President's Blog

The latest research on “Nones” or the Religiously Unaffiliated

With the widespread growth of the religiously unaffiliated of “nones” in Canada over the past few decades, it is becoming increasingly important to understand this group if in fact we better learn how to reach them for Christ.

A “Pew Research Centre” 2019 survey addressed the attitude and behaviour of the “religiously unaffiliated” in 34 countries. The share of religiously unaffiliated varies widely across many countries from Japan (51%), South Korea (49%), and Australia (45%), to Turkey (3%), Kenya (2%), and India (less than 1%). Canada (32%) and USA (27%) continue to see the religiously unaffiliated grow in numbers. Currently the “nones” are the fastest growing category in Canada.

Approximately 16% of the global population in 2020 refer to themselves as religiously unaffiliated, meaning they identify as atheist, agnostic, or describe their religion as “nothing in particular”.

Social Views Affected

For many, their unaffiliated status often links them to specific social and political views. For example, religiously unaffiliated adults are more accepting of homosexual behaviour in society than religiously affiliated people. For instance, in South Korea, 60% of religious “nones” say homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared with 30% of religiously affiliated adults. A significant gap of 30% between the two groups. In Slovakia the gap is the widest at 34% (religiously affiliated: 38%; religiously unaffiliated: 72%)

The gap is much smaller in Canada at 15%; with 95% of the “nones” acceptance of homosexuality in society to the 80% of religiously affiliated who agree,

Political Views Affected

It is also interesting to note that those who identify with the religious “nones” place themselves more frequently on the political left. The Pew Research Centre’s survey identified people’s ideology as either conservative (right), moderate (centre), or liberal (left).

This difference was most pronounced in Spain, where 47% of the ideological left, compared with just 19% identified with a religion. A 28% spread. The gap between the two groups entered into double digit territory in many countries like: Canada, USA, France, UK, Italy, Australia, Germany, and Sweden. In Canada, 39% of the religiously unaffiliated and only 13% of the religiously affiliated identify with the political left, a 26% gap!

Concern over maintaining religious liberty is also affected by religious affiliation. This was especially true in seven of the 34 countries surveyed. Religious “nones” were less concerned with their citizens being able to participate in religion freely—Argentine, Australia, Hungary, Mexico, Czech Republic, South Korea, and Slovakia.

The Future of “Nones” in the World

Across the 34 countries surveyed in 2019, the share of religious “nones” varies quite a bit.

  • Less than 1% (religious “nones”) in India, Lebanon, Indonesia, Nigeria, Philippines, and Tunisia.
  • About three in ten in the USA (27%), Germany (30%), Spain (31%), and Canada (32%)
  • Roughly half the population in South Korea (49%), Japan (51%), and the Czech Republic (53%) 

In 2015 approximately 1.17 billion people identified as religiously unaffiliated in the world. According to projection this percentage will only increase marginally to 1.2 billion by 2060. It is believed that religious affiliation will grow faster, while religious “nones” are expected to fall from 16% to 13% of the global population by 2060.

May our churches do their part by remaining on mission, understanding better the religiously marginalized and reaching them for Christ. Let’s pray the religious “nones” category stops growing in Canada, due in part to our evangelical zeal.