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Worldwide Atheism Trend and Pattern – A Summary Thursday, May 3, 2007

Posted by henry000 in agnosticism, atheism, Buddhism, China, Christianity, Europe, faith, God, Hinduism, Islam, Italy, Japan, Middle East, North Korea, Portugal, rationality, religion, Scandinavian, science, secularism, South Korea, statistics, survey, Sweden, United States, Vietnam, world.

This is the sort of article I have been long searching for – a comprehensive, analytical and scholarly summary – filled with hard data – of atheism trends in the world. This 2005 article is written by Phil Zuckerman and seems to have been part of a Cambridge University publication. Although slightly outdated, it nonetheless provides a reliable and useful source for anyone interested in the study of the atheist demographics.

It is not a short article, so I will take the liberty of summarising it further here. Firstly it outlines the difficulties in conducting a survey on the beliefs and disbeliefs of large populations. Then it provides a good statistics on the atheism population in many countries. Then, most importantly, the Top 50 list of non-believing countries is presented, which I will duplicate here (I have stripped out the population columns due to space limits):

  Country % Atheist/actual # Agnostic/Non-believer in God
1 Sweden 46-85%
2 Vietnam 81%
3 Denmark 43-80%
4 Norway 31-72%
5 Japan 64-65%
6 Czech Republic 54-61%
7 Finland 28-60%
8 France 43-54%
9 South Korea 30%-52%
10 Estonia 49%
11 Germany 41-49%
12 Russia 24-48%
13 Hungary 32-46%
14 Netherlands 39-44%
15 Britain 39-44%
16 Belgium 42-43%
17 Bulgaria 34-40%
18 Slovenia 35-38%
19 Israel 15-37%
20 Canada 19-30%
21 Latvia 20-29%
22 Slovakia 10-28%
23 Switzerland 17-27%
24 Austria 18-26%
25 Australia 24-25%
26 Taiwan 24%
27 Spain 15-24%
28 Iceland 16-23%
29 New Zealand 20-22%
30 Ukraine 20%
31 Belarus 17%
32 Greece 16%
33 North Korea 15% (?)
34 Italy 6-15%
35 Armenia 14%
36 China 8-14% (?)
37 Lithuania 13%
38 Singapore 13%
39 Uruguay 12%
40 Kazakhstan 11-12%
41 Estonia 11%
42 Mongolia 9%
43 Portugal 4-9%
44 United States 3-9%
45 Albania 8%
46 Argentina 4-8%
47 Kyrgyzstan 7%
48 Dominican Rep. 7%
49 Cuba 7% (?)
50 Croatia 7%

where (?) indicates the relatively low certainty/validity. Note that rather than defining the terms “atheism”, “agnosticism” and “non-belief”, which is a tricky issue in itself, the article lumps all three together to simply mean people who do not believe in God. The range of percentages (for example the top non-believing country Sweden is 46% – 85%) gives an indication of the difficulties in reaching such figures. Finally, the author gives his own analysis on atheism trend and pattern using the data.


The End of Faith – The Problem with Islam Thursday, March 29, 2007

Posted by henry000 in atheism, book review, faith, God, Islam, jihad, Koran, Middle East, Noam Chomsky, rationality, religion, Sam Harris.

This is a highly anticipated chapter of the book. While Sam Harris focuses on faith as the main theme of the book, an entire chapter is devoted to Islam. Why so? Harris says that because at this particular point in history, we are at war with Islam:

“It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of hadith, which recounts the says and actions of the Prophet.”

Harris mentions jihad. Jihad is translated literally as “struggles”, and there are two types of it – an “inner” struggle on one’s self, and an “outer” struggle which involves with struggles against infidels and apostates. Essentially,

“… the duty of jihad is an unambiguous call to world conquest.”

Harris devotes quite a number of pages of the chapter quoting from the Koran and hadith to support his argument – just take a look from page 117 to 123 – because he wants to emphasize on the root of the problem with Islam:

“On almost every page, the Koran instructs observant Muslims to despise non-believers. On almost every page, it prepares the ground for religious conflict.”

Suicide bombing, as Harris argues, is no aberration of Islam, given the tenets of jihad, martyrdom, infidels and paradise. The Muslim world today is comparable to the 14th century Christian Europe on the intellectual and economical fronts. A shocking statistics is that Spain translates as many books into Spanish each year as the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the 9th century (reported by UN in 2002)! I think this fact along has convinced me of just how stagnant the Arab world has become in terms of human knowledge – and this is a really grim picture, because lack of knowledge implies the reliance on the Koran and hadith, which are firmly rooted in a world that was thousands of years ago. Harris puts it:

“… I think it is clear that Islam must find some way to revise itself, peacefully or otherwise. What this will mean is not at all obvious. What is obvious, however, is that the West must either win the argument or win the war. All else is bondage.”