Atheists in the US and around the world

This article collects statistics about atheists in America and worldwide.

In America:

Research has shown that most atheists tend to lean to the left in terms of their politics. About 69% of non believers are Democrats while 56% consider themselves to be politically liberal. In keeping with this finding 92% of atheists support same sex marriage and 87% approve of legal abortion. Atheists are also more likely to be young (the median age being 34), male (68%), white (78%), and educated (with 43% having a college degree).

According to the Pew Research Center in terms of the U.S. adult population the average age of Christians was 49 in 2014 which is up from 46 in 2007. This comes as a contrast to atheists whose average age fell from 36 in 2007 to 34 just seven years later. American Jews remained steady over this time period with a median age of 50.

Around the world:

The nation with the largest population of atheists in the world is China. Statistics have shown that approximately 75% of Chinese citizens, some 1,029,390,000 people, identify as atheists. Another Asian country, Japan, ranks second with 46% of its population (58,342,720 people) who publicly identify themselves as being atheists. Rounding out the top three is Germany with 38% or 30,855,050 citizens subscribing to atheism.

It is interesting that such a large fraction of the Chinese and Japanese public identify as atheists, compared to the US where only 3.1% did so as recently as 2014. This may be because in the US, atheists still remain one of the most hated groups, causing many atheists to adopt more acceptable labels as nonreligious, agnostics, nonbelievers, unaffiliated, spiritual, humanist, secularist, and so on. The number of people who call themselves nonreligious is pretty high, as you can see by this breakdown by state, the northeast and northwest states having the highest percentages, close to 50%.


  1. Sam N says

    On dating websites I identify as agnostic, but that’s for two reasons. One, I am technically an agnostic atheist. Provide me with positive evidence and I will be swayed, but with the present lack of it, I revert to the default position: no god.

    But also, I’m not an evangelist for the atheism position. If a woman is ‘Christian’*, but she supports human rights of oppressed groups and doesn’t blather on about how bad the whites have it, we are a far better match than certain prominent atheists.

    For a national survey, I’d describe myself as an atheist.

    *I placed Christian in quotes because I don’t even know what that means. The most adamant Christians in the USA are better described as some odd cult of Mamon with fetishes for certain pieces of Christianity.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    … atheists whose average age fell from 36 in 2007 to 34 just seven years later.

    Funny, I didn’t feel I had gotten any younger then. Even less so now.

  3. robert79 says

    I suspect that one thing that plays a role here is that in China (I *think*, correct me if I’m wrong) atheism is the official government policy. So Chinese identifying as atheists are just following the status quo (similarly in the US for religion I’d suspect… A lot of people don’t give a shit. But if asked point blank what they believe in, they’ll just answer what they think everyone else will answer, or how they were raised, even if they don’t practice…)

    I think the more interesting statistic would be “non-religious” (which is over 50% in the Netherlands, where I live) because to be honest, only people who read blogs like this make a point of distinguishing between the various scales between “atheist” and “meh, I haven’t bothered to think about it”.

  4. xohjoh2n says

    When people tell me they’re an atheist I say I’m agnostic and they can’t possibly *know for sure*.

    When people tell me they’re agnostic I say I’m an atheist and that they’re being intellectually dishonest for not admitting that the odds are so low you may as well admit them as being 0.

    (Actually I just like to say I do that: pretty much no one ever tells me they are atheist or agnostic, and the conversation isn’t going that way in those circumstances.)

  5. machintelligence says

    I identify as a militant agnostic: I don’t know and YOU DON’T KNOW EITHER!

  6. mailliw says

    Rounding out the top three is Germany with 38% or 30,855,050 citizens subscribing to atheism.

    That is reassuring to hear. Here in Bavaria minister president Markus Söder attempted to implement a policy of putting a cross in every public building -- to widespread complaint -- even from the Catholic archbishop of Munich. He seems to have gone very quiet about it lately -- and as I understand it the various complaints are still going through the various Bavarian and National constitutional courts -- so I think we can be confident that it will never happen.

  7. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    One reason for high numbers of atheists in Asia is Buddhism. Many people don’t count it as a religion, because it lacks supernatural beings and myths of world creation and end times.

    But Buddhism doesn’t deny their existence either. Many buddhists still follow also their traditional beliefs from ancient animistic times, e.g. Shinto in Japan. As someone noted, the Japanese are not religious, but they are superstitious. Probably true also in China.

  8. witm says

    Yeah, that Japanese number seems debatable to me. I’m not sure Lassi@8 that your superstitious vs. religious quite works, but it’s a suitable simplification. And…

    Yupp, I know that’s a link to twitter, but Chris is a nice guy who posted a fairly detailed summary of his research publicly. If it interests you, take a look.

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