Time and history have revealed almost countless Gods. However, in some countries, more and more people are choosing to believe in none.
In Switzerland, where religious freedom is set out in the constitution, the portion of the population with no religious affiliation is approaching 25%, according to figures for 2016 published this year.
In Switzerland, religion is a cantonal matter, and in some cantons nearly half of the population belong to no religion.
In the canton of Basel-City, an estimated 47.5% belong to no religion. Not far behind are the cantons of Neuchâtel (44.4%) and Geneva (40.3%).
In nearly all cantons, except Geneva and Neuchâtel, religious institutions and the state are intertwined – state and religion are legally separate in Geneva and Neuchâtel.
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In Switzerland, it literally pays to have no religious affiliation. Nearly all cantons and municipalities levy a special religious tax. In all cantons, except Vaud, taxpayers can choose whether to pay this tax – Vaud funds religion out of the general tax pot making it effectively compulsory, although it is possible to opt out of the commune portion of what the commune spends on religious institutions.
Faithlessness is growing in Switzerland. In 2000, only 11.1% were estimated to follow no religion. By 2016, the figure had risen to 24.9%. In Basel-City it grew from 31.0% to 47.5%.
In 2016, another 1.0% of Switzerland’s residents turned their backs on religion. In the cantons of Glaris (+3.6%), Appenzell Innerrhoden (+2.5%), Thurgau (+2.1%) and Neuchâtel (+2.1%) the shift was far greater. Across Switzerland, 80% of the decline in 2016 was among Roman Catholics.