which attendance at services is limited, care must be used in interpreting the data. (Gallup WorldView)[dead link]
  17. ^ "Population by religious belief and by municipality size groups" (PDF). Czech Statistical Office. Retrieved 23 April 2012. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i Zuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns", from the Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin, University of Cambridge Press, 2007
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Dentsu Communication Institute Inc., Research Centre for Japan (2006)(Japanese)
  20. ^ Knippenberg, Hans "The Changing Religious Landscape of Europe" edited by Knippenberg published by Het Spinhuis, Amsterdam 2005 ISBN 90-5589-248-3, page 92
  21. ^ "Albania". 2006-09-15. Retrieved 2011-02-04.  US Department of State - International religious freedom report 2006
  22. ^ L'Albanie en 2005
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-02-04.  Some publications
  24. ^ UK National Statistics Bureau (2011 census)
  25. ^ "Global Index Of Religion and Atheism" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-01.  Publications are taken from Gallup
  26. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-02-04.  Some publications
  27. ^ "Atheism to Defeat Religion By 2038". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 January 2015. 
  28. ^ According to figures compiled by the South Korean National Statistical Office. "인구,가구/시도별 종교인구/시도별 종교인구 (2005년 인구총조사)". NSO online KOSIS database. Retrieved August 23, 2006. 
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ "fowid - Forschungsgruppe Weltanschauungen in Deutschland: Home". Retrieved 2011-09-12.  German Worldview Research Group (2010)
  32. ^ [2]
  33. ^ "96F0030XIE2001015 - Religions in Canada". Retrieved 2013-05-08.  Canada 2011 census
  34. ^ [3] Socialogical Research Centre, January 2012
  35. ^ "Census shows result of mining boom, with increased cost of housing and higher wages", PIA AKERMAN, The Australian, 21 June 2012.
  36. ^ "Ständige Wohnbevölkerung ab 15 Jahren nach Religions- / Konfessionszugehörigkeit, 2012" (XLS). (Statistics) (in German, French, and or Italian). Neuchâtel: Swiss Federal Statistical Office. 2012. Retrieved 2014-04-05. 
  37. ^ Cary Funk, Greg Smith. "Nones" on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation" (PDF). Pew Research Center. p. 43. Nearly one-in-five say they are spiritual but not religious (18%), and about one-in-six say they are neither religious nor spiritual (15%). 
  38. ^ "Table Of Statistics On Religion In The Americas". April 2001. Retrieved 2011-02-04.  Gallup-Argentina survey
  39. ^ [4][dead link] Güney Afrika 2001 census
  40. ^ "Census 2010; Sistema IBGE de Recuperação Automática SIDRA". Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  41. ^ "This is Ireland. Highlights from Census 2011, Part 1" (PDF). March 2012. Retrieved 2013-06-29. 
  42. ^ ประชากรจำแนกตามศาสนา หมวดอายุ เพศ และเขตการปกครอง (in Thai). สำมะโนประชากรและเคหะ พ.ศ. 2543 (2000 census), National Statistical Office of Thailand. Retrieved 2013-10-26. 

Further reading[edit]