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Is non-theism (atheists and agnostics) growing?

The "nones" are rising faster than ever in America, but globally, non-religious people are currently shrinking as a percentage of the population. Conflicting trends of economic development, evangelism, and fertility complicate predictions of world religiosity.

Per a Pew Research Center study from 2015, as reported by Psychology Today:

1.1 billion people [do not identify with any religion]... which equals about 16.5% of the global adult population. As such, “non-religious” is actually the third largest “religion” in the world, coming only behind Christianity (in first place) and Islam (in second).

At the same time, the Pew study projects that as a percentage of the population, non-theists will decline to just 13% by mid-century. One obvious reason is that

[r]eligions with many adherents in developing countries – where birth rates are high, and infant mortality rates generally have been falling – are likely to grow quickly. ...[R]eligiously unaffiliated population[s], by contrast, [are] heavily concentrated in places with low fertility and aging populations, such as Europe, North America, China and Japan.

Importantly, Pew's projections have not attempted to wade into controversial social theories suggesting that economic development and religiosity are inversely linked. As the report explains, this has been the "general experience in some parts of the world, notably Europe," but it is "not yet clear whether it is a universal pattern." Indeed, there is some evidence that amongst China's 1.4 billion citizens, increasing affluence may be correlated with or even driving increasing religiosity.

Considering all of these conflicting factors, go ahead and second-guess Pew's projections:

What will the portion of the population identifying as "religiously unaffiliated" be in 2050?

The resolution occurs if/when a study of comparable quality, scope, and methods to the Pew study is published before 2060 quoting a number for "religiously unaffiliated" pertaining to some date within 3 years of 2050. Note that this group includes atheist and agnostic, but also people who do not identify with any particular religion in surveys (but who may nonetheless have non-specific spiritual or cultural belief systems).


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