Modern Religion: The Numbers
In the realm of college students everywhere, it seems to be a common consensus that religion is on its way out. Religion specialists have long been talking about the Magic Theory, a belief that society turned first to human-powered magic to solve its problems, upon that's lack of success they turned to an invisible god to solve said problems, and now that we have the technology to solve our own problems, we will turn towards science to do so. And of course we've all heard someone from a generation or two older than our own, claim "the young kids today need god for otherwise we shall all be forsaken", or something along those lines. One can't help but wonder if the statistics really follow these observations.
Unfortunately, documentation on global religiousness doesn't date back very far. Jean-Marc Leger, as quoted by WIN-Gallup International, discusses that lack of analytics "It would be wonderful if we had data from a hundred years ago to compare with. Unfortunately, there were no global opinion polls at the time. We take pride in saying that with rising number of global polls on social issues, our future generations will be less handicapped in such analyses” However, the global barometer of hope and despair has been doing annual quantitative analysis on such social issues as religious affiliation since 1977. The particular one I will reference was completed in 2012 by WIN-Gallup International. They interviewed over 50,000 people from 57 countries around the world. This particular study has a +/- 3-5% margin of error.
One aspect of the survey I found quite interesting was that they didn't merely ask if one was religious or atheist, they allowed for the middle option of nonreligious. The is a pretty wide encompassing option from those who follow a secular religion to those who identify as agnostic. It seems there has also been a rather steady decline in the weekly attendance at religious locations so I can't help but wonder if some amount of the nonreligious poll-takers may be believers in a specific religion but simply not regular attendees. This sect has grown by 6 percent since 2005.
Another, really fascination aspect I found was under the religion-wise divisions. I recently read a book by Edgar M. Bronfman called Why Be Jewish?. The book was written from Bronfman's perspective as a Secular Jew. I had found his opinions fascinating and found a real passion for the religion. Until looking at this study I hadn't realized, however, how commonplace secular Judaism actually was within the faith. Upon looking at religion-wise dividing lines, you notice that most people that identified with a religion or faith, also considered themselves religious. Unlike the other religions, who's lowest percent of religious adherents were 74%, Jewish believers, on the other hand, were only 38% religious and 54% nonreligious. This stark contrast may be in part because of secular Jews but also may be partly because of a national and hereditary identification as Jewish, rather than just a religious one. Be it for either reason, this deterrent from the trends of other religions is worth noting.
As for the atheist trends, we have seen an increase however not as large as one might expect from common media. Globally, Atheism increased by only 3%, the United States only slightly higher at 4%. There were some big growers, such as France who's percent of atheists grew 15%, but there were also those like Malaysia who's percent decreased.
Though the United States percent atheists didn't grow much, the percent of religious people did go down by 13%.
Though we don't have data from a century ago to compare to, what we do have suggests a significant growth in non-religious populations as well as a noticeable growth in atheists, though not as large. We also were able to identify some trends in secular Judaism. It will be interesting to see new trends in the close future. Until then we can speculate about which countries will continue their trends and which ones will change.
Article can be found at: http://www.wingia.com/web/files/news/14/file/14.pdf