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According to map, China leads world in atheism

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 24th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

According to a new "atheist map," which lists the number of non-believers, it's apparent that mainland China leads the globe in terms of self-identified atheists. China has the highest amount of atheists living in a single country by far, with nearly 50 percent of its population describing themselves as such.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A 2012 poll by WIN/Gallup International surveyed more than 50,000 people across 40 countries whether they considered themselves "religious," "not religious" or "convinced atheist."

This comes as little surprise to many. China has the highest amount of atheists as its republic government was officially atheist when it formed in 1949.

China relaxed its religious policy with the 1978 Constitution of the People's Republic of China guaranteeing "freedom of religion" in Article 36.

"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 because they do, or do not believe in religion," the policy reads.

There has been a massive program to rebuild Buddhist and Taoist temples in China beginning in the 1980s. The Chinese government has also recently expressed support for Buddhism and Taoism, organizing the World Buddhist Forum in 2006 and the International Forum on the Daodejing in 2007. The government sees these religions as an integral part of Chinese culture.

There are five religions recognized by the Chinese state: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. However, there is still widespread skepticism surrounding organized religion in China. In Japan, where a post-WW II taboo still remains, only 31 percent remain atheists.

One of the most surprising figures in the Islamic country of Saudi Arabia is five percent of the population described themselves as atheists - where this is forbidden by law. This compares to just one percent in both Iraq and Afghanistan who describe themselves as atheists.

In Italy, the home of the Catholic Church, support is still strong with nearly three-fourths of Italians considering themselves as religious.

Pope Francis earlier this week said atheists who are good are redeemed by Jesus in a homily urging that people of differing beliefs work together.

Religion is strongest among the poor and the less educated, which correlates among the most religious countries, according to a WIN/Gallup poll. In Ghana, Nigeria, Armenia and Fiji, more than nine in 10 people say they're religious.


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