What is the breakdown of atheists in the population of America, various other countries and in prison?
The Federal Bureau of Prisons does have statistics on religious affiliations of inmates. The following are total number of inmates per religion category:
The following information has been circulating on the Internet but no additional references have been found - if you can back up this information, please update this page:* During 10 years in Sing-Sing, those executed for murder were 65% Catholics, 26% Protestants, 6% Hebrew, 2% Pagan, and less than 1/3 of 1% non-religious.
Among those adults who stated they do have religious beliefs, almost two-thirds (62%) of Italians say they have the same religious beliefs as both their parents. In stark contrast, just under two in five (39%) British adults share the same religious beliefs as either of their parents. In the U.S. about half (48%) of adults who stated they have religious beliefs say they share the same as both of their parents.
This FT/Harris Poll was conducted online by Harris Interactive® among a total of 12,507 adults (aged 16 and over), within France (2,134); Germany (2,127); Great Britain (2,090); Spain (1,991); the United States (2,078), and Italy (2,087), aged 18 and over, between 30th November and 15th December 2006.
Majorities in all five European countries favor separation of church and state. However, majorities in only three of five countries favor the teaching of religion in state schools.
Across the five European countries surveyed, large majorities believe that the church and state should be kept separate in modern Europe. Adults in France (86%), Spain (84%) and Germany (77%) are more likely to say this, while British and Italian adults are somewhat less likely to agree with this sentiment (70% and 71% respectively).
Modest majorities in Germany (56%) and in Britain (56%) and a larger majority in Italy (68%) favor the teaching of religion in public schools. However, many people in the United States (59%) and France (72%) are opposed to this, as are half (49%) of adults in Spain.
Humphrey Taylor, Chairman of The Harris Poll®, Harris Interactive, states, "Given that the Queen is Head of the Church of England, and that Italy and Spain are usually thought of as Catholic countries, this is a remarkable finding."
French and U.S. adults show a large difference in their attitudes toward the wearing of religious symbols and veils while in school.
While just one in 10 French adults believe children should be allowed to wear religious signs or articles of clothing at school, more than three-quarters (77%) of Americans believe that this should be allowed.
Among other European adults, Italians (61%) are significantly more likely than British (48%), German (40%) or Spanish (44%) adults to agree that children should be allowed to wear religious signs or articles of clothing.
Slightly more than two in five (43%) of all respondents indicated they were aware that the Dutch government has plans to draw up legislation that will ban the public wearing of all Islamic veils such as burqas, which cover the body and face. British, French and Italians are most likely to believe that the Dutch government should have the right to ban all Islamic veils which cover the body and face in all public places (39%, 39% and 35% respectively). In contrast, Americans are most likely to state that Islamic women should have the right to wear the Islamic veils if they wish to do so (59%).
More than half (58%) of Italians believe that governments should legislate against forms of religious blasphemy, such as depriving something of its sacred character (for example, burning a bible or the Koran). This view was less prevalent in Spain (46%), France (42%), Germany (41%), Great Britain (37%), and the U.S. (31%)
Other notable findings from the survey include:
The popular media balyhoo the fiction that science is supportive of religion. One issue of Newsweek (July 20, 1998) featured a cover story "Science finds God" which gave many innocent readers the impression that scientists in droves were finding scientific "evidence" allowing for God and an afterlife and were jumping on the religion bandwagon. Some of these 1998 reports were stimulated by a June 1998 Science and the Spiritual Quest Conference organized by Robert John Russell, and sponsored by The Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Since this is an organization devoted to the reconciliation of science and religion it's no surprise the the speakers were supportive of the idea of the possibility of god and/or an afterlife, though some of the papers were so speculative and abstruse that it's hard to tell whether they were profound philosophy or mere moonshine. One wonders whether some speakers came just for the stipend provided by the John Templeton Foundation. Several Nobel-Prize winning scientists gave papers at this meeting. The papers were mostly philosophical and speculative. No new hard evidence was produced. News reports failed to put these wishful speculations in perspective by pointing out that most scientists are, in fact, not religious. And the percent of "leading" scientists who hold religious beliefs has been declining from around 30% in 1914 to less than 10% in 1998.
[Summary of a paper that appeared in the 23 July 1998 issue of Nature by Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham: "Leading Scientists Still Reject God." Nature, 1998; 394, 313.]
Larson and Witham present the results of a replication of 1913 and 1933 surveys by James H. Leuba. In those surveys, Leuba mailed a questionnaire to leading scientists asking about their belief in "a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind" and in "personal immortality". Larson and Witham used the same wording [as in the Leuba studies], and sent their questionnaire to 517 members of the [U.S.] National Academy of Sciences from the biological and physical sciences (the latter including mathematicians, physicists and astronomers). The return rate was slightly over 50%.
The results were as follows (figures in %):
BELIEF IN PERSONAL GOD 1914 1933 1998
Personal belief 27.7 15 7.0
Personal disbelief 52.7 68 72.2
Doubt or agnosticism 20.9 17 20.8
BELIEF IN IMMORTALITY 1914 1933 1998
Personal belief 35.2 18 7.9
Personal disbelief 25.4 53 76.7
Doubt or agnosticism 43.7 29 23.3
Note: The 1998 immortality figures add up to more than 100%. The misprint is in the original. The 76.7% is likely too high.
The authors elaborated on these figures:
Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality).
Larson and Witham close their report with the following remarks:
As we compiled our findings, the NAS issued a booklet encouraging the teaching of evolution in public schools.... The booklet assures readers, 'Whether God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral'. NAS president Bruce Alberts said: 'There are many very outstanding members of this academy who are very religious people, people who believe in evolution, many of them biologists.' Our survey suggests otherwise."
There is a review of earlier studies of the religiosity of scientists at pp 180ff of:
Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi and Michael Argyle. The Psychology of Religious Behaviour, Belief and Experience. London & New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN: 0-415-12330-5 (hbk) or 0-415-12331-3 (pbk).
On the subject of eminent scientists, they mention unpublished data collected by one of the co-authors: "Beit-Hallahmi (1988) found that among Nobel Prize laureates in the sciences, as well as those in literature, there was a remarkable degree of irreligiosity, as compared to the populations they came from." The reference is to: Beit-Hallahmi, B. (1988). The religiosity and religious affiliation of Nobel prize winners. Unpublished data.
Fifty-two percent of adults in America are Protestant, 24.5% are Catholic, and 14.1% adhere to no religion, according to the latest American Religious Identification Survey, 2001 ("ARIS 2001") just released by The Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Those giving their religion as Jewish are 1.3% and those as Muslim or Islamic are 0.5%.
With a sample of over 50,000 randomly selected respondents aged 18 or over, ARIS 2001 is the most comprehensive portrait of religious identification in the U.S. today. First conducted in 1990 and repeated this year, the survey fills a gap left by the Census, which does not ask about religion. Nearly 95% of those interviewed were willing to indicate their religious identification and views on important questions about their beliefs. The findings, weighted to be representative of the 208 million U.S. adult population, include national and state-by-state examinations of religious identification in relation to racial/ethnic identification, education, age, marital status, voter registration status and political party preference. 
Last updated by Nelson Mar 5, 2009.