Ron Guhname recently posted an excerpt from What Americans Really Believe by Rodney Stark as a counterpoint to the notion that belief runs along a continuum from religion to skepticism. It showed that a higher proportion of those who don’t attend church regularly buy into superstitions like Bigfoot, UFOs, and Astrology.
This point reminded me of the results of the 2005 Eurobarometer poll on the topic of Europeans’ beliefs regarding the existence of the divine. Here’s a map of Europe where the brighter the country, the higher the rate of belief in God (a country where 100% professed belief in God would be white, whereas a country where 0% did would be black). Translucent areas weren’t included in the poll:
Clearly there’s a wide range of opinions on the topic of God’s existence throughout Europe. Interestingly enough, most of the countries that have the low rates of belief are in Western Europe rather than in the former Communist states of Eastern Europe.
Now, despite the fact that in many European countries, the majority of the population does not believe in God, atheists do not make up a majority, or even a plurality, in any of the countries surveyed. The country with the highest proportion of atheists, as can be seen in the following map, was France, where 33% of respondents claimed not to believe in God or any spirit, god, or life force as compared to the 34% who believe in God.
The balance is made up by those who do believe in spirits, gods, and/or a life force, which in every country except France, proved to be a larger number than those who rejected all supernatural entities:
One can show all three in the same map by assigning each one a color channel as I have done below:
As should be clear, the main dichotomy is not between believers in God and those who reject the supernatural, but rather between those who believe in God and those who believe in spirits, gods, and life forces, with France having a roughly even split between the three categories.
I don’t think that this bodes well for religious skeptics, such as the New Atheists, who seek to replace the religious views of the populace with rational, non-superstitious modes of thought. Humans have a tendency to replace one superstition with another, so while reducing the adherents to monotheistic faiths does open the door for more atheism, it mainly leads to less ordered superstition.