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Study: Atheism in Decline

faith symbolA new study has found that the number of atheists has been declining steadily over the last four decades.

CNSNews.com is reporting that a report by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary shows the number of atheists falling from 4.5 percent of the world's population in 1970 to 2.0 in 2010. It is projected to drop to 1.8 percent by 2020.

According to the report, in 1970 there were 165.5 million atheists worldwide, a number that shrank to just 136.5 million by 2010.

By comparison, Christians comprised 33.2 percent of the world’s population in 1970 and is expected to grow to 33.3 percent by 2020.

The next largest religion, Islam, is growing significantly faster, comprising just 15.6 percent of the population in 1970 but expected to hit 23.9 percent by 2020.

There are several reasons for the decline in the number of atheists.

“Projections to 2020 indicate a sustained decrease of the global share of the non-religious,” the study reports. “This is due primarily to the resurgence of Buddhism, Christianity, and other religions in China, and Christianity in Eastern Europe.”

Even though the number of atheists and agnostics continues to rise in the Western world, "the current growth of a variety of religions in China in particular (where the vast majority of the non-religious live today) suggests continued future demographic growth of religion,” the study reports.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, says another reason for the steady decline in atheism around the world is "the demise of that atheistic genocidal wonderland called Communism: the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 led to a spike in religious affiliation, both in Russia and in Eastern Europe.”

Citing the data from the report, Donohue said “Russia was 38% Christian in 1970 and in 2010 the number jumped to 71%. The world’s first officially atheistic state, Albania, is now 63% Muslim and 32% Christian.”

“Two religions, Christianity and Islam, dominate religious demographics and seem poised to continue that dominance in the future,” reads the study. “In 1970 those two religions represented 48.8% of the global population, and by 2020 they will likely represent 57.2%.”

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