Comparing Least Religious Countries With Most Religious – Do We Need Religion to Thrive as a Society?

In a previous article, a few posters suggested that religion was needed in order to maintain a thriving country. I disagree, but statistics should be able to show us whether or not that assertion is true or at least if it’s likely to be true.

According to Gallup here is a list of the least and most religious countries. Underneath each country I will use Wiki to list the GDP, literacy rate, homicide rate per 100,000 and life expectancy to show somewhat the financial prosperity, education, violent crime rate and health of its citizens. When available, I will also give the rating of each country in brackets. For example, if the literacy rate says 99% with a (20th) beside it, it means that it ranks 20th overall in the world with a 99% literacy rate.

Let’s get started.

11 Least Religious – Listed From Least Religious to Most

Estonia 14% religious

GDP – 24.65 billion (98th)

Literacy – 99.8% (3rd in the world)

Life expectancy – 71.4 years (104th in the world)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 6.7

Sweden 17%

GDP – 354.7 billion (33rd)

Literacy -99% (42nd in world)

Life expectancy -80.9 years (20th in world)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 1.2

Denmark 18%

GDP – $313.8 billion (46th)

Literacy – 99% (28th)

Life expectancy – 78.3 (36th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 1.1

Norway 20%

GDP – $276.5 billion

Literacy – 99% (20th)

Life expectancy – 80.2 (13th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 0.8

Czech Republic 21%

GDP – 260.6 billion (42nd)

Literacy – 99% (20th)

Life expectancy – 76.5 (44th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 2.2

Azerbaijan 21%

GDP – $46.38 billion (76th)

Literacy – 99.5% (13th)

Life expectancy – 67.5 (124th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 2.4

Hong Kong 21%

GDP – $325.8 billion

Literacy – 94.6% (76th)

Life expectancy – 82.2 (2nd)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 0.6

Japan 25%

GDP – $5.4 trillion (3rd)

Literacy – 99% (20th)

Life expectancy – 82.6 (1st)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 0.5

France 25%

GDP – $2.7 trillion (5th)

Literacy – 99% (20th)

Life expectancy – 76.4 (45th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 1.6

Mongolia 27%

GDP – $9.4 billion (150th)

Literacy – 97.5% (59th)

Life expectancy – 66.8 (128th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 13.1

Belarus 27%

GDP – $116 billion (60th)

Literacy – 99.7 (7th)

Life expectancy – 69 (117th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 8.3

11 Most Religious – Listed From Most Religious to Least

Egypt 100% religious

GDP – $500.9 billion (27th)

Literacy – 66.4% (156th)

Life expectancy – 71.3 (106th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 0.7

Bangladesh 99%

GDP – $104.9 billion (45th)

Literacy – 55.9% (163rd)

Life expectancy – 64.1 (142nd)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 2.3

Sri Lanka 99%

GDP – 59 Billion

Literacy – 94.2% (81st)

Life expectancy – 72.4 (91st)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 7.2

Indonesia 98%

GDP – $1.0 trillion (15th)

Literacy – 92% (91st)

Life expectancy – 70.7 (110th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 8.9

Congo 98%

GDP – $4.15 billion

Literacy – 81.1% (127th)

Life expectancy – 55.3 (164th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 18.8

Sierra Leon 98%

GDP – 1.9 billion

Literacy – 40.9% (174th)

Life expectancy – 42.6 (190th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 34

Malawi 98%

GDP – $8.272 billion

Literacy – 73.7% (139th)

Life expectancy – 48.3 (179th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 18

Senegal 98%

GDP – $11.12 billion

Literacy – 49.7% (171st)

Life expectancy – 63.1 (146th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 14.2

Djibouti 98%

GDP – $1.738 billion

Literacy – 70.3% (146th)

Life expectancy – 54.8 (165th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 3.5

Morocco 98%

GDP – $153,257 billion (54th)

Literacy – 56.1% (162nd)

Life expectancy – 71.2 (107th)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 0.5

United Arab Emirates 98%

GDP – $201 billion

Literacy – 90% (102nd)

Life expectancy – 78.7 (31st)

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 0.7

And just for kicks and giggles, let’s look at the average between the two when it comes to homicide rates for the people who always say you need religion to have morals.

Average homicide Rate in the least religious countries

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 3.5

Average homicide rate in the most religious countries

Homicide rates per 100,000 – 9.89

Now that’s out of the way, I think you can clearly see that the less religious countries are doing better than the more religious countries – they’re wealthier, have lower homicide rates, better life expectancy and have more robust economies.

In fact, when I was researching the lists, the countries were rated best to worst when it came to life expectancy and literacy. After the first few, I would scroll from the top down to find the stats on the least religious and the bottom up to find them on the most religious. That alone should tell you something.

By no means does this prove indefinitely that religion is the cause of these things, but I think it’s rather curious how it played out. I also did an article similar to this one that showed stats between the least religious States in America and the most religious and it had similar results.

When you look at the two groups, I know which group I’d choose to live in if given the choice. How about you?

Even Estonia, which has the least religious population has had one of the fastest growing economies since the breakup of the Soviet Union. After doing the statistics part of this article, I began to look at reasons for the discrepancy. I ran across this:

In 2008, intelligence researcher Helmuth Nyborg examined whether IQ relates to denomination and income, using representative data from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, which includes intelligence tests on a representative selection of white American youth, where they have also replied to questions about religious belief. His results, published in the scientific journal Intelligence, demonstrated that Atheists scored an average of 1.95 IQ points higher than Agnostics, 3.82 points higher than Liberal persuasions, and 5.89 IQ points higher than Dogmatic persuasions. [4]

The relationship between countries’ belief in a god and average Intelligence Quotient, measured by Lynn, Harvey & Nyborg.[5]

Nyborg also co-authored a study with Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, which compared religious belief and average national IQs in 137 countries. [5] The study analysed the issue from several viewpoints. Firstly, using data from a U.S. study of 6,825 adolescents, the authors found that atheists scored 6 IQ points higher than those adhering to a religion.

Secondly, the authors investigated the link between religiosity and intelligence on a country level. Among the sample of 137 countries, only 23 (17%) had more than 20% of atheists, which constituted “virtually all… higher IQ countries.” The authors reported a correlation of 0.60 between atheism rates and level of intelligence, which was determined to be “highly statistically significant”[5].

Professor Gordon Lynch, from London’s Birkbeck College, expressed concern that the study failed to take into account a complex range of social, economic and historical factors— each of which has been shown to interact with religion and IQ in different ways.[6]. Gallup surveys, for example, have found that the world’s poorest countries are consistently the most religious, perhaps because religion plays a more functional role (helping people cope) in poorer nations

I suppose it could be because as education rises, the population tends to throw off the mantle of religion and in the case of the poorer countries listed above, the populace may still need it in order to draw strength from in times of hardship.

Whatever the case, I hope this at least puts a significant dent in the argument that society needs religion to thrive and have morals.



  1. According to Christian prophecy, in the end times, a great apostacy shall occur (you are proof of that) and the poor shall inherit the earth. Your study demonstrates that. Good work.

    Also, according to prophecy, Jesus shall come at a time with tne armies of the middle east overrun Jerusalem. The armies are decendants of the Mesepotanian people, like Iran. It is set to occur after Israel is reestablished. This occurred in 1948.

    Fulfillment of these prophecies is happening before your eyes and you appear to be part of them.

    Jesus came to encourage the world to live with love for one another and bring blessings to our communities through faith in God. The reason is that God wants to take us to the next stage of our evolution. A world based on love and sharing instead of war and greed. That's the vision you seem to think is not worth the effort. Sad.

  2. Wait… “jesus shall come at a time with the armies of the middle east…” – “God wants a world based on love and sharing instead of war and greed”. Aside from that horrid hypocrisy, the dude above was talking about how the least religious countries had the higher intelligence, less war and less homicide rates, whereas the most religious countries are undereducated and are horribly wartorn and have high homicide rates.

    “That's the vision you seem to think is not worth the effort. Sad.” Let's just ignore the facts and place our hypocrisy in the way…

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