The study was compiled by WIN-Gallup International
based on a world wide network of leading opinion pollsters. It shows declining levels of religiosity across the globe. However, explicit atheism is largely confined to China, Japan and Western Europe. The most religious countries are more geographically dispersed, including Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
The study reinforces sociological findings that have been seen in many earlier studies. People in the lower economic brackets are 17 percent more likely to be religious than those in the higher ones. The study also replicates the common finding that people with higher education are much less likely to be religious. It also shows the well established negative correlation with wealth, with people in the lowest quintile being 17 percent more likely to be religious than those in the highest.
The organisation conducted the same survey in 2005. A comparison with the current study shows a 9 percent decrease in religiosity since that time. The survey also reveals a 3 percent rise in professed atheism. The difference is accounted for by the rise in the number of people who identify as "not religious" whilst remaining within the faith.
Whilst in many ways, the United States is an outlier (this is visually illustrated in Table 5 of the study), it is noteworthy that it has shown a 13 percent decline in religiosity and a 4 percent increase in atheism over the past seven years. This is a reduction of the number of religious persons from 73 percent to 60 percent. Other countries showing significant decline in religiosity are Vietnam, France, Switzerland and South Africa. Ecuador, which significantly is a country in a very religious region, has also seen a 15 percent decline. The data also show that the most atheist countries have seen a significant increase in the number of people who self identify as atheist.
One of the more interesting findings of the study is that the relationship of age and religiosity. The data show a consistent decline as adults age, until the over 65s. Unfortunately, the nature of the study is unable to explain this pattern.
Overall, the study shows a world in which the majority are still religious, but one in which religiosity is declining and atheism increasing. These trends are obviously to be welcomed, particularly when one considers the flash points for international conflict are invariably countries with extremely high levels of religiosity and the most atheist countries are the most peaceful