As part of the conversation about the characteristics and scope of secularization in contemporary society, the implications of low levels of self-defined atheism and explicit rejection of religion in nations with low levels of religious beliefs are not yet sufficiently explored. In response, this study uses aggregated data from the World Values Survey, the European Values Study, and Cross-National Socio-Economic and Religion Data from the Association of Religion Data Archives to investigate the relationships between nonbelief, atheism, and lack of confidence in churches or religious organizations. Regression findings show a concave curvilinear relationship between secularity (measured as the percentage of the population that does not believe in God) and irreligion (measured as (1) the percentage of self-defined atheists in a country and (2) the percentage of individuals in a country who have no confidence at all in religious organizations). In other words, this study suggests that nonbelief is associated with an increase in self-defined atheism and the lack of confidence in religious organizations, but that this effect wanes the more secular a society is. The findings further highlight the complexity of nonreligiosity and imply that a linear association cannot be assumed between measures of secularization, secularity, and irreligion.
- cross-national data