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'Nontheism' is a term that describes anyone who is not a theist. In other words, a nontheist is anyone who does not have a specific belief in a god or deity. It usually refers to anyone who does not have any religious belief. This is a lot like atheism, but the two terms are often used in different ways.
Origin of the term
- "Mr. [Charles] Southwell has taken an objection to the term Atheism. We are glad he has. We have disused it a long time [...]. We disuse it, because Atheist is a worn-out word. Both the ancients and the moderns have understood by it one without God, and also without morality. Thus the term connotes more than any well-informed and earnest person accepting it ever included in it; that is, the word carries with it associations of immorality, which have been repudiated by the Atheist as seriously as by the Christian. Non-theism is a term less open to the same misunderstanding, as it implies the simple non-acceptance of the Theist's explanation of the origin and government of the world."
Nontheism in Society
Today, about 2.3% of the world's population describes itself as atheist. About 11.9% is described as 'nontheist'. Between 64% and 65% of Japanese describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-believers, and up to 48% in Russia. The percentage of such people in European Union member states ranges between 6% (Italy) and 85% (Sweden).
- "The Reasoner", New Series, No. VIII. 115
- "Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2005". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9432620. Retrieved 2007-04-15.
- 2.3% Atheists: Persons professing atheism, skepticism, disbelief, or irreligion, including the militantly antireligious (opposed to all religion).
- 11.9% Nonreligious: Persons professing no religion, nonbelievers, agnostics, freethinkers, uninterested, or dereligionized secularists indifferent to all religion but not militantly so.
- Zuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns", The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2005.
- However, data from the U.S. State Dept. may contradict this figure, since 44% are reported as adherents of Shinto, a polytheistic religion, and information was not provided on the number of respondents identifying with multiple categories. (64% atheists/agnostics/non-believers, plus 44% Shintoists, adds up to more than 100%.)