Editor's note: CNN recently won four first-place reporting awards from the Religion Newswriters Association. Read more about the awards here.
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.
This article made me laugh, and the comments made me fall on the floor laughing, because of the fact of how ignorant you all sound, and how ignorant this article is. SUCH A SHAME! This was only posted (JUST LIKE A SIMILAR ARTICLE ON YAHOO NEWS) for cnn to gain readers and the read your responses. And another thing, I hope you all feel like idiots right now, posting "YES!!! Whooooooooooooooooo!!! Celebration! Religion can go to hell! LOL." and "They are already there... The most evil force on this planet is religion.. I find "them" disgusting and very uneducated !" WHO IS THEM, DO YOU MEAN SOMEONE LIKE 'ME'? "Doug" I didn't know you find all Christians stupid and dumb and disgusting talk about being a hater. You sound more like Adolf Hitler than D o u g. The heck is wrong with you?? Whats wrong with all of you? Equality too hard for you guys swallow? I'm 18 and I learned my lesson ages ago that its best to live a "good" life without hatred and inequality. SICK SICK SICCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKK. Learn to realize that you have to get along with everyone to live a happy life. OUT.
That was a pretty passive aggressive, condescending post for someone who tries to live life "without hate". One of the most sarcastic, jerkish posts on this entire section.
I think you failed to learn your lesson of, "being happy without hate and inequality (which, btw, I think you mean, "intolerance")," judging from the tone of your post. You've a lot to learn, kid (grammar also included).
Good. Use your aggressive feelings, boy. Let the hate flow through you.
VCU – what do they have there – do they even have a bowling team?
"This article made me laugh, and the comments made me fall on the floor laughing,"
I think you must have bumped your head while you were down there. You talkin' gibberish.
OUT (of your mind)
Wow; sounds like you want to get along with at least two folks: you and yourself. Hope you get over 'yourself' at some point after you grow out of your 18yr old immaturity.
Oops, someone forgot to take their meds today.
congratulations. you sound like a moron.
VCU talks about hate yet his post was somewhat hateful. He/she called Doug "Adolph Hitler!" He/she claims to be 18 and learned their lesson "ages ago?" How long ago is "ages ago?" He/she sounds like all the other religous folks. If we don't believe what you believe, then we're ignorant and going to hell. Give me a break!
Interesting... you're a whole 18 & you have the answers. I envy you... I should have been as smart at 18.
History shows – as people as a whole become better off, the more religion tapers off. Now I'm not just going off the past 4 years but going back several decades. The United States as a whole is better off than almost all other countries when it comes to financial safety. (yes there are better, smaller places such as Dubai) Thus, the high prevalence of athiests. Richer folk don't really have a need for god unless it can help them in the real world since all their needs are met. Religion is psychological redemption for a shi**y real life.
i think the problem is that most religious leaders are insincere and act on their own interest. They really dont follow on what they teach. Many are looking for power through their affiliation to the republican. Many times they are also always asking for money. So people have notice you really dont need that kind of organized religion to have a relationship with God.
And you don't need god to have a relationship with reality.
Interesting article. All I have to ask is simple. See I am a believer in the Messiah/Son of YaHWeH Yahshua. And in my belief its good to go and spread the word. Not force people into a way of life, but just bring the idea to them and they can decide on their own. My question is this. If Atheist or Agnostics say to me/us "SHUT UP! No one wants to hear about your religion or faith, quit talking about it." Then why are you being hypocritical and talking about/spreading your way of life? If I find freedom in my faith, and you find freedom in your faith, yes atheism and agnosticism are faiths, then why can't we both share/express our way of lives and way of thinking? Why does one of us Have to shut down while the other has the right to go? smh I find it funny
fairy tails for grown-ups are pathetic. Believing in god is more idiotic than actually believing in Santa Claus, which is much more plausible.
I doubt there are any militant agnostics, certainly none I've heard of. But I can say as a non-religious person, I find the militant atheist angle to be rather silly. You know, the people who shut down any sign of religion in the public because it doesn't have a non-religious alternative, etc.
I can say the vast majority of non-religious people I meet don't even care about the entire lot of it, and just want people to live and let live. So basically my point is the people you're lashing out against are an extremist minority for it, not representative of most non-religious people. You hear the same exact argument against religious people–every ideology even if it's a non-ideology has people who take it too far. Go figure.
Everyone of course has the right to express and I would say a majority of atheists would heartily grant you that. What you don't have is the right to have your religious view codified into law, or state representation. Also you can express your views and others can express that your views are poorly held as well.
Good point chuckler, and as we can see Kyled is part of that "extremist minority" Santa claus? serious?! lol
Atheism and agnosticism are most definitely NOT faith-based. The very opposite, in fact. Faith is the world's worst method of making decisions. You should be ashamed of yourself for promoting it.
lol Richard how many times are you going to say the same thing about faith. That must be your little jab to the word "faith". Time to teach you, faith is a noun: trust, belief, confidence, hopefulness, hope. ANTONYMS mistrust. You Trust there is no God, you Believe there is no Creator, you have Confidence in your Belief, you Hope your belief is spread to everyone one day, and you mistrust religion. definitely faith dude
To me, there is a difference between spreading your word and trying to run it down someone's threat.
If you want to spread it, I don't mind, but once someone whos that they have no interest in converting, then you should leave them be.
Guess this just shows your ignorance on both subjects. First of all, God/Jesus cannot be categorized as fairytale, adult or otherwise, since fairy tales consist of imaginary beings and creatures, and since God/Jesus is not imaginary They cannot be labeled as such.. You continue to elaborate on your ignorance by denying Santa Clause, who is actually based a real person, Saint Nicholas. Hence the reference to Santa Clause as Good Ole St. Nick. So...in conclusion you now know why the fastest growing population is Hell, and why you have never received Christmas gifts.
You are more than welcome to share your delusions with other people. The problem I have with religious people is that they all tend to believe they know what God wants better than atheists and people in other religions. Then they set out to codify those beliefs into law or to turn people against those with different beliefs.
Eli: You seem to be getting the different words mixed up. Atheism is not the belief that there is no god. It´s the refutation of all god claims. There is a big difference, can you see that. I mean you are probably atheistic towards Quetzacatl and Thor, you probably refute all gods, but one. I´ve just taken my atheism one god further.
Saying that the lack of belief is a belief is as dishonest as saying that not playing football is a sport.
The concept of religion came from the fear of nature's forces. As man became civilized, religious beliefs became foundations. The Christian religions, grew secular.
The GOP is going to have a demographic problem "real soon now". Already they depend on only two groups (1) rich people and (2) White males who did not go to college. The first group simply does not have many members but can write the checks. The second group will become a minority by 2040. How will the GOP attract the groups with bigger numbers such as Educated women (2/3rds of all college students are female), Hispanics (will lose their minority status in 25 years or so) With these groups they can't survive.
So they'll have to transform themselves or they'll fail and some other party will step up to challenge the Democrats. It's a natural cycle really, the parties that pander to the poor and government dependent folks by offering more handouts usually win in the long run. Undoing big-government is several times harder than creating new laws and subsidies.
Look at Europe to the future, they'll several feet "left" of the US political discussion. The US will probably be there within the next decade or two. We'll have a lot of the same problems probably too.
Much better article than that last one CNN posted about the "religious v spiritual" issue! That one was pretty bad. Pew has a good rep and this article is factually sound. Thanx for restoring my faith in u, CNN :)
How do people not believe in anything. Yes I do believe in science, but remember we were created from an energy source, but the question is where did that energy source come from? That's the true question. I don't believe in god, but I do believe something is out there.
Where did you see anything whatsoever about "people who don't believe in anything"? This article is about people who don't believe in GODS. Please pay attention.
Using reductionism will not work. You can't ask "who made this?" because that question assumes it's own answer. It assumes some one made something. the correct question is "How did this come to be?" Reduction is always circular. The only way out is to finally understand that there was no "before". It is non-sense to even ask "what happened before time began?" Such time did not exist. It is like asking "what were you thinging three years before you were borne. Even if yu answer "nothing" you are saying to much.
There was no "creator" because nothing was created. Concepts like "cause", "create" and "after" and "before" do not exist in nature. Those are human inventions.
It's pretty easy. You just sort of wake up, put your pants on one leg at a time, and go about your day!
Have a little faith, in people not in god. God is just an imaginary friend for grown-ups
Having faith in people is pretty hard given how many terrible people there are out there.
How do you know are you God
The Definition of religion is: a belief system or to believe something
Being a atheist is a religion because they believe there is no God or nothing to believe in which in turn is a belief system
So in all reality atheist are religious and have a atheistic religion, they come together in a organization and talk about their beliefs which is a what religious people do lol
so they are contradicting themselves and are showing how unintelligent they really are. lol
Speaking of unintelligent, what is the organization that atheists "come together in"?
You're either a troll or a retard. Religion is the practice of deity worship.
um... atheists.org and like a hundred other websites lol
you are over confident in you ignorance
Commons sense should tell you that few atheists belong to any official atheist organizations. Fantasy and wishful thinking on your part. Get serious.
What is so ironic about Atheists, They’re always talking about God. lol
You are not the first to think of this. The idea goes back at least 1,000 years. I think you are technically correct by some dictionary definition. But you miss the important point. Religious people are people who believe things on "faith" Basically for no reason other then they want to believe. The atheist can decide to accept nothing on faith. He does NOT "take it on faith" that there is no god, he simply choose to only accept as true what can be seen or deduced from what can be seen.
In short atheism is not a faith in there being no god, it is a rejection of faith as a means to truth. It is not a religion.
Being atheist is not a religion. The only belief I have is in myself and my abilities (or lack thereof)
You are welcome!
Claiming to know there is no God is just as ignorant as claiming to know there is a God, which (in my eyes) reduces Athiesm to an ignorant belief, just as many Athiests view religion as ignorant. Humans are so small in this universe- just specks on a planet floating around one of billions of suns, in billions of galaxies. So for us to claim ANY knowledge on a being supposedly so greater than us is ignorant. I think there is no way of knowing anything for sure and that makes it more of a coin toss. Sure, specific stories in organized religion have been disproved but that doesn't disprove that there is not a god-like being (nor does it prove there is one!).
you seem to be an agnostic. But like any belief system, you have a right to what you think and others to what they think. It is childish to think that your belief system is superior.
Very few claim to know there is no God. That is foolishly untenable, and a strawman characteristic of atheism.
Until there is verifiable evidence that supports the existence of any god, I will continue to believe that no god exists. The same goes for unicorns, leprechauns, big foot and the Loch Ness monsters. If proof surfaces that any one of these ent!ties exist, I will be more than happy to believe. Personally, I consider it a logical position.
While I can't speak for all atheists, I do believe that most are simply looking for the truth.
Atheist do NOT claim there is no god. Simply, they chose not to associate to a deity of any kind. I once read something that drastically solidified my agnostic beliefs. If you believe that praying to your god gives you a spiritually feeling of being 'connected', I can tell you this is purely psychological. Further more, did it occur to you that many people of other faiths "feel" their gods as well? Hindis feel it from Vishnu, Muslims feel it from Allah, Hellenists felt it from Zeus, Apollo, etc....Why, in the entire history of humans and the 100,000,000,000 that have ever existed not been able to prove scientific evidence of a god?
Actually depending on the definition of Atheism it is an active disbelief in God, i.e. claiming there is no God. It depends on the definition and it's highly controversial. People who simply don't believe in God but aren't sure what's out there would be agnostics.
I will claim that I KNOW that the monotheistic deities — Yahweh, God, and Allah — do not exist, based on the claims made for them. They are claimed by their followers to have 4 ultimate characteristics: omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence. No 2 of these characteristics can logically co-exist, because you can always construct a scenario pitting 1 against the other, and 1 of them must fail. Indeed, as in the old riddle "Can God create a rock so heavy he can't lift it?", it's possible to pit any of these attributes against ITSELF and watch it fail. Thus such a critter cannot possibly exist. QED.
I am one of those people who declare that there is definitely no god or gods that exist.
I have overwhelming evidence that supports my position.
I use logic and reason to evaluate all evidence.
I gather evidence from many sources, not just one, and there is zero evidence to even suggest the possibility that I am wrong in my conclusions. Zero.
If you want me to prove you wrong, you must first posit a beginning position that does not require an underlying false premise.
If you want me to prove you right, you must first posit a beginning position that does not require an underlying false premise.
Yes, it works both ways. All positions are open to examination and evaluation. I have high confidence that my conclusions are accurate.
There are no gods. Not even one. And there is nothing supernatural or magic. Nothing at all. I have proof.
You can put your claims to the test, but if you are religious, you will have been indoctrinated to feel fear at many things that do not exist and do not happen, and will probably refuse to "test" your belief, your religion, or your "god".
That is not my problem. That is yours.
So according to your logic it would be ignorant to believe leprechauns don't exist.
An agnostic isn't unsure of the existence of a god. An agnostic believes that the existence of a god is ultimately unknowable.
Its the stupid pentecostals and christians fault. God can heal you. God can do this and that. God this God that. Every christian makes God out to be some thing he isn't or isn't gonna be or do. Really man stop it. Shame on you for getting peoples hopes up then blaming them for not having enough faith. I Believe in God but I had to leave the churches and start finding god myself. Organized religion if the downfall of man. I don't blame people for becoming atheist.
Not even sure everyone "becomes" Atheist. I'm sure some do, but some people just never believed in religion in the first place and were fortunate enough to have parents who didn't force them to believe in a religion as children.
Atheism is just another religion, for it expresses certainty about that of which we can never be certain.
It think Agnostics have it correct ! - Maybe, Maybe NOT 1 : Have peace !
Atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in any god. As has been said before, it's as much a religion as not collecting stamps is a hobby. Do try to wrap your mind around the concept.
tallulah - It is the certainty angle which makes the problem for me, which classifies Atheism as a religion in my mind. . Your analogy is creative, but does not apply to my criticism.
Atheists don't claim certainty in anything. My god, the amount of stunningly incompetent comments on this blog everyday is amazing.
allenwolf, your ana.logy is flawed, because you have written your own definition of atheism. The honest definition for atheism is the lack of belief in god. That's it. Therefore, it is not a religion. I don't know why you can't understand that.
It's no religion. I'm pretty sure pink unicorns don't exist on Mars, would that make me religious about it? Atheists don't see any proof of God or any of the over-the-top stories religion touts, and their disbelief is the exactly same thing. No actual scientific evidence of the world being created in a few thousand years (in fact evidence points to the opposite), no angels, no people miraculously resurrected. All are just stories in a 2000+ year old book written and revised by hundreds of people over the years. Logic 101.
The concept of religion came from the fear of nature's forces. As man became civilized, religious beliefs became foudations then grew secular.
Follow the Money ! ! !
I credit the internet for this great leap forward. Now if only we can grow just a bit more and vote together, maybe we can restore some sanity to this nation!
I was atheist and now catholic and happy. Most people I know who are atheist have psychological problems and are emotionally starved.
Speaking of fools, you have reached a conclusion based on too few of a sample of atheists.
Just a group of unhappy lost people.
Amazing generalization. I suspect it's also a lie. That's the way with some christians (and all trolls). Honesty has no value to you. You will tell whatever lie makes you feel superior, but your "superiority" is just another lie. You fool no one but yourself.
We were ALL atheist once. We're born without belief in any gods. Then the brainwashing sets in.
I see the same thing, again and again. It seems that EVERYONE who is not just like me is mentally ill.
The above sounds silly but is exactly what you said. Just look at the numbers and see if this is reasonable. About 1/3rd of an entire age group are antirust. Can that many people have the kind of problems you describe. That is very unlikely. I would rather assume your judgement is biased.
"...now catholic and happy" Then you aren't doing it right!!
Frankly I believe people on the fringes of both atheistism and Christianity both have mental health issues in being very closed minded and intolerant of others opinion.
And what do you say about religious goers murdering thousands of people just because they do not agree with their beliefs, are you pro Genocide anti-humanitarian. I do not say that I do or do not believe in a God but find myself to question others theories. What does your religion make you other than a hypocrite.
YEAH IT'S SO EASY TO JUST MAKE THINGS UP ON LINE IS IT NOT. FOR INSTANE I WAS ONCE CHRISTIAN BUT AN MOT OF NONE FAITH. I AM VERY HAPPY NOW AS UPOSED TO THE WAY I WAS ALWAYS LOOKING FOR THE DEVIL AND FRIGHTENED OF UNSEEN FORCES. MOST CHRISTIANS I KNOWN WERE LIKE SMALL CHILDREN SCARED OOF THE DARK! Sad really. yeah we can make up all kinds of stories can we not?
It is proven history you moron look it up, read a book, religions also played a part in the salem witch trials HELLO where did you go to school??????
Best article so far, proud as Atheist .. God, Devil, fairy tales, talking snakes and ghosts are characters from the past.
Annnnnnnnnnnd that would be a band full of Christians in that video... LOL.
good music is good music no matter who makes it. christians are welcome to the party celebrating the demise of their religion, they just need to bring the pot.
Everyone is free to believe what they want, but they should never use their beliefs to deny others of equal rights when they are not being hurt. Too often hypocritical Christians use their religion to deny equal rights to gays or to pretend the Bible actually mentions abortion and use that as an excuse to trash pro-choice people.
The only christians I've seen actually trying to deny rights are the Phelps, and after personal discussion with them, found them to actually be non-religious, and all lawyers. Trying to make money (and being very successful i might add) mocking christianity and garnering lawsuits after assaults. The rest of the so called 'deny' of rights is just hyperbole and false rhetoric used by the left wingers (sorry im being blunt here) to make example of the phelps (who are actually very left when not in 'character') and pin their shortcomings on the real religious people, namely, 99% of the time, Christians. So after these observations and after looking at a lot of the comments on this page, something about christianity makes a lot of those on the left feel very insecure. I think there might be something to christianity afterall.... Time to explore it. Thank you, your agenda seems to have backfired.
You can't be serious at all. You're joking right? Christians never try to deny equal rights to gays or to women to have abortions?
Oh whatever, Wow. You sound like you already are a christian, trying to pretend you have an open mind. You expose your mendacity by denying that religious groups have worked very hard indeed to deprive women and gays, just to mention two groups, their equal rights.
Thank you for proving my previous comment that some christians do not value honesty at all and will tell whatever lie they need to support their position.
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.