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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.
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.
Gee is this something to be proud of?
You bet your bippies it's something to be proud of. All religion is a fraud. If you suffer from a brand of this delusion, it is no less crazy than any other. Good riddance to it!
This has nothing to do with pride. I'm 35 and for as long as I can remember, whenever I was asked what my religion is, I have always replied, "I consider myself a very spiritual person, but I am opposed to organized religion." That will never change. I don't believe in fairy tales. I believe the Bible is a book of many things...part historical, part opinion, but none of it "holy." I also believe it, like organized religion itself, it is full of contradictions and tends to do more harm than good. People use that and other "holy books" to justify all kinds of hatred and beliefs. I take greater responsibility for myself than that. I let my conscience dictate what is and is not good for me and others in relation to me. I'm more tolerant and accepting of others. I'm kind and generous. I'm sensitive and strong. And religion cannot claim to have enstilled those and many other qualities within me. I own them. I worked for them. And with all of that said, despite my opposition to organized religion, I still support your right to practice it, to sometimes shove it in my face, and to often use it to astrocize and disparage me for aspects of myself I cannot change. I believe in God, and I look for answers in nature, the world he created. I see harmony, balance, love, diversity, unity... I see none of that in religious people. It just isnt in your eyes, or your speech. More often than not, i see judgment, hatred, divisiveness, ignorance, and intolerance. So I guess the question that really matters is, "does that fact make you proud?"
God is man made.
If you wish to fill your existence with childish hopes, dreams and fantasies.. that's your choice. Most rational, logical thinking humans do not need to believe in a magical fairy tale to make their life worth living or to give it some kind of meaning.
Keep your magical fairy stories in your children's room where they belong.
Godless, the existence or non-existence of God is not determined via psychology.
all any political party has to do to 'harness' this group is to honor their intelligence and ability to discern the truth
lies don't work with this group of people
neither does pandering to the war-lord one percent who try to control the world for their pleasure
mccain is a dip – yeeh haw – another war – reps suck
God is one, no matter what religion.
Yeah, you might want to read up on the trinity, Hinduism, and animism before spouting off your ignorant sweeping statements like that.
I believe in God, the Father of us all. He is love. I am guaranteed the freedom to say this.
"[T]he fanatical atheists...are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional 'opium of the people'—cannot bear the music of the spheres."
Einstein didn't believe in God as described by the Bible.
I was talking about the shear hatred atheists have for religion. And I know Einstein believed in Spinoza's abstract, impersonal God.
"[T]he fanatical atheists...are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional 'opium of the people'—cannot bear the music of the spheres."
"They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional 'opium of the people'—cannot bear the music of the spheres."
Its about studying and learning to achieve a higher consciousness level.
When I was a kid, into teenage years+, I studied and learned more, on my own, aside from the basic school curriculum.
When my youngest son was little, we played a game called "10 Satellites". We would go watch the night sky and see who could see and count 10 satellites first We lived in the country so they sky was clear. That was fun and relaxing.
In conclusion, if you own a cellphone, turn it off, go out and go look at the night sky, preferably away from the city lights.
A letter written by Einstein, in which he denies the existence of god, was just up for auction.
What I don't understand is why some atheists are so passionate about spreading their belief in nothing. In some cases they're almost like an inquisition, ironically.
What I don't understand is why some women, blacks, and gays are so passionate about spreading their belief in social equality. Why can't they just sit down and shut up like their ancestors did and let us old white straight men run the show, which we've done so well for so long?
Some have grown up under the oppression of a religious denomination. They have seen others socially ostracized and scorned for simply saying they don't believe in this God. The religious have demonized the unbelievers and equated them with Hitler and Stalin. The pious assume atheists are anarchists, bent on the destruction of civilization and treat them with utter contempt because of this. Is it really any wonder that the atheist that comes out of the closet after years of observing this or indeed the ones that have taken the brunt of this kind of treatment, would tend to come out swinging?
I dont really care who believes in what as long as they don't force me to live by the rules or their own faith.
I have been in fights started by those of faith who discovered that I do not believe. Funny thing is, none of those with faith have managed to entreat their god well enough to defeat this heathen.
I don't fear death, even though I am relatively certain that there is nothing after we die. I do, however, love life. This is my one shot. I want to be happy while I am here. Being happy means treating others how I would like to be treated.
Atheism is a consequence, nothing more, just a consequence from seeking the truth.
Carl Sagan was an agnostic. He once said that he didn't have enough information to be an atheist. The same view was held by Bertrand Russell, brilliant mathematician and philosopher. I am also an agnostic (but not brilliant). However, I'm most envious of those persons who are devoutly religious and derive great comfort from their belief. I wish that I could believe in the hope and promise of Christianity (or another religion) but as someone mentioned above, you can't chose to believe or not. You simply develop your own opinion (somewhat intuitive) through life experiences and thought.
New letters reveal that Einstein felt the same way: He saw God specifically as a method of comfort for people who would otherwise be very successful in dealing with life on their own. The republicans have exploited that idea...it's my main lamentation in how religion is used as a bargaining chip, how it's distorted for personal and political gain and how blindly people will follow others in the name of 'religion' or 'god.'
There is a certain amount of disbelief that you have to suspend. If you cannot do that, then it's said you don't have 'faith.' Because faith cannot be proved or disproved; it simply exists or it doesn't. Blind faith is a stretch of a jump for most educated adults. If you are introduced to religion at a very young age, you grow up assuming that it's true. That seems to be the general approach for religion in America. I'd say that overall, more Americans grow up to lose religion rather than to gain it. That's why the right hates universities and colleges: those educate people where they get to a point where they may question the age of the planet or the claims of certain 'miracles.'
It's sometimes said that most people find God in a jail cell or at the bottom of a bottle and that seems to be true a lot of times. If you're at rock bottom, I guess you have no alternative but to suspend disbelief.
Carl Sagan was the popular "pseudo biologist" who fantasized in his book what it would be like to cohabitate with our nearest cousin the chimpanzee and produce an offspring. What i t would look like? In fact, the repulsive experiment violated the definition of race when it was pointed out that the chimp has only 44 chromosones and we have 46, 23 XXs and 23 XYs. He was forced to retract the notion in the 2nd printing with a footnote.
We all started from dirt, and we will all end back in the dirt.
Yeah, you sound like a real happy camper. I'm thinking you need to get some 'hope' in your dark life.
Unfortunately, without the promise of continued existence beyond our earthy life experience, life has no purpose or meaning. It makes no difference what you do or don't do in the brief life we experience. Each individual will cease to exist in a very short time and, indeed, the human species will suffer the same fate. Perhaps our predecessors will be intelligent machines that may exist for millenniums, but they too will face an end as will the entire universe. No point, no reason. Not that is a bad thing, but in human terms it seems rather sad.
wisdom, you give anything but. Try this wisdom:
I have plenty of hope, in logical things.
If you look at religion, logically, you realize how hopeless it really is.
Most 'athiests' believe in 'vibes'. Majority of it is just an excuse to either do nothing, or to hate something, or just to be lazy. Philosophically, atheism is like the most boring thing to discuss.
You don't know much about this topic, but you just wanted to say something about it, didn't you?
I'm sorry, "Nick Ricci", but your assertions regarding atheism are unfounded. The degree to which your assertions may represent truths is 0.0. To help you understand the degree to which your assertions may represent truths, I will access my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE). Using my IEE module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".
I I'm confident that the following book will help you understand what led you to make unfounded statements:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
nick, here's the only vibes i believe in... the vibes of electric guitar, synth and drums!
"atheism is like the most boring thing to discuss" Ah yes, the standard discourse from those who are not yet intelligent enough to discuss a thing intelligently. Congratulations, your input ranks right up there with pre-teens. Would you like to discuss Honey Boo Boo or Bieber instead?
Religion causes constipation.
Religion helps many people find purpose in life. For that reason it is good for some!
For me, there are too many deep pockets and corruption spanning over the entire 2012 years.
Really? That's your reason for NOT believing? That's kind of a lame excuse. I don't think that's going to fly with God. Good luck with that...
Coincidentally, marine biologists often help people find a porpoise in life.
Sadly, this is a huge reason that many people turn from religion. All you have to do is turn the television on every Sunday and you see people exploiting christians, stealing their money, being false prophets, using God as a way to wealth, power and control. Similarly, you see the republicans regularly invoking the name of God to defend their horrible beliefs to either scare people into doing what they want them to or to cause fear in them for listening to the other side of the argument.
I do know this: If Jesus came down today and walked around, he would NOT support a party of people who teach hatred, fear and ignorance, who steal from the poor to give to the rich, who hate others who are different who are such fans of violence and war...want to save unborn babies but send barely grown kids into war for absolutely not reason to be slaughtered. And then, after all those babies are born, absolutely refuse to support any kind of legislation that will help protect them or give them a shot at healthy life.
And yet, you see all the time these people who suggest that republicans are the final word with God. Absolutely not true. Jesus taught forgiveness, acceptance, love, helping the poor, helping the less fortunate. He preached against wealth and preached against hatred and being judgmental...and those are the cornerstones of the GOP ideals.
And this is not counting the closet atheist or non-affiliated, just do a low key survey of all the people you know and you'll find out many people just don't want to bother coming out as non believers, they just want to go with the flow and pretend they are religious because their families, for their kids, spouses, the neighborhood they live in, work and all that so they just keep their mouth shut but they don't really believe at all in all that junk. They are just afraid of the typical reaction when religious people find out and they go ohh my God an atheist!! you must kill and eat babies every day now!! run!!! run!! either that or ohh my poor lost sheep.. I must make my mission in life to try to save you now my brother ...
Ha-haaaa. Really? Who gives a damn? Look at them... They look like a bunch of fools... "Hi mom. I'm an atheist." I mean, really, who says that – other than a fool? Duhhh
why is it always the most supreme idiots have a name like "wisdom" or "truth"?
Ahh...don't hate, just appreciate. : )
i must appreciate you on some level, I did say you were "supreme"
This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:
John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."
Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."
Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss His ass?"
John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, He'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, He'll kick the guts out of you."
Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"
John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropist. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do whatever He wants, and what He wants is to give you a million dollars, but He can't until you kiss His ass."
Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."
Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"
Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."
John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."
Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"
Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."
Me: "And has He given you a million dollars?"
John: "Well no. You don't actually get the money until you leave town."
Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"
Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money, and He kicks the guts
out of you."
Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"
John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."
Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"
John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."
Me: "So what makes you think He'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"
Mary: "Well, He gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty-dollar bill on the street."
Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"
John: "Hank has certain 'connections.'"
Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."
John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass He'll kick the guts out of you."
Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to Him, get the details straight from Him..."
Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."
Me: "Then how do you kiss His ass?"
John: "Sometimes we just blow Him a kiss, and think of His ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."
Me: "Who's Karl?"
Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."
Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss His ass, and that Hank would reward you?"
John: "Oh no! Karl has a letter he got from Hank years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for yourself."
From the Desk of Karl
1. Kiss Hank's ass and He'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
2. Use alcohol in moderation.
3. Kick the guts out of people who aren't like you.
4. Eat right.
5. Hank dictated this list Himself.
6. The moon is made of green cheese.
7. Everything Hank says is right.
8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
9. Don't use alcohol.
10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
11. Kiss Hank's ass or He'll kick the guts out of you.
Me: "This appears to be written on Karl's letterhead."
Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."
Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."
John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."
Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"
Mary: "Not now, but years ago He would talk to some people."
Me: "I thought you said He was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the guts out of people just because they're different?"
Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."
Me: "How do you figure that?"
Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"
Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."
John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true, too."
Me: "But 9 says 'Don't use alcohol.' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."
John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."
Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."
Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from out of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."
Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon was somehow 'captured' by the Earth has been discounted*. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."
John: "Ha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"
Me: "We do?"
Mary: "Of course we do, Item 7 says so."
Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic, no different than saying 'Hank's right because He says He's right.'"
John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking."
Me: "But...oh, never mind....
You are a very sick person!
Brilliant! Very funny indeed! LOL.
jackie, don't hate the playa, hate the game.
Funny as hell, and this is what religion looks like to me. Good post. One of the best.
The most common route to atheism is through reading religious scripture.
Church's biggest problem, false doctrine. Oneness apostolic is right. Check it on ur pc. Water baptizm, father is not a name!
@ End and Michael....
You both basically posted the same thing...so, I'll address both of you here.
You're both incorrect and you would only know this by being a Christian that has the Holy Spirit within you.
What I asked John was, did he have the absolute "NEED" to want to know God at the time he was praying.... that's All!.
God knows our hearts. God knows our true needs and if you don't have that need, he may or may not answer you until you do.
@alicia: use the reply button so we can stay with the conversation, unless you're intentionally trying to ditch the thread...?
"You're both incorrect and you would only know this by being a Christian that has the Holy Spirit within you."
We're both correct and you would know this by being an atheist that understands religion is a delusion within your brain. See how that works? We can both say anything we want. This is why we require proof. Simple, huh? You posit prayer works. Show us the proof.
"What I asked John was, did he have the absolute "NEED" to want to know God at the time he was praying.... that's All!.
God knows our hearts. God knows our true needs and if you don't have that need, he may or may not answer you until you do."
Exactly as I predicted. Your delusion has specific rules for prayer to work. You're now instructing someone else that only your delusion has the correct rules over anyone else's delusion about how prayer works. You just proved my point for me. And I thank you.
No religion does NOT mean one does NOT believe in God. An Atheist is someone who does NOT believe in God. People and the media need to know and inform people of the difference between a person that do not subscribe to the dogma of a religion and a belief in a supreme being.
Well said! The photos on this story are as misleading as the religious dogma that drove many of us away from churches and temples ... but not from belief in God.
Anyone with a high school education already knows the difference.
Patiat, you give WAY too much credit to that HS diploma. The amount of ignorance in our society is absolutely staggering sometimes, over things as blatant as whether climate change or evolution are real, when there's overwhelming evidence for them. Something as nuanced as the difference between an atheist, an agnostic, and "the unchurched" is way too abstract for lots and lots of people.
Heck, I'd bet most of the posters on this comment board have HS diplomas, and you can see how badly understood that concept of atheism (which means ONLY "absence of belief in any gods") is among THIS crowd.
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.