If you were to ask an American in 1944 whether or not they believed in God, only 1 out of every 100 people would answer no. Today, almost 80 years later, 12 out of every 100 Americans claim that they don’t believe in God. If you look at the numbers, it’s obvious that both atheism and agnosticism are spreading around the world very quickly.
So, exactly how fast is atheism growing? Although the exact percentage of atheists changes every year, Gallup Polls indicates that currently, 12% of all Americans do not believe in God. In 2011, only 7% claimed the same. This means that in the past decade, there has been a 5% increase in the number of atheists.
The numbers vary from country to country, but the trend is not just limited to America (a historically “Christian” country). In countries and continents around the world, more people are becoming convinced that God doesn’t exist and are instead becoming atheists or agnostics (those who remain unconvinced of either side). In today’s article, I’m going to examine some of the latest numbers and discuss some of the factors that are contributing to the spread of atheism in the 21st Century.
How Fast Is Atheism Growing?
The idea of a God or gods is, by no means, something that the human race will forget about overnight. Archaeological records dating back thousands of years show that cultures and civilizations have worshipped powerful spiritual beings throughout time. Some cultures are monotheistic (believing in only one God), while others are polytheistic (believing in numerous gods).
As humans, we’re naturally curious. We’re not content to take “I don’t know” or “It doesn’t matter” as an answer. Before science came along, the only way for early humans to make sense of things they didn’t understand in the world was to attribute them to some higher power or a mystical, godlike force.
This is why many of the world’s first pagan religions believed that the earth’s elements (fire, wind, water, and earth) were actually gods or governed by the gods. If there was a famine, it was judgment; when times were prosperous, it was the blessings of the gods.
The past few centuries have seen scientific advancement on a massive scale, though. Many believe that we’re in the golden era of scientific development and exploration. As quantum theory continues to develop, we’ve learned that there are probably an infinite number of universes, realities, and possible versions of ourselves.
In turn, these discoveries have led more people to question their traditional beliefs in an all-powerful deity. The result is that atheism is growing rapidly. In fact, as of 2020, over 7% of the entire world’s population identified as atheist or agnostic. In the coming decade, that number is likely to become 10% or more as we discover even more about the universe.
Atheism In America
God is everywhere in traditional American culture. From the Biblical Ten Commandments posted in front of our courtrooms to the “In God We Trust” printed on the back of our currency, it’s hard to completely dissociate religion from America (despite the fact that the founding fathers wanted a strong separation of Church and State).
According to the latest Gallup Poll (2017) that questioned whether or not U.S. Citizens believed in God, 12% of all participants claimed that they did not believe in God. This number is staggering when you consider that in the late-1970s, only 1% of Americans claimed that they didn’t believe in God.
The same atheist revolution is happening around the world. While many are just ditching their age-old religious beliefs, some deny belief in any God at all or claim that there is no evidence for God.
Currently, China leads the world in the number of self-proclaimed atheists. In fact, in a 2014 national poll, a whopping 64% of the population proclaimed to be atheists and stated that they did not believe in God. The Philippines also has a high-rate of atheism, with around 20% of all native Filipinos claiming atheism or agnosticism.
Why Are More People Becoming Atheist?
So, why are more people becoming atheists with each passing year? Could it be that people are just tired of the stress brought around by religious holidays like Christmas? Although that could certainly account for some newly-converted atheists, there’s a lot more to the story. Here are some of the top reasons that more humans identify with atheism with each passing year.
Scientific advancement is likely the number one reason why more people are converting. Modern science can explain many of the natural phenomena that many previously thought to be God or a god’s acts. We create weather charts, measure the planet’s tectonic plate activity, and now can predict when significant disruptions will happen.
Religious extremists such as radical terrorist groups or the hateful Westboro Baptist Church have certainly done their part to push people away from organized religion. Few people want to be associated with violent extremists who spread a message of hatred and death in the name of “God.”
Being Forced Into Religion At An Early Age
Lots of people turn away from religion and God because they were forced into it at an early age. Before many of us are even given a choice, our parents are bringing us to Church, Synagogue, or the Mosque. We’re required to recite prayers that we barely understand, read age-old literature, and watch many of the same “holy people” live greedy, selfish lives outside of the church.
This often causes many children to question what they’ve been taught and wonder about the legitimacy of God. Now that atheism is becoming more popular around the world, and there are internet support groups, atheists have the means to communicate with one another, form new ideas, and reevaluate the way that they view the world around them.