FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"Nonreligious" On The Decline?

A paper published by the National Science Foundation last fall indicates that, as a percentage of the world's population, the number of those describing their religious affiliation as "nonreligious" is shrinking.

The percentage of the world's population not identified with any faith has been falling since 1970, when it was at 14.4%. The "nonreligious" category is projected to decline from 12.7% in 2000 to 11.2% in 2025.

Christianity is projected to remain the world's largest religion for at least the next 20 years, with the percentage of Christians in the world holding steady (33.5%). Hinduism is also expected to remain steady between now and 2025 (at 13.4%). Islam, however, is projected to grow rapidly, from 19.6% in 2000 to 22.8% in 2025 (at least some of this growth can be attributed to high birthrates). All other religious faiths register below 6.4% of the population.

One reason behind the decline of the nonreligious category may be a discrepancy over exactly what it means to be religious. In the past, those who didn't attend regular worship services or lacked formal membership in a congregation might have considered themselves "nonreligious," whereas today they might be more inclined to identify with either a traditional or a New Age faith. In this context, anyone who has some sense of spirituality, even if they don't adhere to any one religious doctrine, could be considered "religious."

Source: Future Survey, World Future Society