The third largest religious affiliation in the United States is “None.” Roughly one-fifth of adult Americans tell surveyors that they have no religious affiliation at all. The rise of the Nones, which began in the 199os, is perhaps the most important development in American religious life today, raising difficult questions for traditional religious institutions and the legal system as well.
We shouldn’t think of the Nones as a uniquely American phenomenon, though. (Only Americans would be tempted to do so, probably). Here’s an interesting report from The Weekly Number, a religion website, on the percentages of Nones worldwide. The overall percentage of Nones across the globe is lower than in the US: 16%. They are distributed very unevenly. Almost 80% live in the Asia-Pacific region. About 60% live in one country, China. The entire continent of North America, by contrast, accounts for only five percent of Nones worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, Nones make up about two percent of the population. In the Middle East and North Africa, religiously unaffiliated people are even scarcer, comprising less than one percent of the population.
One might expect that, as China continues to rise, Nones will become an even more powerful global force. But here’s another interesting statistic. Unlike in the US, where Nones are disproportionately young, as a global population, Nones skew old. Their median age (34) is significantly higher than the median age of the overall global population (28). Who knows? Perhaps the rise of the Nones among America’s youth will be offset by the much-noted rise of Christianity among young people in the global South.