Two thirds of people worldwide are religious, according to a poll of belief in 65 countries. This contrasts with the picture in the UK where two thirds of people are either convinced atheists or not religious, according to Gallup International poll. The poll also shows that worldwide, young people are more religious than older generations, indicating the level of religious belief globally is likely to rise.
In the UK, just three in ten people said they were religious. More than half, 53 per cent, said they were not religious. More than one in ten, 13 per cent, said they were convinced atheists.
In the United States, nearly six in ten people, 56 per cent, said they were religious. One third said they were not religious and just six per cent were convinced atheists.
Gallup International researched the religious beliefs of 63,898 people from 65 countries across the globe. They were not asked what their faith was, just whether they were a religious person, not a religious person, a convinced atheist or whether they did not know.
Worldwide, six out of ten, 63 per cent, said they were religious, while one in five, 22 per cent, said they were not and one in ten, 11 per cent, considered themselves convinced atheists. In Africa and the Middle East more than eight out of 10 people, 86 per cent and 82 per cent respectively, portrayed themselves as religious.
China emerged the least religious country with six in ten people stating they were convinced atheists, twice the number of any other country. China is followed by Hong Kong and then Japan, both with more than three in ten espousing atheism.
In the Czech Republic, three in ten said they were atheists and next was the once-devoutly Catholic nation of Spain where one in five people said they were atheists and a further third said they were not religious. Fewer than four in ten people in Spain said they were religious.
The poll showed Thailand to be the most religious country globally with more than nine in ten people being religious. More than nine in ten people said they were religious also in Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia and Morocco.
Western Europe and Oceania were where opinions were most polarised. In Western Europe, 43 per cent said they were religious and 37 per cent said they were not. It was also in these two regions and in Asia where the largest number of atheists were found - 14 per cent in Western Europe and Asia and 12 per cent in Oceania.
The most religious regions were Africa, the Middle East and North Africa where more than eight in ten considered themselves religious.
In Israel, 65 per cent of those asked said that they were either not religious or convinced atheists, compared to just 30 per cent who said they were religious. In the Palestinian Territories, the West Bank and Gaza, 75 per cent said they were religious compared to 18 per cent who said they were not.
Globally, younger people aged under 34 were more religious - about 66 per cent as against about 60 per cent for the other age groups. The poll found that income was a better indicator of religiosity than education. Among those with a medium high and high income, under half were religious, against seven in ten of those with low, medium low and medium incomes. Likewise, the number of convinced atheists was as high as 22 per cent and 25 per cent among people with medium high and high income but only 6 per cent and 5 per cent among people with low and medium low income.
Jean-Marc Leger, president of WIN/Gallup International Association, said:
"Religion continues to dominate our everyday lives and we see that the total number of people who consider themselves to be religious is actually relatively high. Furthermore, with the trend of an increasingly religious youth globally, we can assume that the number of people who consider themselves religious will only continue to increase."