absence of espoused belief in a God or god

'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 termEdit

The term "nontheism" was first used by G. J. Holyoake in 1852,.[1] He used it because of the bad associations with the term atheism.

"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 SocietyEdit

Today, about 2.3% of the world's population describes itself as atheist. About 11.9% is described as 'nontheist'.[2] Between 64% and 65% of Japanese describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or non-believers,[3][4] and up to 48% in Russia.[3] The percentage of such people in European Union member states ranges between 6% (Italy) and 85% (Sweden).[3]

Related pagesEdit


  1. "The Reasoner", New Series, No. VIII. 115
  2. "Worldwide Adherents of All Religions by Six Continental Areas, Mid-2005". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2005. 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.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Zuckerman, Phil. "Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns", The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, ed. by Michael Martin, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2005.
  4. 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%.)