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.
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.
Reading the Bible carefully pretty much disproves the existence of a god.
You are so right. More Atheists have become Atheists by reading the bible (and then thinking about it) then by any other means. If more Christians read the bible more Christians would become Atheist- a statistical certainty. Reading the bible makes people realize that god is imaginary. More proof can be found that god is, indeed, imaginary at http://www.godisimaginary.com
Baal wound up on his nose... not that Hamilcar took him that seriously ;-)
Try this atheists: Studies by top universities show 39.83% of the prison population in the USA are atheists, while only 2% of the general population of the USA are atheists. Coincidence much?!!
sources so we can confirm this American tragedy?
your an idiot. trying researching before throwing statistics.
That study was conducted by a group of christian chaplains. Biased much?
100% of all babies born everywhere is the world are atheists until their religious teachers work them over with what ever the local religion is. Otherwise there would be only one world-wide religion. Gosh you are an incredible fool.
Actual studies show the opposite, that belief in a higher power is more common among the prison population than the population at large. It IS amusing how you make up your "studies" though.
Do you make a habit of pulling fake stats out of your butt?
Remember how we are waiting for you to direct us to all those numerous studies that correlate atheism with childhood depression, and that show bad childhoods cause atheism? Or are you indeed simply full of shit?
Nice Stats. But it does not change the fact that God is Imaginary. Read the proof at http://www.godisimaginary.com
BTW Go_GOP, let me give you a clue. When you make up statistics, they NEVER go to two decimal places. That much "accuracy" is a sure sign that they are bogus.
try this.... 99% of the statistics quoted on internet forums are bs!
atheist and proud of it!
I think I have to call Poe's law on GO_GOP.
Gadfly, you may be right...
Gosh is that all people do on here is lie and throw insults? My goodness. OK, I am back from my self-wiki-refresher course on Spinoza which I hadn't looked at since my days at James Madison College. I don't think I understood it back then. But now, it jives completely with most of what I believe, but maybe only half of what I suspect or wonder about. OK I'm just talking out loud – not replying to anyone really.
SO are you saying the other 60.17% of the prison population are religious?
Citation? I can't seem to find any studies that comes close to that.
I read a story a few months ago that said we non-believers knew more about religion than any religious group. I think that is either because we tend to be on average a little more intelligent, or we understand more about it and find it all different sides of the same coin, and just not logically possible.
The demon possessed were the first to recognize Jesus' deity, preceded only by John the Baptizer, who was the last of the Hebrew prophets.
I was baptized twice (Catholic and Methodist.. don't ask) and grew up in a religious family. Somehow at the tender age at 5 or 6 years while reading those cute Bible stories of Noah fitting every animal in the world in his ark, and how angels lived in the sky and how God talked to Moses talked in the form of a burning bush and how Moses turned staffs into snakes... I realized something was terribly wrong. You'd be surprised the number of kids who just go along with everything and only really come to terms with no believing when they are older. It's naive to assume the only non-believers are rebel teens. I was born atheist, might just die that way.
Thank you for thinking!
Good for you, Amy. You were obviously way smarter as a kid than many adults are now.
congrats on getting out with your sanity
I saw a person come out of another person's belly, and the new person looked at me with my eyes. It made me reconsider all of my grasp of reality.
2357, it sounds like you had a personal encounter with heredity.
Oh...at 61 I'm very proud of myself in a new awareness that came over me a year ago. Grew up Methodist, married that way, family is that way, etc. Reading on the internet several open minded blogs and forums I did add all things up and have concluded that religion is simply bs. About three months ago I finally told my 81 year old mother while visiting her. Her reaction? "Hmm...I have been thinking the same thing son." Lol... I think someday our children will read a history book that will say this is the beginning of the end of the 'Dark Religious Ages' and man was finally and truly enlightened. No more religious wars and no more killing of innocent men women and children in the name of god or gods.
So Americans are getting smarter – at last some good news!!!
HEY! There is hope for Humanity yet! Dump religion – evolve.
Theocratic evangelical christians are scary and anti-American and would take away our rights to free speech and freedom of religion (or lack there of). Believe what ever you want, but do not force your beliefs upon me. As Patrick Henry said "I may not believe in what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it". I stand by this great American TRUTH. That said, I hope you give me the same basic American rights...
The bible is a book of myths and lies. God is imaginary and so is hell. If God were real he would be an evil monster. Who gives a rat's behind what the bible say's because it's pure fiction. How can you worship a god that has killed innocent children? If you worship the god of the bible you worship an evil murderer. Thank god that god is imaginary. Only a monster would make people knowing that they would eventually wind up in hell- especially when he had the choice to not make them at all, thus saving them from eternal torture.
Satan good. God bad. But only from a mythological point of view, because they are both imaginary. Check out http://www.godisimaginary.com
Praise Lucifer, the bringer of truth, light and reason! Hail Satan, the imaginary adversary to an imaginary god, who has the balls to fight against god's evil ways! Glory be to the mythical beings of Lucifer and Satan who shall slay the evil mythical God of Abraham!!!! Remember what I said about free speech? Are you American enough to accept this concept?
Bill Hicks is your prophet and sage. He crossed the media gods, however.
LOL, one of my best friends was a Satanist, but he wound up tied up in something resembling a dark Opus Dei. All very political and conventional from a religious standpoint :-)
Nothing cures feigned atheism like a wild romp in bed with full-on satanism. The children know not what they do.
I think the devil and god need to go ahead and make-up already.
This lover's quarrel is affecting all of us terribly!
I think it's funny how they named God after the english word for good, and Devil after the english word for evil.
Sounds like a money-making scheme that goes waaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the day.
Hi there, this is Santa speaking.
I used to be an old pagan god, but I was recycled into the Roman Catholic church in order to bring in the pagans!
Let's all get drunk on the finest wine, and have a drunken *passes out* :)
Agreed! Sounds like fun!!!!
Visit limitistheturth.com to learn fact's about hindu atheism, criminal denial of truth absolute by hindu atheist criminal self centered, secular's.
Here's one with just the zero replacements. I'm still trying to figure out which word is banned. Crazy.
That's an interesting questi0n, Aar0n Smith, and deserves a less than flippant answer. Thanks f0r asking. S0, why d0 atheists seem c0mpelled t0 discuss religi0n?
As a humanist, i hate the term "atheist." it was devel0ped as a der0gat0ry term by theists wh0 were attempting t0 create an "0ther" t0 pr0tect their 0wn fanta5y-based p0wer structure. The term itself is an attempt t0 dehumanize th0se 0f a phiil0s0phy that is n0t deity-based.
if there's 0ne thing w0rth talking ab0ut as a humanist, it's the need t0 separate 0urselves fr0m the term "atheist." As l0ng as we are f0rced t0 use it, the theists win. They make us l00k less than human thr0ugh simple use 0f language. Read "i 9 8 4" f0r a g00d primer 0n h0w language can be used t0 dehumanize.
Humanists, as a gr0up, attempt t0 define themselves based 0n reas0ned phil0s0phy within the framew0rk 0f generally accepted scientific principles. Apart fr0m that p0int, h0wever, humanists share few c0mm0nalities. Fr0m this statement, a religi0us pers0n w0uld assume that science is a humanist's "religi0n." Again, this is a use 0f dehumanizing categ0rizati0n. Science is necessarily inh0m0gene0us at r00t. Many avenues must be expl0red t0 find 0ne that is m0re l0gically supp0rted than the rest.
Humanists: let's at least agree that we sh0uldn't have t0 use theism t0 identify 0urselves.
oh. lol. i'm not calling you that. that's the word that would not pass the filter.
Thanks. Never occured to me. Will remember in the future that the word inh0m0gene0us is evil.
I only made it about 2-lines into this moronic post... I don't even know what this person said, but learn how to type a freakin "o"... it's not a zero, it's an o. This isn't cute, it just makes your point difficult to even read which makes me stop and just assume it's a stupid point.
Based on prior criticism and suggestion, here it is again. Hopefully it will post this time.
That's an interesting question, @Aaron Smith, and deserves a less than flippant answer. Thanks for asking. So, why do atheists seem compelled to discuss religion?
As a humanist, I hate the term "atheist." it was developed as a derogatory term by theists who were attempting to create an "other" to protect their own fantasy-based power structure. The term itself is an attempt to dehumanize those of a phiilosophy that is not deity-based.
if there's one thing worth talking about as a humanist, it's the need to separate ourselves from the term "atheist." As long as we are forced to use it, the theists win. They make us look less than human through simple use of language. Read "1984" for a good primer on how language can be used to dehumanize.
Humanists, as a group, attempt to define themselves based on reasoned philosophy within the framework of generally accepted scientific principles. Apart from that point, however, humanists share few commonalities. From this statement, a religious person would assume that science is a humanist's "religion." Again, this is a use of dehumanizing categorization. Science is necessarily inh0m0geneous at root. Many avenues must be explored to find one that is more logically supported than the rest.
Humanists: let's at least agree that we shouldn't have to use theism to identify ourselves.
OK and that was also very interesting to read. I'm comfortable with who I am and what I believe, but I'm not exactly sure what category people would put me in. Well I may try to refresh my memory on this Spinoza dude tonight.
You used the sequence "homo", in the word "inhomogenous". That's a no-no.
Hey "Me". You're the one sounding idiotic. He stated in the beginning why he was doing the "0" replacement. I wonder how quickly you give up on other things in life.
Agnostic, in Greek is "ignoramus" :)
I love it when atheists speak. Hatred spews from every word they utter. Recent studies have shown atheists tend to have bad, depressing childhood and their atheism is a direct result of this. I pray to our lord to save the atheists.
What studies? References please.
Really? Cite your source please. And, I'm afraid your butt doesn't count as one.
We don't need your prayers. Don't wear out your knees on our account. We're probably more well adjusted and happier than most of you bible babblers.
Do I need to give reference for the fact that the sun rises from the East? The studies are all over the place. You need to be educated to know it. Not an atheist.
gio-gop is gone-glop
In other words, you are just making it up. Why do Christians feel so free to fabricate? Is it a divine right?
As the others said, please cite your sources.
Problem is, you can't, as no such studies exist. In fact, the more troubled a person is, or was as a child, the more likely they are to turn to a fake deity to help them.
It seems there are to claims that need to be supported here:
1) Correlation between current atheism and past childhood depression
2) A direct causal relationship between childhood depression and atheism.
Any support for either of these, GO_GOP?
Yet you came on here to spew hate. Hypocrite much?
I love it when religious people speak of atheists as haters, when every baby born everywhere is the world is an atheist until their religious teachers work them over with what ever the local religion is. And of course anti-abortion drives just create more new atheists.
@Rufus "It seems there are to claims that need to be supported here:
1) Correlation between current atheism and past childhood depression
2) A direct causal relationship between childhood depression and atheism."
=>Rufus, you forgot two..
"Why do Christians feel so free to fabricate? Is it a divine right?"
3. Correlation between Christians and a need to fabricate
4. Belief on the part of Christians that they have been endowed with divine rights
I've no sources, but many atheists I've meet were "raised catholic". I think that pretty much qualifies as the equivalent.
1) I never claimed there were "numerous studies" that backed up my question.
2) Your posts are evidence aplenty.
Nice try, though.
I'm calling Poe's law on GO_GOP.
Very true, you never did claim to have any data to backup your statements..
You're right, Chad, and I'm so pleased that you're beginning to understand the difference between data and claims! Next step, try putting that into practice...
so,,, you're saying that you're happy that I now understand that you have no data to back up your claims?
Funny thing about Christians is, they think their god would most definitely look like a human man.
If they got a look at what god probably looks like (if they were real) in their true form, they would be cursing his name, then sent straight to hell.
Human minds can only take so much before they snap like a small twig!
Remember, you were once sperm and egg. You looked gross, deal with it!
You will look disgusting when you die.
There is no such thing as beauty, and therefore cannot be worshipped.
It is all a delusion of the mind.
I am a Christian, and your post made me think how I visualize God. There was of course Jesus who was a human man but also God, so obviously picturing him as a man makes since, a Jewish man. I suppose I have always pictured God as just a bright light, not really a man form. And I would agree (and the Bible would as well) that we would die if we ever actually saw God. Moses got to see his back, but that's it. Don't agree with your over riding point, but I always like a discussion or a point that makes me think. Thanks for that.
Then think why god has kept all the other species than man fed and sheltered for no money for the past 6000 years, but every single one his chosen priests need to have collection plates. . . . .
That's an 1nt3r3st1ng qu3st10n, Aar0n Smith, and d3s3rv3s a l3ss than fl1ppant answ3r. Thanks f0r ask1ng. S0, why d0 ath31sts s33m c0mp3ll3d t0 d1scuss r3l1g10n?
As a human1st, 1 hat3 th3 t3rm "ath31st." 1t was d3v3l0p3d as a d3r0gat0ry t3rm by th31sts wh0 w3r3 att3mpt1ng t0 cr3at3 an "0th3r" t0 pr0t3ct th31r 0wn fanta5y-bas3d p0w3r structur3. Th3 t3rm 1ts3lf 1s an att3mpt t0 d3human1z3 th0s3 0f a ph11l0s0phy that 1s n0t d31ty-bas3d.
1f th3r3's 0n3 th1ng w0rth talk1ng ab0ut as a human1st, 1t's th3 n33d t0 s3parat3 0urs3lv3s fr0m th3 t3rm "ath31st." As l0ng as w3 ar3 f0rc3d t0 us3 1t, th3 th31sts w1n. Th3y mak3 us l00k l3ss than human thr0ugh s1mpl3 us3 0f languag3. R3ad "1 9 8 4" f0r a g00d pr1m3r 0n h0w languag3 can b3 us3d t0 d3human1z3.
Human1sts, as a gr0up, att3mpt t0 d3f1n3 th3ms3lv3s bas3d 0n r3as0n3d ph1l0s0phy w1th1n th3 fram3w0rk 0f g3n3rally acc3pt3d sc13nt1f1c pr1nc1pl3s. Apart fr0m that p01nt, h0w3v3r, human1sts shar3 f3w c0mm0nal1t13s. Fr0m th1s stat3m3nt, a r3l1g10us p3rs0n w0uld assum3 that sc13nc3 1s a human1st's "r3l1g10n." Aga1n, th1s 1s a us3 0f d3human1z1ng cat3g0r1zat10n. Sc13nc3 1s n3c3ssar1ly 1nh0m0g3n30us at r00t. Many av3nu3s must b3 3xpl0r3d t0 f1nd 0n3 that 1s m0r3 l0g1cally supp0rt3d than th3 r3st.
Human1sts: l3t's at l3ast agr33 that w3 sh0uldn't hav3 t0 us3 th31sm t0 1d3nt1fy 0urs3lv3s.
Sorry for all the number replacements, but there was a banned word in there somewhere. I have no idea which one it was except that it was one of the ones where I replaced the "o"s with zeros. Messed up, man.
Please use the normal alphabetic characters. You think this is cute, but nobody will read it.
[Quran 6:116] If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess.
[Quran 40:13] He is the One who continuously shows you His proofs, and sends down to you from the sky provisions. Only those who totally submit will be able to take heed.
[Quran 40:62] Such is God your Lord, the Creator of all things. There is no god except He. How could you deviate?
“They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]
“The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]
“No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]
It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]
Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.
Read the Quran and you will know less about God than when you started!
I m a gurl, and I like being allowed to drive n to earn a living (doing something other than selling underwear). I am glad that I have the freedom to go grocery shopping and that I am allowed to learn to read.
How about we not make decisions based on our conversations with invisible people.
Did you know Atheists have a secret language? We communicate each other right out in the open and the religious cannot detect it. We simply state facts to one another and religious folks ignore it. I have encoded this message in special religious sauce that allows you to read this factual post. So next time you get a tickle in the back of your neck, or Jesus flat out tells you there is an Atheist conspiracy to plot behind your back, know that it is true. I will now wipe the secret sauce off my keyboard so you cannot read our special messages.
Now if only America had a better educational system, it would be 1 in 3 or greater.
You are probably right, there,s a pretty strong negative correlation between education ranking and religiosity around the world.
I should say there appears to be – I have not actually run the numbers!
I did however actually run the numbers for the 2004 election, and there was a statistically significant correlation between poorly ranked state education system and voting for Bush. No joke.
(thanks for listening to me talk to myself)
You must have learned that in Atheism – a worldview 101. Wherever Christianity has gone, education followed.
Quite often, it followed a LONG way behind.
Christianity is about as normal as it's going to get, having gotten past their destructive stage (for the most part). Freud and Jung tell us that people are going to believe in SOMETHING, otherwise they do themselves psychological damage. We are programmed to believe that there is something higher on the food chain than us, so...
Why not try to put this proclivity of mankind to good use, to give us hope and to give us cause to treat our fellow man in a manner worthy of dignified fellow travelers on this life journey? Why not take this commonality in basic wiring to recognize the fact that human beings are worth infinitely more than stuff? Isn't that what the Bible teaches us? Consider the story of the wicked servant in Matthew.
unfortunatly peopel who believe in religion only treat others of same religion with humanity, they hate/scorn everyone else, so religion in itself is a failure.
1 in 5 may have no so-called "religion", but if you ask foreigners what they think of Americans and their values, then you quickly realize those 20% do have a religion - consumerism, obesity, Coffee shops, Walmart, etc.
Sure, take France. French people will go on as if they singlehandedly invented western culture, and express their disgust at fat Americans, all while allowing their dogs to poop on public sidewalks all over Paris.
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.