A recently released report from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago shows which countries have the most, and the least, belief in God by population percentage.
The Philippines, a predominantly Catholic nation, was found to have the highest percentage (84 percent) of people who "know God really exists and ... have no doubts about it," and the lowest percentage (less than one percent) of people who said they "don't believe in God" at all.
The report, titled "Beliefs about God across Time and Countries," analyzes 30 countries based on surveys from the International Social Survey Programme conducted as far back as 1991 and as recently as 2008. The survey's findings do not include Middle Eastern countries where a Muslim majority exists.
Those surveyed were asked a number of questions to help researchers measure their collective belief in God. First, they asked a question to determine whether those surveyed were atheists, agnostics, deists, waivers (those who believe in God only some of the time), weak believers (those who believe but have doubts) or strong believers. They were also asked how their belief has changed during their lifetime, and whether or not they believed in a God "who concerns himself with every human being personally."
"While there is a modest, general shift away from belief in God, there is enormous variation across countries in the level of believers, atheists, and intermediate groups," the report states.
Among all the nations mentioned in the report, atheism is highest in former East Germany, where 52 percent of people don't believe in God. Smith indicates in his analysis that "countries with high atheism (and low strong belief) tend to be ex-Socialist states and countries in northwest Europe. Countries with low atheism and high strong belief tend to be Catholic societies, especially in the developing world, plus the United States, Israel, and Orthodox Cyprus."
Among Americans, 81 percent say they have always believed in God, compared to just 37 percent in Great Britain, 25 percent in Japan and 13 percent in former East Germany.
Sixty-one percent of Americans said they know God exists, while three percent identified themselves as nonbelievers.
In Japan, only nine percent of the Japanese people said they don't believe in God, yet only four percent said they know God exists – the lowest out of all the countries surveyed. People from Japan were more likely to indicate that they fell somewhere in the middle, and they either believed in God some of the time or said they were agnostic.
"Japanese people actually are spiritual people. They're not religious people, but they're spiritual people ... They have a belief in a lot of different types of deities," Richard Chuman, executive director of the Japanese Evangelical Missionary Society (JEMS), told The Christian Post on Monday.
Chuman says the biggest hindrance to Christianity in Japan is that it is seen primarily as a "Western religion," but there are other cultural factors as well. Many Japanese churches are very traditional, some would say behind the times, and they often adhere to firm denominational divides instead of assisting another in reaching their nation. Some of the more recently successful churches are those that are less traditional and work toward appealing to the nation's youth.
Japanese people who travel to the United States or Australia are more likely to become Christians while abroad, Chuman says, because they are removed from their culture. Often, when these Christians return to Japan, they see themselves as "catalysts for change" in their homeland.
When asked if they believe in a God "who concerns himself with every human being personally," 92 percent of people from The Philippines said they did, as compared to just 24 percent of people in Japan and 68 percent of Americans.