Is atheism gaining ground in countries across the world? Studies show a steady increase in the number of atheists in every segment of society. Here is a look at ten countries with the highest percentage of atheism and possible factors behind their numbers.
Around 32 percent of the Japanese people claim to be atheist. During Japan’s history, the base of most religion was Shintoism, where they don’t follow an all-knowing god. This history, along with declines in both Buddhism and Shintoism, is increasing the number of atheists yearly.
In the small European country of Slovenia, 28 percent of the population are calling themselves atheist. The effects of Slovenia’s historical roots add to the numbers. People who lived under communist Yugoslavia found it was beneficial to avoid any religious affiliation.
Australia counts upwards of 19 percent who believe they are atheist. The country has a strong tradition of government that was not bound by any spiritual influence, nor allowed any priveledges to specific religions. The drop of citizens believing in Christianity leave more Australians identifying as having no god.
In Belgium, 21 percent of its people claim atheism when polled about their religious affiliation. Belgium is considered to accept atheism more than other countries. Belgium’s atheists have a connection to urban living and higher levels of education. Citizens are finding membership in religion no longer holds status as it once did.
Atheism in the Czech Republic hovers around 35 percent. Strong Czech nationalism kept religion at bay in the 19th and 20th centuries. The state dissuaded membership in the Catholic church, and Communist rule from 1948 to 1989 subdued a strengthening of any religion.
Not surprisingly, China has the most significant percentage of Atheism within its borders. Between 40 and 49.9 percent of people in China classify as not thinking there is a god. Confucianism is known for its absence of thinking there is a higher presence. This history, combined with Communism ruling over China since 1949 has hampered any religious movements taking root.
Sweden declares 18 percent of its countries’ citizens claim Atheism. In 1951, the government passed several reforms like the legal opt-out of the mandatory 1.1% church tax. Automatic membership from birth in the Church of Sweden started in the 1850s but ended in 1996. In 2000, Sweden remained the only one of the Nordic countries without a state church, when laws were passed to separate state and church.
About one-fifth of France’s population identify as atheists. The history of the country is rife with the state trying to reduce the influence of religious groups. In 1789, the French Revolution removed Roman Catholicism as the supported state religion. In 1905, France passed a law to formally separate state affairs from the reach of the church.
Iceland holds a strong position with 10 percent considering themselves atheist. With religious freedom becoming a legal right in 1874, Iceland’s history involved outlawing Catholicism in the 1550’s and replacing it with Lutheranism. Today spiritual life in Iceland is very diverse, and a portion of the population technically remains members of the Church of Iceland, but in reality, they are irreligious and atheist.
At 23 percent, South Korea has a large population who practice Atheism. History shows Korean society was Neo-Confucian, and most Koreans were not concerned with the question of whether or not a god existed. A steady rise of South Koreans atheists is due to distrust of hierarchical institutions like religious groups.