The least religious countries

A study made by Pitzer concludes that Sweden, Vietnam, Denmark, Norway and Japan are the least religious countries in the world. The United States is one of the countries at the end of the list.


It’s interesting that the US is the country with less percentage of atheists and Vietnam is the one with more percentage of atheists. The second country with the highest atheism level (purple bars) is Japan.

In Japan there are many religions, but the main ones are Shintoism and Buddhism. But I know very few Japanese who declare themselves “Buddhist” or “Shintoist”. Most of the people just “believes” and mixes religions, they would marry shinto style and do a funeral following the buddhist tradition. It’s all mixed, and more than believing in a religion, I would say that people is superstitious. Furthermore, Buddhism doesn’t have the concept of Creator God and Shinto is a polytheistic religions. For Japanese people is difficult to think about a God in the western sense.

This chart below shows countries based on their acceptance of the Theory of evolution. It’s interesting that there are some coincidences with the religion chart, but some countries just change the position a lot, for example Spain goes to the top 10 in this chart but the US stays at the bottom.


28 replies on “The least religious countries”

What an interesting survey. But i think that i can explain why the percentage of atheists in Japan is far greater compared to the percentage of non-religious. The meaning of ‘atheist’ is someone who doesnt believe in the existence of a God. Shintoist and Buddhists, people who follow the two most popular religions in Japan, are unique compare to the Judaic religions in that they dont believe in the existence of a God. So naturally these people would be atheists in nature. I believe this to be a credible fact due to claims by such as 創価学会 (Soka Gakkai) alone have over 10 million members in Japan. I think that due to the long history that Shinto and Buddhism have had in Japan that it would be difficult for most Japanese to comprehend the existence of a God.

Again, thank you for such an interesting article. A big fan of your web-site. Keep up the great work!!!

thx for commenting. Yes, the concept of God, it’s pretty different. I think it would be difficult to explain what atheism means for us to a Japanese.

They have the word 無神論者, but I thinki it has a more general meaning. Something like “not believing in the system”

Just an explaination please. What’s the difference between Atheist and non-religious?
Atheist are people who don’t have any religion and don’t believe in any god and non-religious guys believe in a god but don’t practice any religion, is that correct?

Actually Christian’s in Japan were originally prosecuted heavily. One Samurai in particular was known for being a Christian butcher and went out hunting secret Christian enclaves, killing everyone he would find in such places.

That was in the mid-late 1800’s… It’s hardly impossible for Japanese to believe in, but the Japanese in general tend to follow Shinto traditions and overlay either Christian or Buddhist religions over them.

I used to study world religions and Shinto and it’s relationship with Japanese is a incredibly interesting subject for those who look into it… Unlike most religions it was never ‘worshiped’ per se, except by those that believe strongly enough in it’s ideals to become priests and even they do not worship like most religions do. That’s historically as well as modern.

The US though has held to a diversified stratum of Christian religions since it’s origins. Even slaves were converted during those dark times in our history. It used to be Roman Catholics who were behind the times in their beliefs… Now it’s become most Christian religions that can’t keep pace with the times.

Gatsu: your explanation sounds good to me.

theshadow99: how do Japanese think about Gods? do they know the Shinto Gods? Because I usually listen people talking about 神様 (kamisama) in general. What does the majority of think about afterlife?

Japan didn’t let Christianity in for a long, long time, and because permanent immigration is nearly impossible for non-Japanese people, I find do not expect Christianity to ever really take hold in Japan.

The idea of one ever-present, all powerful king spirit or god seems strange to the Japanese who (in the past, not so much today) believed in thousands if not hundreds of thousands of different spirits.

As for the definition of “non-religious” Vs Atheist – Atheists do not believe in God, as in, they do not hold the existence of God to be a given truth, since there is no conclusive proof of a God. Non-religious folks can be atheist, agnostic or just not give a damn about it – in other words, Atheism is a sub-set of “non-religious”.

Interesting conclusions, probably headed in the right direction. I’m not sure your graph is completely accurate though. When I stumbled here I immediately thought of government, epically communism, as a major factor in determining many countries religious beliefs, or lack thereof. Upon some basic research I found that North Korea, reported on this graph to be approximately 15% Atheist, is reported on wikipedia to be over 70% atheist. (

My question is (besides for the validity of this data): does government plays a role in promoting certain views on religion in Japan? Even in a passive or traditional role?

Wow…this is intersting.
I couldn’t believe just by looking the fact that Israel also have a huge percentage number for atheis.

Just to satisfy my curiousity, what is the sampling methods for this project?

The Scandinavian countries are high in atheist or non-religious because of the way Christianity was forced in the in the end of the eleventh century.
The non believers whom, refused to renounce their ancient gods ,got a snake showed down their throat.
The crucifix became popular due to it resemblance to the hammer of Thor and it helped to convert many.

Christianity and it’s values have been fading for a long time despite that the Church and state have yet to be separated.

I’m surprised like many others here that there are so many non-religious people in Israel.

The percentage of Israeli non-religious and atheistic population is not that surprising if you think about it locally. The majority of country is Ashkenazi (European Jews). The university system is based on European and western world standards and too is their government and policy administration. The Per capita is a little over 33 thousand and for all intensive purposes they are a fully developed nation. What I’m getting at in this is that as a developed nation the populous seems to be embracing the science and more modern views of the world. I mean everyone still has a Bar Mitzvah, but it seems to have turn more into ritual than religion. Other than the minority of loud Hasidic Jews shouting in the streets and Knesset most of the country not very religious. I’ve been there a few times and have dozens of relatives there, because I’m have Israeli, but I’m sure if you did the same survey on Jews populations in any other place in the world the numbers would mimic this, if not be higher.

Also I know I did not mention the Islamic population of Israel, but another fact which seems to surprise many people is the relative non-religious extremism of many of the major terrorist groups fighting against Israel, such as Hezbollah and Hamas. They seen driven far more by their own political motivations than by there religion. For example Hamas’s involvement with a constitutional democracy set up in Gaza, shows their willingness to except political dissent and western governmental practices, of which Al-Qaeda would never except. Don’t get me wrong Hama is made up of terrorists, but Islam is just a pull factor for the political change they desire. Religion is overblown, especially in America because is so much easier for us to make the blanket accusation of religious zealots and nut-jobs, than it is to explorer the historical and political reasons why conflicts are ensuing.
Though unlike the Jewish population, the Muslim population is far more impoverished and therefore more likely to have strict religious beliefs, but again this makes up a minority in Israel.

There is no correlation between believing in evolution and being an atheist. This is a logical fallacy. I am religious and have come the conclusion that evolution is how we came to be. How deeply your religion is ingrained and your open mindedness play a large part in what you think to be true. While I don’t agree with the belief of creationism but I certainly respect their position and recognize that this belief doesn’t necessarily make them stupid. Beliefs are something separate from logic, some very intelligent creationists are the founders of our modern world. Their very strong belief in a god (since I’m talking about non-christians too) is what drove them to develop the things they did to give us what we have now. It never even occurred to them to think any differently…maybe because it matters very little in the grand scheme of things? *shrug* Not for me to answer.

You didn’t say it out right, but you hinted at a value judgment based on rank on this list. That’s the kind of elitist ignorance that deserves a bitch slap… you are a tool…not a geek. You can translate that later

BS Detector,

While there might not be a correlation between atheism and evolution (although I suspect there is) There is certainly a correlation between religious tendencies and denial of evolution. Put quite simply, the more religious (in america at least) a person is, the more likely they are to deny evolution.

In addition to that, you claim that it is a logical fallacy to imply a correlation between atheism and evolution. Which logical fallacy is it? Perhaps the correlation is false, but this does not make it a “logical fallacy.”

And yes, a person who literally believes the bible (or any other “holy” book) is much less intelligent than the average person.

I can’t agree with the statistic that (around) 56% of Brits are religious. Maybe if one did a survey in a church on a Sunday, that may be the figure one would come out with. I would really like to know how these stats were obtained. Good to know that the Swedes are leading the way.

Muito simples, crer ou não crer, eis a questão.
Grande parte das guerras são originadas por questões religiosas. Ter a nescessidade ou não de crer em Deus, é uma questão de formação. Se você precisa de uma religião, éla fará parte de sua vida. Se não precisa, se não crê, será um ateu, ou indiferente, até o dia em que precisar crer em alguma coisa, entáo a escolha será óbvia. Um ser supremo, protetor, criador do universo, será a sua tábua de salvação. Tudo é uma questão de formação e uma questão de situação de momento na vida de cada um.

I would like to comment on the correlation between evolutionists and atheists. I would be willing to bet that there is not much of a correlation, generally speaking, in the world but I’ve noticed in America
there is a relationship between evolution and atheism.
I’m a minority atheist I most of the people I’ve talked with that share my thoughts about the lack of God(s) also recognize that because of radiation testing, not to be confused with carbon dating, in recent years has shown that “The Big Bang Theory” is now “The Big Bang” fact. I think in the states that tends to be the connection. It also feels right. When you study the earth and the relationship between the other planets in our solar system there is nothing that shows that a man created our stars and everything that shows that there is life on earth because of factors that promote and legitimize evolution. One giant problem for people to comprehend evolution is that the earth has been here for approximately 4.5 billion years and people can’t comprehend one billion, let alone 4.5 billion. Think of it this way, if a mosquito bug can adapt to a poisonous bug spray in 2 days, then why is it so hard to believe that we came from a line of many different species over 4.5 billion years….

Turkey, the only country whose population is more ignorant than the United States. Interesting survey. What does that say about the task ahead of educating America?

For an American, a distressing survey but not surprising. Culturally, we have more in common with undeveloped nations than with the industrialized world. When and where did we falter? We have many bright and talented people but far more dummies. Very sad.

USA in top 50 non religious countries????!!?!1


“Turkey, the only country whose population is more ignorant than the United States. Interesting survey. What does that say about the task ahead of educating America?”

Yet Turkey is the most secular nation of the Muslim world, where their military has been busily stamping out over religiosity from their government for decades. So does atheism really correlate with belief in evolution?

Interesting graphs. I would just like to comment on the “athiest” percentage for Vietnam. The comments made about Japan and Buddhism/Shintoism would apply even more so to Vietnam. Because of its Communist government it is difficult to estimate religious affiliation there. In my experience of Vietnamese living in Australia, they are a very religious people. Most of them are Buddhists, which as others have pointed out also makes them athiests (or panthiests). They have many Buddhist temples in Australia and many shop-keepers have little shrines

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