Why the percentage of the non-religious is declining

Why the percentage of the non-religious is declining April 14, 2015

We blogged about the Pew study of global religious affiliation, which included the rather surprising fact that the percentage of “nones,” or people with no religion, is declining world-wide.  An article at the Pew website explains why.

From Why people with no religion are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population | Pew Research Center:

For years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising, a trend similar to what has been happening in much of Europe (including the United Kingdom). Despite this trend, in coming decades, the global share of religiously unaffiliated people is expected to fall, according to the Pew Research Center’s new study on the future of world religion.

To be clear, the total number of religiously unaffiliated people (which includes atheists, agnostics and those who say they have no particular religion on censuses and surveys) is expected to rise, from 1.1 billion in 2010 to 1.2 billion in 2050. But this growth is projected to occur at the same time that other religious groups – and the global population overall – are growing faster.

These projections, which take into account demographic factors such as fertility, age composition and life expectancy, forecast that people with no religion will make up about 13% of the world’s population in 2050, down from roughly 16% as of 2010.

This is largely attributable to the fact that religious “nones” are, on average, older and have fewer children than people who are affiliated with a religion. In 2010, for instance, 28% of people who belong to any of the world’s religions were younger than 15 years old, compared with just 19% of the unaffiliated. And adherents of religions are estimated to give birth to an average of 2.6 children per woman, compared with an average of 1.7 children among the unaffiliated.

Of the 10 countries with the largest unaffiliated populations in the world as of 2010, all are expected to decline as a share of the world’s population by 2050. This list includes the United States and nine countries in Asia or Europe, areas with lower fertility rates and older populations than other parts of the world (including Africa and the Middle East).

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