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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
With increasing public fixation on the latest technology, entertainment, and raunchy fashion, people are becoming more immoral and laid back on religious beliefs. Breaking religious rules, not practicing one's region at all, and hypocrisy are the norms in today's society. The strength to believe comes from within, but one must take the means to learn more in order to build on the belief in God. Who do our children and individuals in general have to look up to these day? Lying, cheating, cursing, drug-addicted, adulterous, fornicating, and violent politicians and celebrities from both the sports and entertainment industries. The fashion, entertainment, and technological industries all contribute to what our society is today.
You ever read the history of the Papacy?
Christians as role models? Don't make me wet my pants!
Compare the morals of those whom lived 60+years ago, to the people of today.
It's like the people whom lived centuries ago who believed gold, and wealth was god. As people of today believe science and technology is god.
Theres no difference. Both encompass a physical item(s), and in return create closed mines.
Such a sad society we live in
You are the reason people are leaving religion in droves.
What are they mining?
Husband (Eric Idle): It's a fair cop, but society is to blame.
Church Police (Michael Palin): Right, we'll arrest them instead!
Seriously, I think the evangelicals easily demonstrate a large helping of the ills you're preaching against.
I'm waiting for "The Great Pumpkin."
Linus: "Oh, Great Pumpkin, where are you?"
if you believe in Christ, what's the worst thing if you're wrong? (served the common good)
if you do not believe in Christ, what's the worst thing if you're wrong? (eternity in hell)
argumentum ad ignorantiam...no solid proof either way...don't play Russian rollet with your soul !!!
Believing in some one who never existed, hinduism, stupidity.
Allah is the one, and you spend eternity orally servicing Osama Bin Ladens hemorrhoids?
@jane: you're playing a game, you're playing a game
Known as Pascal's Wager, an inelegant and possibly immoral argument for conversion.
This is another tired repeti.tion of Pascal's Wager - thoroughly refuted since the 17th century, even by the Church.
- What if the real "God" is Allah, or Vishnu, or Zeus, or Quetzalcoatl, or any of the other of thousands which have been dreamed up over the centuries? Some of them are very jealous and vengeful and will relegate you to nasty places for not worshiping them. You'd better cover your butt by believing in ALL of them and fulfill their wishes and demands.
- What if the real "God" prefers those who use logic and reason and punishes you as a silly sycophant?
- What if the real "God" detests those who believe something just to cover their butts in eternity?
so your saying that you believe in christ as a back up plan, so just in case he DOES exist, you won't be damned to an eternity in hell? that seems worse than just not believing at all. 1 in 5 people have no religion today because the population as a whole is getting smarter. Smart people base beliefs off logic, and religion is just not logical.
Best thing i've read in a long while! Well and truthfully put.
What if I've just never heard of Christ? Would I still spend eternity in hell?
Jane: If you believe in Jesus Christ, and it turns out that the "real" god is not what you have envisioed, and is as vindictive as the ones that Christians (including you) paint, you could be in as much trouble as you claim non believers in your god are.
> if you believe in Christ, what's the worst thing if you're wrong? (served the common good)
Not even close.
1. If you believe in Christ and Islam is true, then you are an infidel and you go to hell for eternity as well.
2. If you believe in Christ and Hinduism/Buddhism/Sikhism are true, then you have wasted your precious life in fruitless pursuits.
3. Rinse and repeat for all religions around the globe (Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Shinto, Shia, Sunni, the million different sects within Hinduism, the few different ones within Buddhism, all the different churches, etc, etc...)
4. If you believe in Christ and there is no god, then you have not only wasted your life, but you have actively supported grief and pain across the globe, because theistic societies have lower human development index, more income inequality, etc. than progressive ones.
Based on what we can observe of the universe around us, your chance of success through belief in any religion is extremely small. Whatever religion you follow, you are much more likely to be following the wrong religion than you are to be following the right one.
Why do people who believe in god refer to him as a male? In what sense is he male? He doesn't have an anatomy, does he identify with male personality traits? How can he be considered male if there is no female to compare him to? He is in a class by himself and there is no female. What, did his wife die?
perhaps god is a hermaphrodite?
He is male, because he buggers his victims
Christians claim that because "man was made in His image."
Because truth is by gender male.
Jesus Christ referred to God as the Father several times and in other cases used masculine pronouns in reference to God. In the Gospels alone, Christ uses the term “Father” in direct reference to God nearly 160 times. Of particular interest is Christ’s statement in John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” Obviously, Jesus Christ came in the form of a human man to die on the cross as payment for the sins of the world. Like God the Father, Jesus was revealed to humanity in a male form. Scripture records numerous other instances where Christ utilized masculine nouns and pronouns in reference to God.
You have to understand the terminology of "Man"
When it states god made "Man" in his image. Hes obviously referring to mankind.
Gender was given to provide means of reproduction... C'mon guys this isn't rocket science.
> Why to believers refer to god as male?
That depends on who you ask and what they believe. The male god is mostly from the Abrahamic religions. Sikhism has the concept of a genderless god. Hinduism has a concept of a "supreme being" that has no gender and no qualities (although Hindus have many different forms of god to make it easier for the mind to objectify and be devout – those forms can be male/female/animals/birds/stones, whatever else).
Theologians have pondered this and offered many numerous reasons as to why. True, God is not a man or woman. Simply put, much the way a man gives life-giving seed to the woman, God so does impart being (existence) to all of creation.
Somehow I think that I shall be casting my pearls before swine, but here goes. If you proove to be a swine, I'm out of here.
You are right in some regards. God is a Spirit, but he does refer to himself in the masculine gender. It's man that's made in God's image and not the other way around. So God does not use the male gender to describe himeself in any kind of biological way. So it must be something other. If you study all of history prior to recent feminist American, you will see that masculinity was associated with leadership. One who leads in Government, the military, law, community and family... and especially family. I will toutch on that one only.
The husband is one who initiates the marriage, who loves his wife, who provides for her. He is potent to love, to provide for and to proect, and she respond to that love. It's an image of what God is to his people and what Christ is to his church. God is the iniator of the covenant that he has with his people, he provides for them and protects for them. He is potent and able. Actually, he is almighty. And for that reason, he made man in his image to reflect this... not the other way around. And that is why God is referred to in the masculine sense. Now please don't make me sorry that I opened this up for you.
He made MAN in HIS Image. Though He is not a physical "man" He identifies himself in the Masculine capacity. As for the comment about his "wife"..... Thats just an asinine thing for you to state.
Then how is there proof of evolution if done by god?So genetics is wrong also?Creation does not help an animal survive in certain conditions,evolution does.
Qman, you're right in that the verse you are referring to referrs to mankind, but that is not the reason why God is referred to in the masculine sense. The Bible is a book that all can understand and receive the knowledge of salvation, but it is also so deep that history's greatest scholars have studied it for a lifetime and still not discovered all of its wisdom, knowledge and treasures.
pat: because man wrote the bible
I knew the swine would come out.
Or why do Christians believe God sent his only son to die for our sins? Why not send his daughter?
All good replys. Thank you. However, the correct answer is that the bible was written by cave men who used to drag their wives by the hair.
Bing bing bing...Sam Stone, the judges accept "because it was made by man" as a correct response.
@ahunter: "Jesus Christ referred to God as the Father several times and in other cases used masculine pronouns in reference to God."
Jesus did not exist. The book you reference is a manmade creation so it is their ignorance and bigotry that brings us the masculine pronouns. If there is a creator and it has a gender, it is a hermaphrodite.
"In the Gospels alone, Christ uses the term “Father” in direct reference to God nearly 160 times."
The gospels also assert zombies walk the earth, unicorns, talking snakes and donkeys, and other wild claims. They are hardly an appropriate source in the search for truth.
"Of particular interest is Christ’s statement in John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.”"
I believe that as an assertion his father abused him sexually. You can't disprove that, can you? Even religious scholars laugh at the implausibility of John.
"Obviously, Jesus Christ came in the form of a human man to die on the cross as payment for the sins of the world."
There is not much less obvious than that. God created the world and all the sin in it - why does he then need to kill his only son to wash away the sin he created?
"Like God the Father, Jesus was revealed to humanity in a male form. Scripture records numerous other instances where Christ utilized masculine nouns and pronouns in reference to God."
The fabricated papyrus scraps were translated from verbal myth, to disintegrating papyrus scraps, to thousands of years old tainted books that were then further edited, added to and deleted on a whim by hucksters who wanted to control a people. Among many other things they probably also got some pronouns wrong along the way.
Religion has been speaking Power to Truth for centuries, it's time we reverse that.
That's exactly what Jesus said would happen in the last days. People would not be lovers of God, but rather lovers of themselves, which is why they deny God. In a word, they are selfish wretches who do not see their own wretcedness... but someday soon they will, when it becomes so clear that it can no longer be denied.
Perhaps he got stopped at the border?
I hear Palestinians get stopped all the time.
religion is 2000+ years of "end times". Get on with it already.
WD....keep waiting. He's on His way. Glad you're waiting, it's a sign your really do believe.
Actually waiting on Thor.
Now that a real God!!!
Angele, thank you for your comment. You're right! How narrow minded of me to consider a limited number of blogs on which to form an opinion about such a large group. Ahh humility feels good. Take care
I beleive help human being and conserving the non-conventional sources and trying t be reamin good and happy and let other people remain be happy is the biggest religion. If u are doing right things u don't need to follow any religion . It is true 3 old country pople for the ske of food and medicine education they change thier religion. I don't know by doing this do they they get some peace or not but they get food and ome other help.
If the article stated 4 out of 5 believe in Santa Claus everyone would be commenting about how stupid they are. God/Santa, same thing in my opinion. THERE IS NO GOD!!!
4 out of 5 dentists surveyed said the Tooth Fairy doesn't exist
Willing to bet your life/eternity on it? Cause you are.
What?Hell is used to scare.
Oh no! Santa will put coal in my stocking because I don't believe! Opps, sorry, wrong imaginary being. Look if it brings you comfort to believe there is some puppet master in the sky controling your life, good for you. Since there is no "God" I'm not afraid of your threats of helfire damnation, dead is dead. So yes I will say it again, God is a figment of your imagination, created by man to keep the masses in line.
What is GOD and what does this word mean? any one.
Fear, obedience through fear or eternal torture.
God is just a dyslexic dog
Hold it to a mirror and be enlightened
No, look as essence of thing's and human.
Creator, life sustainer, loving father are the first three that come to mind.
I believe in God,and God is watching us to destroy each other and the planet. We are ultimately the one to take the consequences.
this is what God says about it (nearest english translation):
Say, "He is God , [who is] One, God.
the Eternal Refuge
He neither begets nor is born.
Nor is there to Him any equivalent. (Quran Surah 112)
This blog is proof that atheists don't have jobs.
Nah, we just use the money we saved by laying off Christians to pay trolls!
Or that we have cool desk jobs where I can eat my soup and type here as I am...
then, you must be an atheist
So, you're an unemployed member of the 47% club, eh?
Lunch break folks.
Well the article said most of them were democrats didn't it.
Mike – You're not getting paid right now? I won't argue with you then.
God is love........or eternal torture, depending on whether or not you p1sss him off.
Well churches have been lying to people about hell for years. They make God out to be sadistic when the bible says the idea of burning people never came up into his heart.
Do you really need a middle man (a priest, minister, imam, rabbi), to connect you to the god within you?
You do if you need someone to take some of your excess cash off your hands, or molest your child.
Nah, you just need Wi-Fi.
But some Chritians do try with anal probes.
yes. God gave his most precious son Jesus Christ to make the way for a relationship and the forgiveness of sins. HE IS the way, the truth and the light.
"sometimes God wants you to make the first move. Find God's match for you. God needs Christian Mingle for that – because god is All-powerful.
Just because someone has "no religion" does not mean they don't believe in God. Many of our founders including Jefferson and Franklin, were unafilliated, but recognized the likely existence of "the Creator." The headline is a little misleading.
... Did you even read the article? The headline is not misleading at all. The headline does not say anything about not believing in God, it just says that 20% of Americans are unaffiliated. It clearly states out that not all unaffiliated people dont believe in God. In fact it states that most do in some way.
I have tried to raise my kids without exposing them to cult teachings and ideas like God and an afterlife. What I've found is that it is impossible in our public school system. Teachers and students alike constantly reference God and Christ. It really sickens and angers me that my religious beliefs are so easily trampled on. Christians, imagine your children being taught that God doesn't exist in school. How angry you would feel. There is no place for religion in our schools.
I'd hate to have a parent like yourself.
Regardless of what you do and what you believe should be - the choice will present itself to your child. And at that time, it will be left for them to decide – like many things in life.
You should teach your children to be open minded, rather than closed.
It's what breeds hate.
Open minded, as in praise allah??
I find it funny that the atheist are the first ones in blogs like these. They are like trolls they just sit around on cnn looking for stories like these. Also the same people sit around for hours making there dumb comments. They think they know everything they will be judge oneday.
or, perhaps, atheists like to be informed about something that concerns them very much (such as the dangerous hold of religion on society) and they like to discuss these issues extensively.
Is there something wrong with any of that?
Today you have been judged a moron. If you believe that to be true why post?
so you are saying you are an atheist?
It appears that one in five Americans is reasonably sane. No need to believe in invisible sky spirits.
Fine get rid of the muslim faith, christianity, judaism, heck get rid of them all today, God will still be here tomorrow, & he will still love you :)
Unless you break his rules or anger him, and which point he will cast you into a pit of fire with a horned devil to be tortured for eternity....
Religion was invented by people to control masses thinking and actions. It has nothing to do with God. It was created so that ordinary people follow a set of rules. Kings and Priests depended on each other for their existence and everyone else worked for both of them. Holy books were written to let the ordinary people know how they were supposed to think and live. No rational thinking was allowed as it would had made King-Priest position in jeopardy.
I have no idea why people are not turned off by the corruption in religion. Today's religious leaders preach to live a Jesus like life but they themselves in palaces and mansion and wear expensive costumes.
We all need to cut down the chains religions have put on us. Science and knowledge are ultimate truth.
SCIENCE HAS DONE TO UPLIFT HUMAN LIVES IN LAST 100 YRS THAN THE RELIGION IN LAST 2000 YEARS.
You need to at least try to back up that last statement or you just sound crazy...or maybe envious.
Trying to argue Christ
It is true.
Agree. Science does not need fairly tales.
yep, and for all the science and knowledge that man has, Man can still not create a soul out of nothing. Man can still not create something as majestic as Mount Everest or as beautiful as a single rose. Man still can not tame the movements of the seas or the winds that blow across the plains.
I simply have to look into the eyes of my 3 kids and I am 100% certain there is a God that exists....
Everest was made from tectonic plates pushing up against each other.
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.