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By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – The fastest growing "religious" group in America is made up of people with no religion at all, according to a Pew survey showing that one in five Americans is not affiliated with any religion.
The number of these Americans has grown by 25% just in the past five years, according to a survey released Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The survey found that the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing even faster among younger Americans.
Thirty-three million Americans now have no religious affiliation, with 13 million in that group identifying as either atheist or agnostic, according to the new survey.
Pew found that those who are religiously unaffiliated are strikingly less religious than the public at large. They attend church infrequently, if at all, are largely not seeking out religion and say that the lack of it in their lives is of little importance.
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And yet Pew found that 68% of the religiously unaffiliated say they believe in God, while 37% describe themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious.” One in five said that they even pray every day.
John Green, a senior research adviser at Pew, breaks the religiously unaffiliated into three groups. First, he says, are those who were raised totally outside organized religion.
Survey: Protestants no longer majority in U.S.
Second are groups of people who were unhappy with their religions and left.
The third group, Green says, comprises Americans who were never really engaged with religion in the first place, even though they were raised in religious households.
“In the past, we would describe those people as nominally affiliated. They might say, 'I am Catholic; I am a Baptist,' but they never went" to services, Green says of this last group. “Now, they feel a lot more comfortable just saying, ‘You know, I am really nothing.’ ”
According to the poll, 88% of religiously unaffiliated people are not looking for religion.
“There is much less of a stigma attached" to not being religious, Green said. “Part of what is fueling this growth is that a lot of people who were never very religious now feel comfortable saying that they don't have an affiliation.”
Demographically, the growth among the religiously unaffiliated has been most notable among people who are 18 to 29 years old.
According to the poll, 34% of “younger millennials” - those born between 1990 and 1994 - are religiously unaffiliated. Among “older millennials,” born between 1981 and 1989, 30% are religiously unaffiliated: 4 percentage points higher than in 2007.
Poll respondents 18-29 were also more likely to identify as atheist or agnostic. Nearly 42% religious unaffiliated people from that age group identified as atheist or agnostic, a number far greater than the number who identified as Christian (18%) of Catholic (18%).
Green says that these numbers are “part of a broader change in American society.”
“The unaffiliated have become a more distinct group,” he said.
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Pew's numbers were met with elation among atheist and secular leaders. Jesse Galef, communications director for the Secular Student Alliance, said that the growth of the unaffiliated should translate into greater political representation for secular interests.
“We would love to see the political leaders lead on this issue, but we are perfectly content with them following these demographic trends, following the voters,” Galef said.
“As more of the voters are unaffiliated and identifying as atheist and agnostics, I think the politicians will follow that for votes.
“We won’t be dismissed or ignored anymore,” Galef said.
The Pew survey suggested that the Democratic Party would do well to recognize the growth of the unaffiliated, since 63% of them identify with or lean toward that political group. Only 26% of the unaffiliated do the same with the Republican Party.
"In the near future, if not this year, the unaffiliated voters will be as important as the traditionally religious are to the Republican Party collation,” Green predicted.
Green points to the 2008 exit polls as evidence for that prediction. That year, Republican presidential nominee John McCain beat President Barack Obama by 47 points among white evangelical voters, while Obama had a 52-point margin of victory over McCain among the religiously unaffiliated.
According to exit polls, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated Americans who supported the Democratic presidential candidate grew 14 points from 2000 to 2008.
In announcing the survey’s findings at the Religion Newswriters Association conference in Bethesda, Maryland, Green said the growing political power of the unaffiliated within the Democratic Party could become similar to the power the Religious Right acquired in the GOP in the 1980s.
“Given the growing numbers of the unaffiliated, there is the potential that that could be harnessed,” he said.
Bib, turn on your hearing aid, GOD is calling you.
Does your god really need a hearing aid for his followers to hear him? A god relying on science...interesting concept.
Nah, thats just your abusive childhood banging against your Id.
There are pills for that now
My invisible pink unicorn is praying for you.
@MagicPanties Don't go dragging Twilight Sparkle into this. Oh, she is a purple unicorn, never mind.
Once you understand that this is it for you, your view of the world changes. In reality one becomes more aware of our need to work together to make life better for ourselves. Additionally, existence becomes even more fascinating, and a curious wonder. Reverence for life increases. To beleive that this is not of our doing and that we are subservient to some higher power, only enslaves us and gives rise to doubt our own potential. One wonders why people grasp onto the notions of a bunch of violent and supersitious people running amok in the desert in the middle east several thousand years ago. I mean just look at the middle east today....really now, do you think these people got it right?
God is not dead... He is alive and living on the inside of me and all who call on Him.
I did not grow up in a religious home. Through prayers of others, God revealed Himself in me. Its amazing what He has done and is doing in me. All the proof I need is found in the fact that He has done in my life what I was not and am not able to do myself.
I pray for God to reveal Himself to you. He loves you.
Yup, he lives in you and Jerry Sandusky.
You both use the same con.
LOL just llike he loves those millions of children that die everyday across the world.
God couldn't care less about your.
All the proof I need is – means you don’t have any. You’ve simply fallen prey to peer pressure.
There may be hope for the human race after all.
Now, if the middle east would start climbing out of the middle ages...
Biological weapons are the cure.
All in all, it's kind of puzzling, the whole atheist thing. If man wrote the Bible, as in recorded things they saw, events, etc., just as a scientist records his/her findings, isn't a person making a choice as to whom he/she believes? Some may say "well you can do the experiment again". But most can't redo, or have the means to redo, the scientists work or much less do every last experiment one's self as proof just the same as a person can't go back in time and witness the events of the Bible. Someone has to believe someone. Question is who's telling the truth.
The collection of stories in the bible were variously written tens or hundreds of years after the alleged facts.
So these accounts were passed down through generations in many cases, and you think they might actually have a lot of truth left?
Never mind that it has been clearly shown that so many of the stories are obviously stolen and rewritten by other, older mythologies (virgin births, co-opting pagan holidays, etc.).
Don't believe "just because", try thinking.
pasi – the bible is a collection of myths and fables. there is no reason whatsoever to suggest that it is a factual account.
And what of all the scientific experiments fueled by politics. Results being skewed by people's agendas. Even Darwin quoted that there are inconsistencies in his theories. Besides, thinking will only get you so far. As I said, you'd end eventually having to do the experiment yourself or believe in some other mans results.
By the way, the Bible is much older in the sense that the Bible is multiple books in itself. Some are VERY old i.e. the book of Isaiah.
pasi – all knowledge is cu m ulative. suggesting we not rely on previous knowledge is unrealistic. we can not all do all our own experiments.
of course, this has nothing to do with religion. religion is invented by primitive man in an attempt to answer the questions about the natural world that he does not posses the tools to answer.
can you believe i couldn't get the word cu m ulative through the filter? sheesh!
Too bad for you your good works won't bring you eternal life in heaven.
If you are there, I would rather be in hell.
Thanks for reminding us that your all-loving and all-merciful god will torture us horribly for eternity just because we don't love him back.
Wow, what's not to like?
chuck – heaven is an imaginary human construct, born of our fear of the unknown and death. nothing more.
Chuckie: Speaking for god, are you? Pompous fvck
Chase – great comment. I am religious, however I put a higher value on people who are morally good rather than those that are religiously affiliated. My favorite quote: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." – Gandhi
Jesus calls those "christians" Nicolaitans. And He truely hates them. I hate them myself. Unfortunately, they are the poster children of what people believe to be a follower of Christ.
And yet people are very much like your Christ’s father, violent, temperamental, egotistical and selfish.
The bible is like a "Nigerian Email" from the bronze-age.
dys – that is profound!
Athiests have become the gays of the 2010s. All up in your face about it. Who cares. I'm glad you found something to believe in...or not believe in in this case. Now shut up about it. You are as bad as the religious people who knock on doors at 730 am and annoy everyone.
But payback is on the menu.
Do you REALLY believe subjugated people will be passive once they are empowered?
Wow a Christian hypocrite…I’m shocked!
The USA has been in severe drought for a year, in an area with many religious people who pray constantly for rain. If there were a god, then by now there would at least be a checkerboard of well-watered fields (believers) among the dry fields (atheists). Since this is not happening, it seems to me at least there is no god-fairy. This works for any deity, as there are so very many farmers that some farmers praying to any deity would exist. But catholic, protestant, muslim, hindu, jewish – all have no rain.
Duke, I'm not sure how you can say there is no deity just because people pray to a deity for rain and it doesn't happen. It could mean that their particular deity doesn't exist, or then entire concept of a deity who performs miracles and answers prayers is wrong. It doesn't necessarily mean there is no deity at all.
That's why I prefer agnosticism. I'm not going to spout off things that I don't have positive (or negative) proof about.
@ David Murray
Agnostics are just atheist without conviction. You don’t NEED proof of the negative genius.
Now that Gays can come out of the closet and marry it will be MUCH more difficult to recruit priests.
Thank God for that.
Now if we can just distribute those vibrating crucifixs the nuns will also defect.
The end of the RCC is near!!
You can lead a good and moral life without religion. Unfortunateley, you see religion turn people into just the opposite.
To lead a moral life, where does one get morality? Who's defention of right and wrong?
We are selfish creatures by nature, yet our survival depends on cooperation. In order to balance these two conflicting instincts, mankind has had to develop rules that allow room for both.
These rules are not the same for all communities – hence we've had so many different types of religion and government throughout history.
Religion binds communities together by giving a common frame of reference. Shared fears (like divine retribution), hopes (like going to heaven) and rituals allow the instinct for self preservation to extend beyond one's self and immediate family.
Moral relativism is a truism.
For example: Our culture has a very strong cannibalism taboo, but it cannot be "human nature" to feel repulsed by it as virtually every branch of the human species has praticed it at some point in their development.
1. Ritual cannibalism is not exclusively a Catholic practice.
The Aztecs believed in transubstantiation as well. They consumed their human sacrifices in the belief that the dead literally became a part of the God to whom they were given.
Binerwurs in India ate the sick amongst them to please Kali.
The Karankawa, an indigenous Texan tribe, ritualistically consumed their enemies to gain their strength.
The Wari, The Kuru, Fore, Caribs, Fijians, Popayans, Serengipeans, are all fairly modern examples (within the last 500 years).
Indeed, Christians from the 1st Crusade consumed the fallen Arabs at Maarat.
Just be thankful that the modern form is limited to wafers and wine!
right – morality is a construct of civil society. it varies around the world, country to country, and even community to community.
Right for life
Societies, not your own.
If we used the Bible, the world would be worse than hell itself.
You are indoctrinated.
Where does morality come from? Empathy.
Where does immorality come from? Arbitrarily demanding blood sacrifice and tribute.
Long before organized religion, early peoples had their own moral rules.
This is good news. And yet there is only one congressperson who is openly atheist. We know that there is a correlation with more educated people being more likely to be atheist, so there are probably 30% of congress who are agnostic or atheist. We need some congresspeople to come out.
If a large majority of politicians are atheist, that would explain the sorry state of affairs and immoral compromises that occur in the field of politics. Not to mention, the most vile offenders in human history–Hilter, Mao, Pol Pot, etc were not religious.
Hitler wrote: "I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.."
Grist, we assume then you are not one of them. Based on your statement you are a idiot.
Where does truth come from?
It's called democracy.
Deal with it.
Truth is there to be discovered. Truth is everywhere. Do you have a specific truth you seek ?
right – truth about what?
He fasted for 40 days in the desert. An evil one promised him the riches of all the world if he would but bow to him. But he said it would not be worth it because he would lose his connection with God. In his life he spoke of love, truth and righteousness. In the end he was condemned and killed. Of his killers he said, "forgive them for they know not what they do."
Atheism is saying God doesn't exist. It is tempting because then the world becomes a place where you can do whatever you want. This is very compelling when you are young and healthy. Perhaps with time and experience your view of the size of your own importance will diminish somewhat.
Regarding science, as a person with a college education in science and 38 years working in scientific research I would estimate that the current collective understanding of medical and physical sciences is about 6% of the way to total understanding. So in my opinion it is premature to use science as an argument about God's existence.
So as you continue to live in the world I suggest you keep you eyes, hearts and options open. There are things bigger than yourselves all around you. When you see a new life from yourself begin or clearly see your own life ending very soon; perhaps you will find a connection to God in those. Many have.
Your infantile bronze-age myth is laughable.
And I don't need some magic space-pixie to make me be good; I can do it on my own. I'm an adult.
Atheisim is saying God is a lie, created by scoundrels and embraced by simpletons, designed to enslave minds and seperate fools from their money.
A common mistake is that failure to believe in a deity equates to immoral behavior. History is replete with examples of "believers" committing the worse acts possible. Atheists will have to go a long way to top extermination or ethnic cleansing or burning at the stake or.... Morality is not exclusive to believers. Who has the upper ground–those that endorse morality knowing that they will be rewarded in an afterlife or those that endorse morality knowing that it is the right thing to do without the promise of paradise?
Atheism is the lack of belief in a god. That's very different than a belief that no god exists. One is evidence-based while the other is faith-based.
My "personal" atheism leads me to doubt the existence of any god due to an utter lack of reliable/verifiable/repeatable evidence. As with any claim, I don't blindly dismiss the possibility. I merely ask for evidence to support the claim before I blindly believe it.
Thank you Avoice. You said it perfectly.
Atheism is self worship. You hardly hear an atheist utter a word without injecting something about how smart they are and how they have everything figured out......similar to what you just did. Now you are probably thinking that the other side of the coin is that Christians think they have everything figured out as well but you would be wrong about that. They actually dont have anything figured out. The basis of their religion is that they rely on a God for their answers. So yes, atheism is self worship.
@a reasonable atheist
I have respect for someone who can admit that they dont know because we have all been there or are currently there. Here is my question to you though. Can you explain to me quantum physics? Chances are that you can't and you have to rely on someone who has that experience to explain their findings. How is that different from someone explaining to you their experience with religion? You might have a tendency to want to say that there is tangible proof to quantum physics but if you listen to what those who have experienced God are saying, their experiences are just as tangible. Yes, I know people can point to many different extremists that are so far out in left field that you can no longer see them but I am talking about your average, everyday person. Just a thought.
The absence of religion does not mean an absence of morality. Not beliving in God does not give anyone the right to do whatever the want, there is plenty of history where the opposit is true. Life is a miracle whether it was a gift from God or just happened.
It is funny that you insist on God, but only the Christian God. Why is the Christian God the only one considered. Why haven't you considered Allah, Buddha, Ra, or even Jupiter. Those Gods could explain existence as easily as the Christian God could.
@Lester: Well, due to my background (PhD in materials science), I could actually explain quantum mechanics to a reasonable degree. However, to address your argument rather than dismiss it because I am an exception to it, I would say this:
The ideas behind QM can be and are readily verified. For instance, a Laue diffraction pattern observed in a TEM confirms some of the suppositions of QT. On the other hand, there is no known way to verify supernatural claims such as the existence of god(s) or consciousness divorced from the body (ie, a soul).
You may not wish to trust the scientist performing the observation, but there is nothing stopping you from picking up a quantum text and gaining enough of an understanding to interpret the data yourself.
Thanks for the thought food :)
For the christian faiths, I am not familiar enough with the many other faiths. Why is it necessary for believers to go to a place of worship in order to commune with God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit in this day and age? Wouldn't it be just as reasonable to find a quite place in nature to make that connection and avoid the dogma and strictures of the religion? It is the blind support of the various churches that I object to, as so much evil has been done by them; if there was a Jesus he would be appalled at what has been done in his name. But they need money, they always need more money, taken from George Carlin. Atheists/ agnostics can be just as spiritual as any believer without all the baggage of the church.
Common misconception. You dont have to go to a church building to worship God. A group of people meeting together is a church. The body of people is the church, not the building. Christians get together to encourage each other. It says in the bible to to forgo meeting together for this purpose. You have to remember that the definition of church as you are defining it is still made up of people, and lets all be honest, when grouped together, people are going to act strangely and sometimes back stabbing. This is why it is important to find those who you trust and mesh well with and that is your "church". As far as the money thing goes, churches are non-profits and need funds to continue providing services. In my view, if you attend that church and are active at that church building and believe what it is doing (A HUGE FACTOR) and want to see it continue, then you should contribute to the cause. You SHOULD NOT contribute to a church if church leaders are abusing any donations that are being contributed. A church should be a hub for those who are in need, not a hub for self gloating or self preservation.
Soon the cults shall be held responsible.
Prosecution for their persecutions, hopefully finished off with some executions!
Good morning, William.
I think it's finally time to explicitly split out the "non-religious" group into some of the subgroups that this article mentions. For example, "atheist" should be any easy one..."Do you believe in any gods?". Agnostic should also be easy..."Are you uncertain about the existence of any gods?". I'm an atheist myself, so I'm not too interested in whether a Christian is "practicing" or "serious" or "nominally Christian", but I suppose those could be academically interesting stats, too. I am encouraged by the trends, in any case. Although many "non-religious" are probably just temporarily disillusioned by the hypocrisy, anger, intolerance, persecution and lack of compassion professed loudly of many adherents of their faiths. I suspect that they would quickly move back into the fold if some of the more controversial religious figures and mean-spirited messages were to be discredited or rejected.
Serious question Sid, as an agnostic, do you regularly search for your own answers to if there is a god or not or do you just wait around for proof to find you? I can see how someone can call themselves and agnostic if they have not satisfied themselves as to the proof of god. Just curious.
I cannot speak for Sid, but my journey led me to atheism after years of study and reflection. I never found evidence of the divine, but I found overwhelming evidence of the natural, of ignorance masquerading as divinity, and of confidence schemes. That was enough for me to comfortably self-identify as an atheist. After that, it became difficult to view the world's religions as anything more than "cultural pre-science" at their best and cynical manipulation of the masses at their worst.
You can always search more, but at some point, you have to live your life.
Lester: First, I'm an atheist, not an agnostic. And therein lies a whole other conversation (see below). Second, as a rule, one should never believe an arbitrary assertion, like "God exists", without evidence. And the burden of proof for the assertion is on the person making the claim. It is not up to me to DISprove the existence of god. This is common sense, and we ALL apply this standard to every other subject in our lives. So in some way I suppose I do wait around for proof that god exists. Why would I do otherwise? But I am OPEN to new evidence and to new interpretations of evidence. But being open-minded about it does not make me agnostic. Given what I know now, I am CERTAIN that there is no god, hence I am an atheist. Concluding that there is no god is the CORRECT conclusion given the evidence I have now. Being human, of course, I know that I do not know everything, and so I am willing to listen to knew evidence on the subject if any comes up (none has in quite a long time, now). But acknowledging my limitations (i.e. my "human-ness") does NOT make me uncertain about the non-existence of god. If it did, then I could never be "certain" about anything, in which case, what's the point of even having a concept called "certainty"? I realize that I use words differently from most people, so let me translate my views into "standard" terminology. I am not certain (by most peoples' definition) that god does not exist because, ironically, I don't have god-like knowledge about the universe. But I do know that disbelieving in god is the CORRECT thing for me to believe given what I DO know.
Fair enough. I think we would all be saddened to know just how far of a deviation "religion" has taken from its intended path with the injection of personal preferences and desires.
I think religions "intended path" is up for debate in the sense you are using it. Here are a few intended paths I see based upon different points of view and the also debatable origin of religion:
1) Establish a conduit to the divine for the purpose of worshipping it, earning favor, and receiving some sort of reward.
2) Dupe the uneducated into doing what the class in power wants them to do.
3) Establish rules to live by in order to create an ordered society.
4) Explain the workings of the natural world.
Finally, we're gaining ground and will out number you religious nut jobs one day. Go picket some gay guys funeral or something and have fun you wackos.
Ross, as a atheist you must be gay.
Yeah, gaining ground..... one in five. It has only taken thousands and thousands of years to get to this point so, yeah, soon enough!!
As an Atheist, I do good works because I want to. As believers, you guys do good works because you're told to and face eternal punishment otherwise. I'd say I come in higher on the moral stick...
As a Christian, I do good works because I want to. I've never been told I HAVE to. You don't understand and you never will.
Sorry, I can't hear you from up their on your high horse...
Chase, whether you realize it or not if you have morals you got them from religion. Atheists have no morals, they are egotistical idiots who only believe in themselves.
Please source where you find that it says to do good works or else.
Atheists do good works, Christians do good works. The issue isn't who is better at performing more good works and with better intention. Christians do good works because it flows from the love they have for God, not as a result of fear of or submission to God. When you love a family member, you WANT to do good things because it is how they practice their lives and how you were brought up. You don't do good works IN ORDER to love your family member. backwards thinking. Christians hold no higher moral ground than atheists, I agree. we are all sinners. There are christians that sin more than atheists. again, it JUST ISN'T THE POINT.
Local, if we got our morals from religion we would still have slaves, women wouldn't be able to vote, and we would stone adulterers to death. Get real. Our morals come from our need to work together to survive. Humans cannot survive alone, and to work together we cannot be worried that someone is going to stab us in the back or steal from us.
If you want to see a country where the "morals" come from the religion, try the middle east.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.