Percentage of South Africans with no religion.

This comes from the CIA world fact book on South Africa:

Zion Christian 11.1%, Pentecostal/Charismatic 8.2%, Catholic 7.1%, Methodist 6.8%, Dutch Reformed 6.7%, Anglican 3.8%, Muslim 1.5%, other Christian 36%, other 2.3%, unspecified 1.4%, none 15.1% (2001 census)

I find that a bit surprising, didn’t think the number would be quite so high.

If I add up all the different Christian faiths on that list it’s 79.7%.


The category “None” no doubt includes traditional faiths, i.e. beliefs that include supernatural accounts of reality. These beliefs are often classified as “pagan” and conflated with no religious beliefs because they aren’t officially recognised as a religion per se, but rather as a cultural manifestation. I’d be surprised if genuine non-believers in SA (i.e. those rejecting all forms of supernaturalism) exceeded even two per cent of the general population.


I would have thought the other would have covered the “Pagan”

No, “Other” would be the category for faiths like Judaism or Seventh Day Adventism that are properly recognised as separate religions or sects but whose numbers are insufficiently represented to be individually listed with accuracy and/or usefulness. Very few pagan belief systems are classified as religions.

In any case, it would clearly be absurd in the SA context to think that a mere 2.3 per cent of the population holds such pagan beliefs. However, there may be some significant bias inherent in the questions that were polled to arrive at these statistics.


It is always in the framing of the question.

I used to be a pagan (chaos magician*) and just before I left they had finally organized themselves into an official group with some sort of recognition from the goverment so maybe the next poll will show different.

And I know the last poll was not perfect, I never got the forms to fill in.

It is all about the questions and how people percieved them when filling them in.

  • chaos magic is a weird branch in that it’s central tenant is not to believe/follow any single path but to pick and choose the one that suits your purpose at the time. (it is considered acceptable to pick Donald Duck as a god for a session)
    It’s other main point is that because one does not have a single set of rules, the practioner must accept responsibility for their own actions, there is no quick get out jail free card and neither is there original sin or past life overflows.

none could allso be some cases of database errors, mistypes, or someone who ticked two boxes. as much as i would be glad of more atheists, i doubt this is the case here. alas. :confused: missed out the Jewish population too… says this about “other” or non-religious for South Africa. I am pleasantly surprised there aren’t as many catholics as I thought 0:)

African Indigenous Churches made up the largest of the Christian groups. Some believe that many people claiming no affiliation with any organised religion adhered to traditional indigenous religions. Many people have syncretic religious practices combining Christian and indigenous influences.[21]

Other minority religions in South Africa are Sikhism, Jainism and Bahá’í Faith.

79.9% of Black residents are Christian, 17.5% have no religion, 0.2% are Muslim, 0.0% are Jewish, 0.0% are Hindu and 2.3% have other or undetermined beliefs.
86.8% of White residents are Christian, 8.8% have no religion, 0.2% are Muslim, 1.4% are Jewish, and 0.0% are Hindu. 2.7% have other or undetermined beliefs

The situation is hardly as clear-cut as it is made to appear, especially with that part of SA’s population classified as “Black residents.” (Exactly which ethnicities do these “residents” groupings include, anyway? The Wikipedia article describes them but seems to ignore Indians, Coloureds, etc. in its figures for religion.) The nationwide figures are inferred from a random poll which relies on self-identification. This would be okay except that most black South Africans’ belief systems encompass a veritable hotchpotch of traditional and (allegedly) christian ideas. These people do not generally view the traditional components of their beliefs (such as ancestor worship, spiritualistic notions, witchcraft, sympathetic magic esp. in regard to healing, and related rituals and practices) as religion because they are so tightly woven into the African social fabric as to be almost inseparable from the group identity. Instead, when asked what religion they follow, most will readily self-identify as one or other flavour of christian because those traditional precepts don’t fit their concept of what a religion entails.

The bottom line is that the cited figures must be read with much caution and an appreciation for the baggage and background complications they come loaded with.


So. Where’s the black jews at?