An increasing number of people identify as having no religion. Recent surveys from countries that were traditionally majority Christian show that a significant percentage of the population is nonreligious.
The results from the 2021 Canadian census showed that 35% of the population was not religious, more than doubling from 16.5% twenty years earlier. In the United States, recent findings from the Pew Research Center suggest that Christians could become less than half the population in just a few decades. Right now, about 30% of people in the United States are religiously unaffiliated.
Other countries are experiencing similar trends. In recent census results from 2021 in England and Wales, only 46% of the population identified as Christian while 37% checked the “no religion” box. In Australia, 39% of the population is nonreligious while only 44% are Christian. In Latin America, where most people have traditionally identified as Roman Catholic, the “nones” are also on the rise. As of 2019, about 19% of the population in Argentina is religiously unaffiliated. In Brazil, meanwhile, 12% of the population states that they belong to no religion.
In the Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark), no religion makes up from about 20% to 30% of the populations, but when considering questions like the percentage of people who believe in God or who say religion is important in their lives, we see that the trend toward nonreligion in the region becomes even starker.
In the countries mentioned above, young people are even more likely to identify as nonreligious, suggesting that the percentage of people identifying as nonreligious will continue to grow. This is an important social shift with wide-ranging implications, but it has yet to receive sufficient attention.
Many people define nonreligion by focusing on what is absent: that is, what do nonreligious people lack that religious people have? But our project has a different focus: we investigate the substantive content of nonreligion – what are the values, beliefs, and practices of people who self-describe as nonreligious? How do social institutions reflect this massive social change? What might the positive and negative impacts be?