Population of the World's Non-Religious Is on the Decline

Despite the apparent rise in people with no religion, the overall percentage of non-believers is expected to decline as a share of the world's population, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center.

Despite the apparent rise in people with no religion, the overall percentage of non-believers is expected to decline as a share of the world's population, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center


By 2050, the number of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or who say they have no particular religion will grow by 100 million, for a total of 1.2 billion people. But the percentage of believers will vastly outpace that growth, expanding by more than 2 billion over the same span of time. As a result, the percentage of non-believers, while growing in real terms, will decrease from 16 to 13 percent of the world's population by 2050.

The study, which classifies non-believers as religions "nones," points out that nones tend to be older, meaning they will die sooner, and have fewer children than people who are associated with religion. In addition, the 10 countries with the largest unaffiliated populations in the world as of 2010 are all expected to decline as a share of the world’s population by 2050. 

While some have speculated that religious faith decreases as societies become more affluent, there is scant evidence for this trend beyond nations in Western Europe. No such phenomenon occurs in Muslim-majority countries, and in Hindu-majority India, "religious affiliation is still nearly universal despite rapid economic and social change."

China also represents an interesting case study since it does not keep reliable data on religious affiliation, though many believe Christianity is on the rise in the communist country. If that does prove true, the ratio of "nones" could decrease even more by 2050. 

Demographic studies like the one released by Pew are essential tools in understanding future trends on a global scale. In his Big Think interview, Paul Taylor, the executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, discusses what makes Millennials a "very distinctive" generation:

Read more at Demographic Research.

Stress is contagious–but resilience can be too

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Do you have a self-actualized personality? Maslow revisited

Rediscovering the principles of self-actualisation might be just the tonic that the modern world is crying out for.

Personal Growth

Abraham Maslow was the 20th-century American psychologist best-known for explaining motivation through his hierarchy of needs, which he represented in a pyramid. At the base, our physiological needs include food, water, warmth and rest.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists reactivate cells from 28,000-year-old woolly mammoth

"I was so moved when I saw the cells stir," said 90-year-old study co-author Akira Iritani. "I'd been hoping for this for 20 years."

Yamagata et al.
Surprising Science
  • The team managed to stimulate nucleus-like structures to perform some biological processes, but not cell division.
  • Unless better technology and DNA samples emerge in the future, it's unlikely that scientists will be able to clone a woolly mammoth.
  • Still, studying the DNA of woolly mammoths provides valuable insights into the genetic adaptations that allowed them to survive in unique environments.
Keep reading Show less

Why believing in soulmates makes people more likely to 'ghost' romantic partners

Does believing in true love make people act like jerks?

Thought Catalog via Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • Ghosting, or the practice of cutting off all contact suddenly with a romantic partner, is a controversial method of dumping someone.
  • People generally agree that it's bad form, but new research shows that people have surprisingly different opinions on the practice.
  • Overall, people who are more destiny-oriented (more likely to believe that they have a soulmate) tend to approve of ghosting more, while people who are more growth-oriented (more likely to believe relationships are made rather than born) are less tolerant of ghosting.
Keep reading Show less