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.
Good to know that I am not the only one that avoids church religiously.
As a Naval Veteran, I was on CV66 America Carrier heading to enforce the no-fly zone in Bosnia. One of my shipmates learned his kids were killed in a car accident. He prayed that night that God would take and comfort them and it helped him grieve. Do you think what he did was wrong or idiotic or has any bearing on his IQ?
tony – people often turn to su per sti tion to lend meaning to situations which have none. it can give comfort.
It might have made him feel better, but it didn't change anything.
Tony – an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god would't have killed your friends kids in the first place.
"Tony – an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god would't have killed your friends kids in the first place."
How do you figure he killed them? Should God step in and stop every bad event before it happens? If he did that then you certainly would not have the freedom to choose God or to disbelieve in him. A more tragic event that those children being killed is going to befall you if you are not saved...you will endure eternity seperated from God. That will be a bigger tragedy than the car accident because they may be with God.
i r so smrt ebcause m e no belive in god! i am a monster of a human and only care about myself. ur so fumb jesus is lame lol whaty you say to that?!?
All your base are belong to us ?
Future Pope in the making!
Take off every zig for great justice.
The OP is a typical Obama Voter.
Don't be a typical Obama Voter.
Use your brain, and vote for the only logical choice: Mitt Romney.
He's God's Choice to lead America back to the promised land!
romney – never trust anyone who purports to know any gods choice.
Whether there is religion or no religion, Human beings will always find ways to go to war. War has been around before religion, basing war on any indifference between people will bring confrontation which will lead to war. religion itself whether it is Islam, Judaism, or Christianity are AGAINST WAR. I have studied all three major religions and NONE say to murder INNOCENT people. The media BASES WAR on religion in their view to gain viewership which in turn gives them a profitThe Media is a FOR PROFIT organization and their VIEW on current events does not mean They will always be right, actually more to the contrary
War is for profit
So is religion
Capitalisim gone mad!
Godless America being built. Enjoy atheists, this is your future vacation spot. Sorry there will be not internet. Bummer!
Be afraid everyone. Here comes the bogeyman. You are ridiculous.
yes, leave us atheists alone and let us live in our virtual blog world. It's nice there, for now. That is until Obama flips the switch he now has control to and cuts you all off.
See might first comment idiot.
The batshit crazy woo is strong with this nutter.
"Oh, great invisible sky daddy in the invisible sky city, please save me from the invisible horned devil in the invisible fire pit with his invisible pitchfork, save me from eternal torture. Help me to ignore science, and to stay as ignorant as possible, and to pass this on to my children. Please help save me from myself, and to avoid me having to take any responsibility for my life. Amen".
Signed – Loyal Christian
cannot believe jesus iscoming so soon and people dont get ready for him
Considering how powerful gawwd is, if jesus is "coming", I am going to put on a really good raincoat and carry an umbrella around for when he blows his load.
OK dude, you wait right here, and let us know when he shows.
We will keep the welfare checks comng between now and then.
So why this move to atheism or agnosticism:
Some of the reasons:
1. origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482
“New Torah For Modern Minds
Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions – the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years – have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity – until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine docu-ment. “
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.
2. Jesus was an illiterate Jewish peasant/carpenter/simple preacher man who suffered from hallucinations (or “mythicizing” from P, M, M, L and J) and who has been characterized anywhere from the Messiah from Nazareth to a mythical character from mythical Nazareth to a ma-mzer from Nazareth (Professor Bruce Chilton, in his book Rabbi Jesus). An-alyses of Jesus’ life by many contemporary NT scholars (e.g. Professors Ludemann, Crossan, Borg and Fredriksen, ) via the NT and related doc-uments have concluded that only about 30% of Jesus' sayings and ways noted in the NT were authentic. The rest being embellishments (e.g. miracles)/hallucinations made/had by the NT authors to impress various Christian, Jewish and Pagan sects.
The 30% of the NT that is "authentic Jesus" like everything in life was borrowed/plagiarized and/or improved from those who came before. In Jesus' case, it was the ways and sayings of the Babylonians, Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Hitt-ites, Canaanites, OT, John the Baptizer and possibly the ways and sayings of traveling Greek Cynics.
For added "pizzazz", Catholic theologians divided god the singularity into three persons and invented atonement as an added guilt trip for the "pew people" to go along with this trinity of overseers. By doing so, they made god the padre into god the "filicider".
Current RCC problems:
Pedophiliac priests, an all-male, mostly white hierarchy, atonement theology and original sin!!!!
2 b., Luther, Calvin, Joe Smith, Henry VIII, Wesley, Roger Williams, the Great “Babs” et al, founders of Christian-based religions or combination religions also suffered from the belief in/hallucinations of "pretty wingie thingie" visits and "prophecies" for profits analogous to the myths of Catholicism (resurrections, apparitions, ascensions and immacu-late co-nceptions).
Adulterous preachers, pedophiliac clerics, "propheteering/ profiteering" evangelicals and atonement theology,
3. Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added "angels" and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.
This agenda continues as shown by the ma-ssacre in Mumbai, the as-sas-sinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, the Ft. Hood follower of the koran, and the Filipino “koranics”.
And who funds this muck and stench of terror? The warmongering, Islamic, Shiite terror and torture theocracy of Iran aka the Third Axis of Evil and also the Sunni "Wannabees" of Saudi Arabia.
The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.
4. Hinduism (from an online Hindu site) – "Hinduism cannot be described as an organized religion. It is not founded by any individual. Hinduism is God centered and therefore one can call Hinduism as founded by God, because the answer to the question ‘Who is behind the eternal principles and who makes them work?’ will have to be ‘Cosmic power, Divine power, God’."
The caste/laborer system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence are problems when saying a fair and rational God founded Hinduism."
The caste system, reincarnation and cow worship/reverence.
5. Buddhism- "Buddhism began in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ. The people living at that time had become disillusioned with certain beliefs of Hinduism including the caste system, which had grown extremely complex. The number of outcasts (those who did not belong to any particular caste) was continuing to grow."
"However, in Buddhism, like so many other religions, fanciful stories arose concerning events in the life of the founder, Siddhartha Gautama (fifth century B.C.):"
Archaeological discoveries have proved, beyond a doubt, his historical character, but apart from the legends we know very little about the circu-mstances of his life. e.g. Buddha by one legend was supposedly talking when he came out of his mother's womb.
Bottom line: There are many good ways of living but be aware of the hallucinations, embellishments, lies, and myths surrounding the founders and foundations of said rules of life.
Then, apply the Five F rule: "First Find the Flaws, then Fix the Foundations". And finally there will be religious peace and religious awareness in the world!!!!!
I ahve been reading these posts for some time.
Has anyone else noticed that Christianity seems to attract people with severe paranoia?
Persecution complexes, some even talk about conspiracy so bizzare they are stunning.
Camps in Alaska? Demons? Communist conspiracies? Black helicopter stuff of the worst magnitude.
Christianity needs to police it's nut cases, because more and more it seems the lunatics are running the asylum.
Yes, and atheism attracts such intellectual giants like Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot (great job he did in Cambodia), and the Kim's of North Korea....
Actual Pott's methods were QUITE efficient.
He killed everybody we left we we abandoned Vietnam
We should give him a damn medal
I'm religious, and I'm not paranoid. I odn't think anyone is out to get me.
"Not a Nutcase But I Play one On TV" GOD is out to get you, if you dont pay the church and light some candles
you will go under the flat earth for eternity burning.
Chris, you forgot Einstien. How does it feel being wrong for claiming he believed in God for all those years? And that is the folly of saying "so in so was an athiest/thiest therefore there is/isn't a God." You can argue till your blue in the face about Hitler's religious afiliation, but that proves nothing.
when you look at any group these days, the lunatics stand out. from the Islamic extremists in the middle east, to the man who tried to bomb 48 churches it oaklahoma. Psychopaths and evil men will always find an excuse to do their evil deeds, often offending most those who truly believe in the lessons of any real religion-treating others how you would like to be treated.
@Chris those people you mentioned were not Atheists, a few of them even portrayed themselves as a god, and killed any who disagreed (Mao, Pol Pot)....Atheists don't think anyone is a god. Also do you want a list of all the religious leaders that killed just as much if not more people? I assure you the religious mass murderers are much more common (and no, Hitler was not atheist, he was VERY spiritual)
Nice! We had Stalin, Lenin, AND Pol Pot?!?!
Still, it'd be nice to rack up numbers like, um, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and Hitler. That'd be AWESOME!
WARNING!!! WARNING!! WARNING!!
This article is all nonsense, idiotic and fake. Atheism/Non-religion is minority worldwide, especially in the U.S. where only 1-3% are atheists/agnostics.
Christianity make up 80% of the US population and is growing rapidly and will increase another hundred million by next few decades. Religion is going nowhere and the author of this article is mentally ill moron!!
IN GOD WE TRUST !! More than 400,000 churches in America and new churches open every day :)
Calm down dude!
You sound like the robot from Lost in Space!
Face it dude, you bet on the wrong savior.
Better crawl over to the towel heads and make nice, or they will give your virgin butt to Osama as one of his 70!
Huh huh huh. Evan. didn't realize he was looking in the mirror when he said "moron". huh huh huh...
If your God is so mighty, then he doesn't need you to defend him.
I realize that this is probably lost on you, but that is no longer an accurate figure... While yes it is a minority, it is a rapidly expanding segment of the population...
You sound very scared.
Danger Will Robinson! Danger!
I'm sorry, "Evangelical Christian", 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".
clearly you and I were thinking along the same lines!
Only for the new members of this blog:->>>
And globally, we have:
Christianity ……………………..2.1 billion
Islam…………………………… 1.5 billion
Irreligious/agnostic/atheism…… 1.1 billion – Look out, here we come!!!
Hinduism 900 million
Chinese traditional religion 394 million
Buddhism 376 million
Animist religions 300 million
African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
Sikhism 23 million
Juche 19 million
Spiritism 15 million
Judaism…………………………………….. 14 million
Baha'i 7 million
Jainism 4.2 million
Shinto 4 million
Cao Dai 4 million
Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
Tenrikyo 2 million
Neo-Paganism 1 million
Unitarian Universalism 800,000
Rastafari Movement 600,000
"This article is all nonsense, idiotic and fake. Atheism/Non-religion is minority worldwide, especially in the U.S. where only 1-3% are atheists/agnostics."
nope! (as your friend @tbt / prayer-bot likes to say)
The new data shows atheists + agnostics at 5.5%. Yes, this is still only one in twenty, but it is growing.
Yeah, open a whole bunch of churches! That's the answer! Down with the minority!
... don't feed, clothe, or shelter the poor or anything.
We, the heretical masses, don't care who thinks they're in charge. If being in the majority is decides who's right, why are their still Christians? I would think the the Romans would have handled that by now. Of course, roaches are incredibly hard to kill...
Being moral requires having no religion.
Who told that there is anything called immoral?
Dan Merica is an Atheist.
Religion is the worst thing that ever happened to the human race.
Science is destroying this planet and its people.
Nice assertion. Could you give us a synopsis of the comparison between all the bad things that have happened to mankind in comparison to religion and cross reference that to all the good things religion has done reduced by the bad? Or do you just make wild azz statements out of thin air all the time?
Don't you mean free choice? Don't people commit heinous crimes of their own free will?
Science is either a hibby or study – it has no intent. Therefore, science destroys nothing.
Fear and hatred – the product of religion – is what destroys
I don't think religion is to blame for the problems with the human race. I think we are capable of both good and bad. Why we say we did either is our own justification for our actions. The Devil made me do it, is a way of not taking responsibility.
It doesn't matter what your answer is, I am just setting you up to tell you you're wrong.
God did not create man in his own image. It was the other way around.
30-50 million years from now after the Mamals have had their time in charge of the planet as the dinosaurs had theirs, I am thinking that it will be the bug's turn to run the planet. There are far more of them than us, and they will EVOLVE just as we have.
I bet their god will look like a bug.
There is hope for humanity after all...
Do not equate having no religion as having no morals. This is a common good old American epistemic leap to judgement.
So what are "morals" then? Aren't morals the delineation between "good" and "bad" in simple terms? What does one measure against to determine if their action is good or bad?
How, pray tell, does an Athiest decide if an action they take is good or bad?
If I had one wish it would not be to get rich or be famous or powerful. It would be to FORVER remove the idea that being religous and being moral are mutually inclusive.
Come off it guitar man, SOCIETY teaches morals, not "God". We ALL know about the golden rule and such. Being moral is doing no harm to others – especially when it benefits YOU.
Society is currently teaching that promiscuous seexual activity and abortion are morally acceptable. Does that make it so?
I mean, the world looks like that to me, and mine is the only correct worldview.
One only has to look at the Democratic party to see the lack of morals and what is happening.
regardless of whether you are religious or not... everyone on Earth calculates social situations in terms of cost/benfit analysis. This is fundamental economics.
Morality is doing what is right no matter what you are told to do. Religion is doing what you are told to do no matter what is right.
Is slavery moral?
seex is as natural as breathing air.
Nothing could be more dangerous than someone with the ability to fire nuclear weapons and faith that god is telling him what to do.
amen to that
That's the strongest argument against a nuclear Iran I've ever heard.
Is that really more dangerous than an atheist person who believes "scientifically" that civilization is better off if he pushes the button? There are crazies in every crowd.
Who can blame them? The TV and radio preachers have become so radical and hateful who would want to be associated with that? Politically affiliated groups have become a new source of funding for these people, and after all you don't get to be a mega-church without mega-bucks.
Fact is the higher your IQ the less likely you are to believe in Religion...
Just ask me. I be a geenius.
Socialism IS a religeon so your comment seems a bit counter intuitive.
AH I see my son is posting again
I should have gotten head that night :(
While IQ as a measurement of academic capacity often correlates to a reduced involvement with religion this is merely correlation, not causation. Also, omitted from your comment is any reference to EI, emotional intelligence which many researches identify as a characteristic of intelligence separate from IQ. Persons who score higher in emotional intelligence are often found on the upper spectrum of practiitioners of religion. While distinct and noncongruent measurements of human intelligence, neither IQ nor EI completely give an accurate representation of an individuals overall reasoning ability on their own.
So, no, you are wrong. Unless you choose to limit your data pool in order to generate confirmation bias towards your assertion.
i think that the numbers of "nonreligious" people may be growing because we feel more comfortable "outing" ourselves. i grew up in a family that was religious and in a community where being "nonreligious" was not tolerated. i had to keep these feelings to myself for a long time. i had no bad feelings towards the religious people i knew but felt that i might get ostracized if i spoke about how i felt.
furthermore, with so many scandals and churches clinging to clearly irrelevant biases its not hard to see why people would remove themselves from an organized church even if they dont want to remove themselves from god.
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.