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.
Finally, some sanity in this country of subliterate obscurantists...
leave it up to an athiest author to author a false illusion through visual signage "I AM AN ATHIEST" to propagate his lack of wisdom. Less than 5% of people out there are willing to say that there is NO God or divine authority. The fastest growing religion is UNIVERSALISM – which is entirely different. This author just prefers to brand it as NO RELIGION...Still Universalists believe in a God, just the wrong God. A God that serves your interests is what popular culture prefersand that will be to their detriment.
No reason to create god out of nothing. People in America were brainwashed as little children to believe. Dopn't teach religion to children and see how many of them will believe in god when they are 18.
It is not this author. It is the Pew Research Center. These are the categories they used. So before you go around spewing your own made up facts just because you don't like what the study reveals, take it up with Pew.
UNIVERSALISM is just another sect of christianity. Nothing more, nothing less. All it states is the belief that all humans will eventually be 'saved', and spend eternity in the christian god's kingdom.
what if there is a God and you athiests are wrong? There is absolutely nothing to gain being an athiest except self pride.
there isn't a god. and you followers are wrong. good luck with that.
Ooh..Pascal's wager. Glad to see the sixth grade wasn't lost on you.
if there is a god..i'll ask him
"hey, you created me in your image, right? and you created me to think, right? and you created me with the ability to question things, right? so why can't i question you?
We'll apologize. :)
Is that seriously your argument? What if there is a god and it's not yours? You would be just as screwed as someone who is an atheist.
... nothing but years of otherwise wasted time and effort attempting to appease a being that doesn't exist.
... nothing but years of otherwise wasted time and effort attempting to appease the wrong god. oops!
I think you mean dudeulose, since loose means not tight.
As an atheist, if there is a god, on judgement day my response will be. "Clearly since you are omnipotent and omniscient it would do me no good to lie and say I'm a believer. But also, due to the same omnipotence and omniscience I'm sure you can see that many DO believe in you, and a lot of them are really suffering. Why aren't you answering their prayers?".
What if there is a god and it is Odin? There is nothing to gain by being a Christian is self pride.
See how stupid that sounds to you? That's EXACTLY how stupid your sentence sounds to non-believers.
Yeah. Just as I thought. No fluffy clouds or the ' big guy'. No scotch either though. Damn..it sucks being dead.
Religion is just a stupid dogma, like Communism or Nazism. It's been around only because people that like their delusions. I'd say even mushrooms work better.
it seems that just about everyone here has had a long and thirst quenching drink of the proverbial kool aid. i truly believe that if hitler were alive today, and particularly if her were an american citizen, that he would be elected president in our day. do u believe that the german people were just stupid and elected an obviously demonically possessed man as their leader??? there was a reason that millions loved him. we need to keep in mind that evil comes packaged in attractive attire, next month nearly 50% of our voters will cast a vote for men who could very possibly lead us down a path of destruction. do we really believe we can tell who's who?? do we believe Goebbels propaganda was more effective than our own??
Hitler was a god-believing Christian. Would you expect anything less?
Hitler was a protestant in a protestant nation. Stalin was Russian Orthodox in an Eastern orthodox nation. Both christians, whose deeds were carried out by christians....sad huh?
Hitler was a cathoilic and went to catholic school. During the holocaust the Vatican was happy to provide all of the information in the lineages of jewish families they could.
Hitler was also a genius, in that, like most of our current leaders and those seeking election, he was was able to determine what the majority of the people wanted to hear and gave them what they wanted. Germany was in the middle of a depression that made our Depression look like a cake walk. Hitler gave them leadership where they had none, and made promises that, in the beginning, were easy to fulfill. He was also a MASTER at instilling 'patriotism' to a nation that had been brutalized by the outcome (loss) of WWI. Parallels between our current leaders, or those seeking election, are easy to draw at this point...
but, the old world religions are just being replaced with the new religions. There will always be troves of sheep that will blindly follow a certain dogma.. but at least this is a start.
You don,t have to believe,BUT YOU WILL SHOW RESPECT.This is a Christian Nation like it or not.You i di ots can move to china.
Its a free nation and I dont need to show you or your imaginary friend any RESPECT stupid.
You only make the case against organized religion stronger.
Respect is a relative thing...you have to give it to get it.
Sorry David it's not. This nation was founded on freedom of and from religion. You need look no further than the first ammendment. You can also look at closer detail like the Treaty Of Tripoli. Penned by John Barlow and George Washington, voted on and approved unanimously in congress in 1797, and signed by then President John Adams. Pay close attention to article 11 which begins "As the Government of the United Sates of Amercia is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion..."
@ David ; Which episode of Here comes Honey Boo Boo are you showing up on as the retarded cousin..
This is not a Christian nation. The facts do not bear out your position. The Christians are the most numerous in the US, but that doesn't make it a Christian nation.
Oh grow up. You sound like a petulant child.
Respect is earned and mutual. I will show it when it is earned and when you are willing to do so mutually.
Question – if the Founding Fathers really wanted this to be a christian nation, they why didn't they go 'all out' when they had the opportunity? I mean, they were birthing this nation, they could have made any rules they wanted...why didn't they go all the way and delcare this a christian nation and create a Church of America, similiar to the Church of England? It would have been a lot easier while the population was smaller and easier to control...
Religion and God are not the same thing. Quit confusing the two, people!
religion = disclaimers
god = disclaimers
yup they are the same...
Well obviously, little by little, Americans are waking up to the fact that they have their own brain and can think for themselves. And don't have to be brainwashed by a bunch of archaic relics that cling for dear life to their ridiculous beliefs.
liberal believers – God is Love
fundamentalist believers – We are all sinners
humanists – most of us are good without god
So, more people are unafiliated with any religious tradition, but the majority of them still believe in God/gods.
They are rejecting churches, televangelist, traditions, and the like, but not forsaking the supernatural or the spiritual.
I would be interested in how many of these people are believers in ghost, aliens, and other "supernatural" things not affiliated with traditional religion.
I don't see any reason why atheist would rejoice at this – it does seem like these are good candidate for atheist conversion. Rather, they seem like a ripe field for any cult, religion, or philosophy can sway them into a deeper comitment to one faith or another.
I also wonder why the writer of the article seems to think that this agnostic mass that can't commit to a particular faith would focus and turn towards a particular political party. Just because the ignorant masses sway left (since that is the way media and academia pushes them) doesn't speak to a deeper predelection – rather the opposite. If they became passionate, there is no real way of know which way one of them might break.
This mass is just more of mindless humanity being to distracted and apathetic to bother having a position one way or another. I doubt they have any passion greater than reality TV and Xbox.
Stupid kids. Zeus is the only true god.
If you accept Zeus, you have to accept the rest of the pantheon as well. Therefore your assertion is incorrect.
Man is the only true God, and the creator of gods.
You should note that these people don't consider themselves agnostic either.
That choice was in the poll.
Atheists are excited because it's a start......
"I don't see any reason why atheist would rejoice at this – it does seem like these are good candidate for atheist conversion. Rather, they seem like a ripe field for any cult, religion, or philosophy can sway them into a deeper comitment to one faith or another."
I don't think so. I think it's a combination of people realizing that religion makes no sense at all and no longer being afraid of stating their true beliefs out of fear of retribution from the religious community.
MMMMkay... Go read your bible.
Religion can do a lot of good, but it also does A LOT of bad. If you disagree- you have no understanding of history. I am encouraged that we are coming to the point where we know how to be a moral society without religion. The two are no longer mutually exclusive. I don't need some old fairy tale to be able to know right from wrong, to have empathy, and to know what is just.
Good, people are coming to their senses.
Here goes all the "rational" and "logical" people stating that they know best and nobody should in anything they don't. Then on the other side are the ones who say anyone who doesn't adhere to THEIR religion will burn in hell. ALL of you need to shut it. Quit being so arrogant and stop trampling other people's faith (or lack of it). If someone doesn't believe in God or religion, fine, doesn't make them any less important. But if someone does want to believe in God then who the hell are you to tell them they can't and they're crazy. Typical Americans, message boards like this are really, really sad.
Talking to an imaginary person is crazy.
You fundies still don't get it do you?
We don't care if you believe in god, or gods or the pink unicorn. Go right ahead and waste your time.
What we care about is you religious people trying to force your imaginary friend on the rest of us.
Which you have been doing since the dawn of mankind.
You are free to howl at the moon all you want, but stop trying to pass laws to force the rest of us to howl with you.
When you believe in things that aren't really there and talk to invisible people, you're no different than the crazy man on the street. The only difference is the religious have numbers. Seriously, take a step back and look at christianity as if you were learning it for the first time. Pregnant virgins? Magic healing? Talking Snakes? 10 commandments? Noah's Ark? And on and on.
Really??? Sorry, the religious deserve all the pity and scorn they get.
Religion is the root of all evil.
I see what you did there... ;)
As more & more atrocities are committed by the "faithful" or leaders in organized religion, is it really that hard to see why greater numbers of people, especially the younger, feel let down...disillusioned?
Christianity may be declining in the US but it is growing faster than our delcine in Asia, Africa and the middle east. So you can keep believing it will be gone, but you are only fooling yourself. Good luck with that!
So its growing in the more backward and uneducated areas? SHOCKING.
Feeding on the ignorant and undereducated to survive.
People here do tend to be more educated.....
I don't think you thought your point through really well there Rob
More education and knowledge does not lead to faith. It actually can lead to people thinking themselves as superior life forms, which leads to people becoming "their own God," enabling them to define what is right and wrong and having no accountability. At some point, people will discover that there are absolutes and denying them, whether educated or not, does not take away the fact that they exist. It's always nice hearing the "educated great ones" put down those who don't meet their level of superiority. After all, if education was so great, would Obama at least have some common sense?
"More education and knowledge does not lead to faith." Correct. The rest of your post is complete paranoia and strawman argumentation. Nobody says a kid thinks themselves god just because they reach an age where reason tells them there's no tooth fairy. Scale up a bit, use your brain and reason, and realize just like there's no tooth fairy or santa, there's no god. And let me guess, Romney voter then. First off, plenty of republicans are athiests. Second, he's got an equivalent education to Obama so I'm not sure what the heck your point is.
Yes, religion in general tends to spread in low-education demographics. But for now, so what. Christians in Africa and Asia aren't voting to restrict civil rights in America based on Christian principles and dictates. Christians in America are. So if Christianity is not gone from the world, but is a lessened influence here, that's fine by me.
Many have set their hearts against religion because of what the majority portray. Money loving liars. Most don't believe what they're teaching just waiting for retirement. you have to admit the scam is a clever one. You pay for what you want to hear to appease your conscious and free yourself of any responsibility for your actions. why so many religionis anyway? so you can find one that suits your lifestyle. in that case, sickos can do what they want and just confess i'm sorry. or your coworkers can curse someone out and sleep around but they're ok as long as they give money to the liars. there is a truth out there. just have to look for it.
all we need to do is look at sweden, norway, denmark, and finland
these countries are the least religious and they seem to have lower rates in
not so bad...in fact impressive, most impressive.
Thats what happens when people start thinking.
What is your reference? No. not the religion, but their life with no interactive makes them less exist, less happy, less active and sure less religion.
Some people define the dark as a true, but the true is dark = no light!
I want to tell you morething ------ God is love
Christian one, you may want to put down that bible and pick up a book on sentence structure.....
@ Christian One:
And here I thought lying was a sin, even if you were doing it for Jesus, but man...your post was full of them!
here's a ranking by Gallup, reported in Forbes, of worldwide happiness ratings: http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle-realestate-gallup-table.html
The top five countries in the WORLD covering a five year period of study (2005-2009) were, in order, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Those countries are also among the least religious in the world. According to the world bank, per capita, they are all in the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world, too. And a 2008 study of the world's healthiest countries (again reported by Forbes with numbers drawn from a variety of sources including the World Health Organization), rank Denmark 7th Healthiest, Finland as #3, and Sweden as #2 (Netherlands were #10 and #1 was Iceland).
So your claims of their being less healthy and less active are simply not true. Lying for Jesus is STILL lying.
@ Christian One:
Here's a ranking by Gallup, reported in Forbes, of worldwide happiness ratings: http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle-realestate-gallup-table.html
The top five countries in the WORLD covering a five year period of study (2005-2009) were, in order, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Net.herlands. Those countries are also among the least religious in the world. According to the World Bank, per capita, they are all in the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world, too. And a 2008 study of the world's healthiest countries (again reported by Forbes with numbers drawn from a variety of sources including the World Health Organization), rank Denmark 7th Healthiest, Finland as #3, and Sweden as #2 (Net.herlands were #10 and #1 was Iceland).
@ Christian One:
Here's a ranking by Gallup, reported in Forbes, of worldwide happiness ratings: http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/14/world-happiest-countries-lifestyle-realestate-gallup-table.html
The top five countries in the WORLD covering a five year period of study (2005-2009) were, in order, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Net.herlands. Those countries are also among the least religious in the world. According to the World Bank, per capita, they are all in the top 20 wealthiest countries in the world, too. And a 2008 study of the world's healthiest countries (again reported by Forbes with numbers drawn from a variety of sources including the World Health Org.anization), rank Denmark 7th Healthiest, Finland as #3, and Sweden as #2 (Net.herlands were #10 and #1 was Iceland).
@ Christian One:
According to Gallup, reported in Forbes, the top five happiest countries in the WORLD covering a five year period (2005-2009) were, in order, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the Net.herlands. Those countries are also among the least religious in the world. According to the World Bank, per capita, they are all in the top 20 wealthiest countries. And a 2008 study of the world's healthiest countries, ranked Neth.erlands as tenth, Denmark 7th, Finland as #3, and Sweden as #2 (#1 was Iceland).
I would also attribute their lack of Crime to they are educated to be kind to one another and to cooperate and how to learn before they are taught math and reading/writing. I would attribute their lack of STD's and teen pregnancies to their healthcare system raising more awareness to the issue and probably trying to combat the rise of the two. They are beating us in all areas thank to their Nordic Model and because of it they are often more educated and the highly educated often tend to be less religious then the illiterate
Your claims of their being less healthy and less active are simply not true. Lying for Jesus is STILL lying.
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.