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May 3, 2007

Atheism in America

Religion is a hot topic for many people. In America, this seems especially so, since we are a melting pot of religious freedom in which church and state are supposed to be separated. This can often cause many societal and political debates that involve religion (gay marriage and abortion come to mind). Because of this America seems to be a fairly religious state, but is it?

The majority of the world's population is religious, which isn't surprising in the least bit. But about 1.1 billion people fit into the non-religious category, which includes a wide range of people from secularists to the anti-religious. With about 6.7 billion people on the Earth today, about 16% of them are non-religious. Of this 16%, between 12 and 15 percent are estimated to atheist. Only Islam and Christianity encompass more people, with 21% and 33% percent of the world's population respectively. But even with this large number worldwide, how do non-religious people fare in the United States?

Various findings show that about 9-14% of Americans are nonreligious. That's about 27-36 million people. Only a surprising 0.4% of these people actually claim to be atheists, while 0.5% claim to be agnostic. No matter your religious standing, those numbers should seem low. What's more interesting though, is how high the percentage of atheists and non-religious people is in other first-world nations.

Sweden is routinely considered to be one of the most non-religious states, in which only 23% of the populace believe there is a god. In Europe overall, about 18% are atheist, which is at about 45 times higher than in the US.

So why is the United States so religious? Or are people less open about their non-religious attitudes in a nation where religious freedom in explicit? One comment I often hear is that America was founded as a Christian nation. This is actually not true. Albeit, Christianity was, and still is, the most prominent religion, the majority of the founding fathers were either non-religious, or at least rationalists. So the questions still stands, why is the United States of America so religious, or at least seem that way?

Sources: Wikipedia, World Religion Day, World Population,, CIA,

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