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Irreligion (adjective form: non-religious or irreligious) is the absence, indifference to, rejection of, or hostility towards religion. [1]

Religion is a cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, or spiritual elements. However, there is no scholarly consensus over what precisely constitutes a religion.


Irreligion may include some forms of theism, depending on the religious context it is defined against; for example, in 18th-century Europe, the epitome of irreligion was deism, [2] while in contemporary East Asia the shared term meaning "irreligion" or "no religion" (無宗教, Chinese pron. wú zōngjiào, Japanese pron. mu shūkyō Korean pron. Mukyo), with which the majority of East Asian populations identify themselves, implies non-membership in one of the institutional religions (such as Buddhism and Christianity) and not necessarily non-belief in traditional folk religions collectively represented by Chinese Shendao and Japanese Shinto (both meaning "ways of gods"). [3]

Theism belief in the existence of at least one deity

Theism is broadly defined as the belief in the existence of the Supreme Being or deities. In common parlance, or when contrasted with deism, the term often describes the classical conception of God that is found in monotheism – or gods found in polytheistic religions—a belief in God or in gods without the rejection of revelation as is characteristic of deism.

An epitome is a summary or miniature form, or an instance that represents a larger reality, also used as a synonym for embodiment. Epitomacy represents, "to the degree of." An abridgment differs from an epitome in that an abridgment is made of selected quotations of a larger work; no new writing is composed, as opposed to the epitome, which is an original summation of a work, at least in part.

Deism is the philosophical belief which posits that although God exists as the uncaused First Cause – ultimately responsible for the creation of the universe – God does not interact directly with that subsequently created world. Equivalently, deism can also be defined as the view which asserts God's existence as the cause of all things, and admits its perfection but rejects divine revelation or direct intervention of God in the universe by miracles. It also rejects revelation as a source of religious knowledge and asserts that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a single creator or absolute principle of the universe.

According to the Pew Research Center's 2012 global study of 230 countries and territories, 16% of the world's population is not affiliated with a religion, while 84% are affiliated. [4] By 2060, according to their projections, the number of unaffiliated will increase by over 35 million, but the percentage will decrease to 13% because the total population will grow faster. [5] [6]

The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan American fact tank based in Washington, D.C. It provides information on social issues, public opinion, and demographic trends shaping the United States and the world. It also conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis, and other empirical social science research. The Pew Research Center does not take policy positions, and is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

According to cross-cultural studies, secularism is expected to decline throughout the 21st century since religion and fertility are positively related, while secularism and fertility are negatively related. [7]


The term irreligion is a combination of the noun religion and the prefix ir-, signifying "not" (similar to irrelevant). It was first attested in French as irréligion in 1527, then in English as irreligion in 1598. It was borrowed by Dutch as irreligie in the 17th century, though it's uncertain from which language. [8]

French language Romance language

French is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire, as did all Romance languages. French evolved from Gallo-Romance, the spoken Latin in Gaul, and more specifically in Northern Gaul. Its closest relatives are the other langues d'oïl—languages historically spoken in northern France and in southern Belgium, which French (Francien) has largely supplanted. French was also influenced by native Celtic languages of Northern Roman Gaul like Gallia Belgica and by the (Germanic) Frankish language of the post-Roman Frankish invaders. Today, owing to France's past overseas expansion, there are numerous French-based creole languages, most notably Haitian Creole. A French-speaking person or nation may be referred to as Francophone in both English and French.

English language West Germanic language

English is a West Germanic language that was first spoken in early medieval England and eventually became a global lingua franca. It is named after the Angles, one of the Germanic tribes that migrated to the area of Great Britain that later took their name, as England. Both names derive from Anglia, a peninsula in the Baltic Sea. The language is closely related to Frisian and Low Saxon, and its vocabulary has been significantly influenced by other Germanic languages, particularly Norse, and to a greater extent by Latin and French.

Dutch language West Germanic language

Dutch(Nederlands ) is a West Germanic language spoken by around 23 million people as a first language and 5 million people as a second language, constituting the majority of people in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is the third most widely spoken Germanic language, after its close relatives English and German.

Kinds of irreligion

Secular humanism, or simply humanism, is a philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the basis of morality and decision making.

In philosophy, naturalism is the "idea or belief that only natural laws and forces operate in the world." Adherents of naturalism assert that natural laws are the rules that govern the structure and behavior of the natural universe, that the changing universe at every stage is a product of these laws.

Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint which holds that positions regarding truth should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than authority, tradition, revelation, or dogma. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a freethinker is "a person who forms their own ideas and opinions rather than accepting those of other people, especially in religious teaching." In some contemporary thought in particular, freethought is strongly tied with rejection of traditional social or religious belief systems. The cognitive application of freethought is known as "freethinking", and practitioners of freethought are known as "freethinkers". Modern freethinkers consider freethought as a natural freedom of all negative and illusive thoughts acquired from the society.

Human rights

In 1993, the UN's human rights committee declared that article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief." [14] The committee further stated that "the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views." Signatories to the convention are barred from "the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers" to recant their beliefs or convert. [15] [16]

Most Western democracies protect the freedom of religion, and it is largely implied in respective legal systems that those who do not believe or observe any religion are allowed freedom of thought.

A noted exception to ambiguity, explicitly allowing non-religion, is Article 36 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China (as adopted in 1982), which states that "No state organ, public organization or individual may compel citizens to believe in, or not to believe in, any religion; nor may they discriminate against citizens who believe in, or do not believe in, any religion." [17] Article 46 of China's 1978 Constitution was even more explicit, stating that "Citizens enjoy freedom to believe in religion and freedom not to believe in religion and to propagate atheism." [18]


A non-denominational person or organization is not restricted to any particular or specific religious denomination. The term has been used in the context of various faiths including Jainism, [19] Bahá'í Faith, [20] Zoroastrianism, [21] Unitarian Universalism, [22] Paganism, [23] Christianity, [24] Islam, [25] Judaism, [26] Hinduism, [27] Buddhism [28] and Wicca. [29] It stands in contrast with a religious denomination.


Although 11 countries listed below have non-religious majorities, it does not mean that the majority of the populations of these countries don't belong to any religious group. For example, 68% of the Swedish population belongs to the Lutheran Christian Church, [30] while 59% of Albanians declare themselves as religious.[ citation needed ] Also, though Scandinavian countries have among the highest measures of nonreligiosity and even atheism in Europe, 47% of atheists who live in those countries are still members of the national churches. [31]

A Pew 2015 global projection study for religion and nonreligion, projects that between 2010 and 2050, there will be some initial increases of the unaffiliated followed by a decline by 2050 due to lower global fertility rates among this demographic. [32] Sociologist Phil Zuckerman's global studies on atheism have indicated that global atheism may be in decline due to irreligious countries having the lowest birth rates in the world and religious countries having higher birth rates in general. [33]

According to Pew Research Center's 2012 global study of 230 countries and territories, 16% of the world's population is not affiliated with a religion, while 84% are affiliated. [4] A 2012 Worldwide Independent Network/Gallup International Association report on a poll from 57 countries reported that 59% of the world's population identified as religious person, 23% as not religious person, 13% as "convinced atheists", and also a 9% decrease in identification as "religious" when compared to the 2005 average from 39 countries. [34] Their follow-up report, based on a poll in 2015, found that 63% of the globe identified as religious person, 22% as not religious person, and 11% as "convinced atheists". [35] Their 2017 report found that 62% of the globe identified as religious person, 25% as not religious person, and 9% as "convinced atheists". [36] However, researchers have advised caution with the WIN/Gallup International figures since other surveys which use the same wording, have conducted many waves for decades, and have a bigger sample size, such as World Values Survey; have consistently reached lower figures for the number of atheists worldwide. [37]

Being non-religious is not necessarily equivalent to being an atheist or agnostic. Pew Research Center's global study from 2012 noted that many of the nonreligious actually have some religious beliefs. For example, they observed that "belief in God or a higher power is shared by 7% of Chinese unaffiliated adults, 30% of French unaffiliated adults and 68% of unaffiliated U.S. adults." [38] Out of the global nonreligious population, 76% reside in Asia and the Pacific, while the remainder reside in Europe (12%), North America (5%), Latin America and the Caribbean (4%), sub-Saharan Africa (2%) and the Middle East and North Africa (less than 1%). [38]

The term nones is sometimes used in the U.S. to refer to those who are unaffiliated with any organized religion. This use derives from surveys of religious affiliation, in which "None" (or "None of the above") is typically the last choice. Since this status refers to lack of organizational affiliation rather than lack of personal belief, it is a more specific concept than irreligion. A 2015 Gallup poll concluded that in the U.S. "nones" were the only "religious" group that was growing as a percentage of the population. [39]

CountryPercentage of population
that is non-religious
Date and source
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czech Republic 75 [40]
Flag of Estonia.svg  Estonia 70 [41]
Flag of the Netherlands.svg  Netherlands 68 [42]
Flag of Vietnam.svg  Vietnam 63 [41] [43]
Flag of Denmark.svg  Denmark 61 [41]
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden 54 [41]
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom 53 [44]
Flag of Albania.svg  Albania 52 [45] [46] [47]
Flag of Japan.svg  Japan 52 [41]
Flag of Azerbaijan.svg  Azerbaijan 51 [48]
Flag of the People's Republic of China.svg  China 51 [41] [43] [49]
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia 48 [43]
Flag of Belarus.svg  Belarus 48 [43]
Flag of Uruguay.svg  Uruguay 47 [50]
Flag of France.svg  France 44 [41]
Flag of Cuba.svg  Cuba 44 [51]
Flag of South Korea.svg  South Korea 43 [43] [52]
Flag of Finland.svg  Finland 43 [41]
Flag of Hungary.svg  Hungary 43 [43]
Flag of Iceland.svg  Iceland 42 [53]
Flag of New Zealand.svg  New Zealand 42 [54]
Flag of Latvia.svg  Latvia 41 [43]
Flag of Chile.svg  Chile 38 [55]
Flag of Belgium (civil).svg  Belgium 35 [43]
Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia 30 [56]
Flag of Bulgaria.svg  Bulgaria 30 [43]
Flag of Germany.svg  Germany 21–34 [57] [58] [59] [60] [61]
Flag of Luxembourg.svg  Luxembourg 30 [43]
Flag of Slovenia.svg  Slovenia 30 [43]
Flag of Spain.svg  Spain 29 [62]
Flag of Switzerland.svg   Switzerland 24 [63]
Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada 24 [64]
Flag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia 23 [43]
Flag of the United States.svg  United States 23 [65]
Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina 21 [66]
Flag of Botswana.svg  Botswana 21 [67]
Flag of Jamaica.svg  Jamaica 21 [68]
Flag of Lithuania.svg  Lithuania 19 [43]
Flag of El Salvador.svg  El Salvador 19 [69]
Flag of Singapore.svg  Singapore 17–19 [70]
Flag of Italy.svg  Italy 18 [43]
Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine 16 [71]
Flag of Nicaragua.svg  Nicaragua 16 [72]
Flag of Belize.svg  Belize 16 [73]
Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa 15 [74]
Flag of Croatia.svg  Croatia 13 [43]
Flag of Guatemala.svg  Guatemala 13 [75]
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria 12 [43]
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal 11 [43]
Flag of Costa Rica.svg  Costa Rica 11 [76]
Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines 11 [43]
Flag of Puerto Rico.svg  Puerto Rico 11 [43]
Flag of Colombia.svg  Colombia 11 [77]
Flag of Suriname.svg  Suriname 10 [78]
Flag of Honduras.svg  Honduras 9 [77]
Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil 8 [79]
Flag of Ecuador.svg  Ecuador 8 [80]
Flag of Peru.svg  Peru 8 [81]
Flag of India.svg  India 7 [43]
Flag of Ireland.svg  Ireland 7 [82]
Flag of Mexico.svg  Mexico 7 [77]
Flag of Venezuela.svg  Venezuela 6 [77]
Flag of Serbia.svg  Serbia 6 [43]
Flag of Poland.svg  Poland 5 [43]
Flag of Bolivia.svg  Bolivia 5 [83]
Flag of Greece.svg  Greece 4 [43]
Flag of Montenegro.svg  Montenegro 3 [84]
Flag of Panama.svg  Panama 3 [85]
Flag of Turkey.svg  Turkey 3 [43]
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania 2 [43]
Flag of Tanzania.svg  Tanzania 2 [43]
Flag of Paraguay.svg  Paraguay 2 [86]
Flag of Malta.svg  Malta 1 [43]
Flag of Iran.svg  Iran 1 [43]
Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda 1 [43]
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria 1 [43]
Flag of Thailand.svg  Thailand <1 [87]
Flag of Bangladesh.svg  Bangladesh <1 [43]

See also


    Related Research Articles

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