The people who are nonbelievers in any religion sometimes feel like a small minority. But this is purely a local illusion. When it comes to religions, different ones dominate different parts of the world. But when it comes to nonbelievers, we are all pretty much the same everywhere. We are the true uniters, not dividers, our shared unbelief uniting us across nations, races, and ethnicities.
So it should not be surprising that a new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life finds that when you add up the global figures, the religiously unaffiliated group is now the world’s third largest ‘religion’, accounting for 1.1 billion or 16% of the population, though some of the unaffiliated do express some religious feelings.
Christians are the largest group and account for about 32% (2.2 billion), split equally between Catholics and Protestants, while Muslims make up 23% (1.6 billion). So the number of unaffiliated is roughly the same as Catholics and Protestants and not much smaller than the Muslims. Hindus come in a close fourth with 15% (one billion) and Buddhists are fifth with 7% (488 million).
I expect the size of the unbelievers to grow quite rapidly, especially as people become more comfortable thinking of themselves in that way and being more willing to say so.