The development of culture, countries and even entire empires has been forged in the name of organised religion. Historically, it has often indicated and dictated a person's world view, their level of education, even their role within a community. But today, the significance of religion is not what it used to be. According to PEW Research, those with no religious affiliation are growing faster than ever before. In North America, they are the second largest religious group, and in the US, they've surpassed Catholics and all non-Christian faiths.
Well, first of all, analyzing non-religiosity is difficult, because the term can cover a lot of different belief systems. There's Positive Atheism, which is a belief that there are no gods; Agnosticism, the belief that the existence of gods is unknowable; and those who don't ascribe to any major religion, but are nonetheless spiritual. Estimates by sociologists and analysts peg the total number at anywhere from half a billion to over one billion people, based on this range of definitions. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly 60% of the world's non-religious population lives in Asia and the Pacific, where deity-based religion has traditionally been less influential than in Western-European countries.
In comparison, approximately 12% of the remaining population resides in Europe, with the remaining 9% residing in North and South America. So, while Europe remains overwhelmingly religious, it may come as a surprise to find that the Czech Republic is one of the most atheistic countries in the world.
Another country that when surveyed claimed its population was is Japan. But in a very unique way. Nearly eighty percent of the country actually practices a form of ethnic religion called "Shinto", and is therefore, technically, highly religious. But Shinto, by its very nature, doesn't rely on a central deity and its reference as an actual religion is a relatively recent classification. For much of its history, it was considered a philosophical mythology that focused on nature as a source of spirituality.
With no scripture or dogmatic beliefs, practitioners of Shinto are considered atheists, making Japan one of the most uniquely atheist countries in the world. However, in both practice and demographics, the largest collection of atheists is in China. Only about 7% to 9% of the population in the United States believes in a higher deity. This lack of religion has deep historical and political roots, starting with the widespread adherence to Confucianism. Not unlike Shinto, Confucianism is considered a humanist religion or philosophy, and it doesn't have central deities. Alongside Buddhism and Taoism, these three spiritual religions have shaped a communal but atheist culture. Additionally, China has been a communist country since 1949. China, like the formerly Soviet Czechoslovakia, avoids religious ideology on purpose. Religion is seen as a tool used to oppress common citizens and it was explicitly outlawed by the country's central leader, Mao Zedong.
In general, China is the world's most atheist country. As an optional extra, we must mention North Korea. Although it is impossible to survey the rogue state accurately, it is likely to have one of the lowest rates of organized religion. Why? Because organized religion is strongly discouraged in favor of worshiping the leaders of the country. Many North Koreans, on the other hand, follow the atheist traditions of Korean Shamanism and Cheondoism. Despite the fact that atheism is gaining popularity in previously religious regions such as North America and Europe, the movement is unlikely to spread throughout the rest of the world. Atheism is extremely low in places like the Middle East and Africa, with rates ranging from one to 5%.
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