By Kamlesh Tripathi
Time has come for epiphany of ‘unaffiliated religion.’ A sizable population of the world today lives without aligning with any religion as you will read in this narration. The question is how? And how do they manage in this simmering world of religious intolerance. We all know religion is good for the essence of life. But what about religious intolerance and where does unaffiliated religion fit in. Well, no one has ready answers to these question, but one can definitely see the changing paradigms.
Today, intolerance in every religion has increased manifold. There are fringe groups that have formed in almost every religion that shows intolerance towards other religions. But within all of this. There are still some spunky people. Who believe in the charisma of ‘unaffiliated religion.’ The population of ‘unaffiliated religion’ is around 16 % of the world population. The religiously unaffiliated number is 1.1 billion. Accounting for about one-in-six (16%) people worldwide. It includes atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion. However, many of the religiously unaffiliated. Do hold some religious or spiritual beliefs.
Apart from unaffiliated religion. There is also irreligion. Which is the absence of religion or indifference towards religion or rejection of religion or even hostility towards religion. When termed as the rejection of religious belief. It engulfs explicit atheism, religious dissidence and secular humanism. And when characterized as hostility towards religion. It includes anti-clericalism, anti-religion and anti-theism.
According to Pew Research Center’s 2012 global study of 230 countries. 16% of the world’s population is not affiliated to any particular religion, while 84% are affiliated. The interesting fact finding in Pew Research Center’s 2012 global study is: Out of the global non-religious 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%).
According to Pew Research Center projections. The population of the non-religious, though temporarily increasing, will ultimately decline significantly by 2050, because of lower reproductive rates and ageing.
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 non-religious 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.”
If we were to analyse it country and zone wise. The statistics (pertaining to unaffiliated religion) are even more interesting:
- Out of a total unaffiliated religious population of around 1.1 billion. The ten most populous countries in respective order of population are China 700 million (52% of population), Japan 70 million (57%), USA 50 million (16%), Vietnam 26 million (30%), South Korea 22 million (46%), Germany 20 million (25%), France 18 million (28%), North Korea 17 million (71.3%), Brazil 15 million (7.9%), & U.K. 13 million (21%). This population totals up to 955 million which is 85% of the total population of unaffiliated religion.
- If we were to take the first ten countries highest by respective order of percentage share of (Unaffiliated religion) population. They would be: Czech Republic 8 million (76%), North Korea 17 million (71%), Estonia (Baltic state) 0.8 million (60%), Japan 70 million (57%), Hongkong 0.4 million (56%), China 700 million (52%), South Korea 22 million (46%), Latvia (Baltic states) 1 million (44%), Netherlands 7 million (42%), Uruguay 1.4 million (41%). They comprise of 834 million which is 74% of their population.
- There are six countries where the religiously unaffiliated make up a majority of their population: the Czech Republic (76%), North Korea (71%), Estonia (60%), Japan (57%), Hong Kong (56%) and China (52%).
- The religiously unaffiliated are heavily concentrated in Asia and the Pacific. Where, more than three-quarters (76%) of the world’s unaffiliated population resides. The remainder is 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%).
- Although a majority of the religiously unaffiliated live in Asia and the Pacific. Only about one-in-five people (21%) in that region are unaffiliated. More than one-in-six people in Europe (18%) and North America (17%) are religiously unaffiliated. The unaffiliated make up smaller shares in the remaining regions. For instance, less than 1% of those who live in the Middle East-North Africa region are unaffiliated.
- More than six-in-ten (62%) of all religiously unaffiliated people live in one country, China. The largest population of the religiously unaffiliated outside China are in Japan (6% of all unaffiliated), the United States (5%), Vietnam (2%) and Russia (2%).
- The population of unaffiliated religion in India is only 0.87 million which is 0.07% of the entire population of the country.
- There is a definite co-relation between the system of governance, ethos of live and religious fundamentalism and unaffiliated religion. For example take communist countries like China & North Korea where you will find the population of this community to be around 717 million which is about 64% of the entire population of unaffiliated religion. This is because of the regimentation of mindset that has forced people to stay non-aligned. If you take Islamic states, you will find the percentage of unaffiliated religion to be low because of religious fundamentalism.
Globally, the religiously unaffiliated are older (median age of 34) than the overall global population (median age of 28). Among the five regions for which data are available, sub- Saharan Africa has the youngest population of religiously unaffiliated people (median age of 20), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (26), North America (31) and Asia and the Pacific (35). Europe has the oldest unaffiliated population, with a median age of 37.