Between a quarter and a half of the population of Europe has no religious belief.
The proportion is very low in a few countries; in others it exceeds 50%. But in all countries the number of unbelievers has grown significantly over past decades and continues to grow. And most people who reject religion adhere to humanist values, because they are those natural to humankind, derived through our evolution as social animals and our conscious experience of living together in communities.
Several surveys by the EU’s Eurobarometer have produced interesting findings:
- In 2005 Eurobarometer found that in its then 25 member states only 52% of people believed in God while 18% rejected outright even the idea of ‘some sort of spirit or life force’ – see full results at page 9 here.
- In 2007 Eurobarometer found that 46% thought religion had too important a place in society – see full results at page 41 here.
- In 2010 Eurobarometer found that, when asked to pick up to three from a list of twelve ‘values’, people in Europe twice placed religion last: only 6% put religion in their top three personal values and only 3% put it in their top three values representative of the EU – see full results at page 32 here.
- This survey also shows (page 29) that only 40% of Europeans “tend to trust” religious institutions while 50% tend not to trust them – a change from 46% and 42% just a year before.
- Moreover, the 2012 WIN-Gallup International ‘Religiosity and Atheism” Index observes a notable decline in self-description of being religious across the globe : since 2005, atheism has risen by 3% while religiosity has dropped by 9%. Read the full report here.
For further details on proportions of atheists, agnostics etc, see Phil Zuckerman: ‘Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns’ , where he observes interestingly:
“High levels of organic atheism are strongly correlated with high levels of societal health, such as low homicide rates, low poverty rates, low infant mortality rates, and low illiteracy rates, as well as high levels of educational attainment, per capita income, and gender equality. Most nations characterized by high degrees of individual and societal security have the highest rates of organic atheism, and conversely, nations characterized by low degrees of individual and societal security have the lowest rates of organic atheism. In some societies, particularly Europe, atheism is growing. However, throughout much of the world — particularly nations with high birth rates — atheism is barely discernable”.
-  in The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press, 2007; ISBN 978-0-521-60367-6. This is also available in:
Portuguese: Publisher: Edicoes 70 Lda, R.Luciano Cordeiro 123, 1-ESQ , Lisboa 1069-157 – published May 2010.
Spanish: Publisher: Ediciones Akal C/ Sector Foresta 1 , Tres Cantos , Madrid 28760 – published April 2010
This content last updated 22 January 2013 @ 4:18 pm