Secular Countries 2022

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While religion is the belief in a spiritual higher power (usually God) and atheism is a belief that such powers do not exist, secularism is a lack of belief one way or the other. Secular people neither practice nor discourage religion—rather, they simply do not consider it. A secular country, then, would be one in which the majority of people have neither a belief nor a disbelief in religion. Similarly, a secular country or state is one that is officially neutral with regard to religion. Secular countries neither support nor discourage religion or irreligion, neither discriminate against nor favor individuals or groups based upon their religious beliefs (or lack thereof), and decline to specify an official national faith. The governments of secular states do not interfere with religion or religious activities, and faith plays no role in law and policy-making decisions. As of early 2022, there were 96 secular countries around the world—although some are admittedly less secular than others.

The three forms of secularism

Although the term "secular" technically indicates neutral non-religion, it is often also equated with anti-religious movements such as anticlericalism, atheism, naturalism, and the banishment of religious symbols from the public sphere. This nebulous definition is likely influenced by the fact that there exist three different forms of secularism, which are outlined by philosopher Charles Taylor in his book The Secular Age. In the first form of secularism, the public may freely practice any religion but the government and its affiliates are forbidden from highlighting religion in any way. The second form is one in which a majority of the population itself declines to practice a religion. Finally, the third form of secularism is one in which all belief or non-belief systems are equally accepted and no single worldview is favored over the others.

These different forms of secularism have led to a varied range of valid definitions regarding what constitutes a secular country. The most commonly used definition of a secular country is one in which the majority of people are either atheist or unconcerned with religion. However, the original definition—a country in which most people eschew religion, which was given above—also applies. A country whose government is devoted to secularism even if its people favor one religion over another can be considered a secular country. So can a country in which both the government and the people accept all forms of belief and non-belief equally.

Top 10 Most Secular Countries in the World (by percentage of non-religious citizens, Win-Gallup 2017)

  1. China — 90%
  2. Sweden — 73%
  3. Czech Republic — 72%
  4. United Kingdom — 69%
  5. Belarus — 64%
  6. Azerbaijan — 64%
  7. Vietnam — 63%
  8. Australia — 63%
  9. Norway — 62%
  10. Denmark — 61%

What countries are secular states?

State secularism is a term that describes a country whose policies and actions are based upon a separation of church and state. Secular countries remove ties between government and a state religion, replace laws that are based on scripture rather than the collective good, and eliminate religious discrimination or favoritism. Secular states can utilize any form of government, from democracies to absolute monarchies. Modern democracies are generally considered to be at least fundamentally secular due to their focus upon freedom of religion and the fact that religious leaders lack the authority to make political decisions. Conversely, many Muslim countries are decidedly non-secular and base their legal systems on Islamic law, derived from the Quran and the Islamic prophet Muhammad's teachings.

It is believed that most societies become increasingly secular as a result of economic growth, social development, and advancments in areas such as jobs and education rather than through a dedicated movement for secularism. However, becoming a truly secular state can be a challenging task. For example, many countries officially declare themselves secular, but also uphold faith-based legislation or include references to religion in their national anthems, flags, or other official materials.

France, Mexico, South Korea, and Turkey are all considered "constitutionally secular," although their implementation of secularism varies. For example, India's interpretation of secularism allows state involvement in religions, while France's definition of secularism (termed laïcité) does not. France has a long history of secularization, which is rooted in the French Revolution. While secularism is a core concept in Article 1 of the French Constitution, stating that France is a secular state, this declaration did not prevent the state from involving the church in government. Since 1905, however, several policies have been implemented to further establish and enshrine secularism.

Is the United States a secular country?

The United States is a secular country in theory, but it falls short in actual practice. The U.S. is a self-described secular state and is often considered to be constitutionally secular. The U.S. Constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Additionally, keeping with the lack of an established state religion, Article Six of the U.S. Constitution states that "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

On the other hand, many official U.S. materials still include clear references to religion. The Pledge of Allegiance includes the line "one nation under God," which is undeniably non-secular. Also, the phrase "In God We Trust" appears on all United States currency (both coins and paper bills) and became the official United States motto in 1956. While religious references such as these are common in many countries, their presence inspires understandable debate about the separation of church and state, as well as whether the U.S. is truly devoted to secularism.

Secular Countries 2022

Note: All percentages include people who self-identify as either atheistic or unaffiliated with religion. Higher percentages indicate greater secularism.
Country Win-Gallup 2017 Win-Gallup 2015 Pew 2012 Constitutionally Secular Notes
China90.00%90.00%52.20%No
Sweden73.00%76.00%27.00%Yes
Czech Republic72.00%75.00%76.40%Yes
United Kingdom69.00%66.00%21.30%No
Belgium64.00%48.00%29.00%Yes
Azerbaijan64.00%54.00%0.10%Yes
Vietnam63.00%54.00%29.60%Yes
Australia63.00%58.00%24.20%Yes
Norway62.00%0.00%10.10%MostlyChurch largely detached from government in 2017, though king must still be a member
Denmark61.00%52.00%11.80%No
Japan60.00%62.00%57.00%Yes
Germany60.00%59.00%24.70%No
South Korea60.00%55.00%46.40%Yes
Estonia60.00%0.00%59.60%Yes
Israel58.00%65.00%3.10%NoSecularism difficult to ascertain, as many religious symbols and habits (kosher food, menorahs, star of David) are also cultural symbols here.
Spain57.00%55.00%19.00%Yes
Canada57.00%53.00%23.70%MostlyConstitution still recognizes sovereignty of God
Ireland56.00%51.00%6.20%MostlyConstitution has many references to God, but also establishes freedom of religion
Finland55.00%42.00%17.60%MostlyClaims secularism, but certain churches collect church tax through government
Austria53.00%54.00%13.50%Yes
Slovenia53.00%0.00%18.00%Yes
Latvia52.00%50.00%43.80%Yes
France50.00%53.00%28.00%Yes
Iceland49.00%44.00%3.50%No
Ukraine42.00%24.00%14.70%Yes
Lithuania40.00%0.00%10.00%No
United States39.00%39.00%16.40%MostlyMany Christian references and symbols thoughout government, but religions freedom is maintained
Bulgaria39.00%39.00%4.20%Yes
Albania39.00%0.00%1.40%Yes
Portugal38.00%37.00%4.40%Yes
Mexico36.00%28.00%4.70%Yes
Palestine35.00%19.00%0.10%No
Argentina34.00%20.00%12.20%MostlyConstitution designates national church, but no preference is shown in everyday life.
Iraq34.00%0.00%0.10%No
Indonesia30.00%15.00%0.10%No
Russia30.00%23.00%16.20%Yes
Mongolia29.00%0.00%35.90%No
Lebanon28.00%18.00%0.30%No
Italy26.00%24.00%12.40%Yes
Peru23.00%13.00%3.00%No
Greece22.00%21.00%6.10%No
Bosnia And Herzegovina22.00%32.00%2.50%No
Serbia21.00%21.00%3.30%Yes
Iran20.00%0.00%0.10%No
Bangladesh19.00%5.00%0.10%MostlyConstitution endorses both secularism and Islam, but secularism is prominent in everyday life.
Ecuador18.00%28.00%5.50%Yes
Brazil17.00%18.00%7.90%YesReligious symbols still common in state architecture
DR Congo17.00%0.00%1.80%Yes
Colombia14.00%17.00%6.60%Yes
Panama13.00%0.00%4.80%No
North Macedonia11.00%10.00%0.00%No
Poland10.00%12.00%5.60%Yes
Philippines9.00%22.00%0.10%Yes
Romania9.00%17.00%0.10%No
Fiji8.00%7.00%0.80%Yes
Pakistan6.00%11.00%0.10%No
Armenia6.00%5.00%1.30%MostlyConstitution designates national church
India5.00%23.00%0.10%Yes
Papua New Guinea5.00%4.00%0.10%No
Nigeria2.00%16.00%0.40%Yes
Thailand2.00%2.00%0.30%No
Ghana1.00%0.00%4.20%No
Turkey0.00%15.00%1.20%Yes
Tanzania0.00%0.00%1.40%Yes
South Africa0.00%0.00%14.90%Yes
Kenya0.00%9.00%2.50%No
Myanmar0.00%0.00%0.00%No
Uganda0.00%0.00%0.50%No
Afghanistan0.00%9.00%0.10%No
Morocco0.00%5.00%0.10%No
Saudi Arabia0.00%0.00%0.70%No
Angola0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Uzbekistan0.00%0.00%0.80%Yes
Malaysia0.00%23.00%0.70%No
Nepal0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Venezuela0.00%2.00%10.00%No
Madagascar0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Cameroon0.00%0.00%5.30%Yes
Ivory Coast0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
North Korea0.00%0.00%71.30%No
Taiwan0.00%0.00%12.70%Yes
Burkina Faso0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Sri Lanka0.00%0.00%0.00%No
Mali0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Syria0.00%0.00%0.00%No
Chile0.00%0.00%8.60%Yes
Kazakhstan0.00%0.00%4.20%Yes
Senegal0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Chad0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Netherlands0.00%66.00%42.10%No
Guinea0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Rwanda0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Benin0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Burundi0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Tunisia0.00%0.00%0.20%No
South Sudan0.00%0.00%1.00%No
Cuba0.00%0.00%23.00%Yes
Dominican Republic0.00%0.00%10.90%No
Tajikistan0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Hungary0.00%0.00%18.60%No
Belarus0.00%0.00%28.60%Yes
Switzerland0.00%58.00%11.90%MostlyConstitution references God, but also establishes freedom of religion
Togo0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Laos0.00%0.00%0.00%No
Kyrgyzstan0.00%0.00%0.40%Yes
El Salvador0.00%0.00%0.00%NoConstitution claims secularism, but also designates official church and gives it legal preference
Turkmenistan0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Singapore0.00%0.00%16.40%Yes
Republic of the Congo0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Slovakia0.00%0.00%14.30%Yes
Central African Republic0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
New Zealand0.00%0.00%36.60%Yes
Croatia0.00%0.00%5.10%Yes
Moldova0.00%0.00%1.40%No
Georgia0.00%7.00%0.70%MostlyConstitution declares freedom of religion, but also designates official church and includes reference to God
Uruguay0.00%0.00%40.70%Yes
Puerto Rico0.00%0.00%1.90%No
Namibia0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Botswana0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Gabon0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Guinea Bissau0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Guyana0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Luxembourg0.00%0.00%26.80%No
Malta0.00%0.00%2.50%No
Barbados0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Kiribati0.00%0.00%0.00%MostlyConstitution references God, but also establishes freedom of religion
Micronesia0.00%0.00%0.00%Yes
Tonga0.00%0.00%0.00%No
Seychelles0.00%0.00%0.00%No
Nauru0.00%0.00%0.00%NoConstitution references God, but also establishes freedom of religion

Secular Countries 2022

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