By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – After years of marked growth, the size of Americans who identify with no religion slowed in 2012, according to a study released Thursday.
Since 2008, the percentage of Americans who identify as religious "nones" has grown from 14.6% to 17.8% in 2012, according to the Gallup survey. That number, which grew nearly one percentage point every year from 2008 to 2011, grew only 0.3% last year – from 17.5% in 2011 to 17.8% in 2012 – making it the smallest increase over the past five years.
This study contrasts with headlines from previous studies on religious “nones,” including a 2012 study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life that found the group was the fastest growing "religious" group in America and that one in five Americans now identify with no religion.
“Although this ‘rise of the nones’ has increased dramatically over recent decades, the rate of increase slowed last year, suggesting the possibility that there may be a leveling off in this measure in the years ahead,” reports the Gallup study, which is made up of more than 350,000 interviews.
Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, says these results suggest “that religion may be maintaining itself or even increasing in the years ahead.”
“Our current ability to look at it over five years with these big surveys suggests the possibility that the growth [of the nones] may not be inexorable,” Newport says.
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In his book, “God is Alive and Well: The Future of Religion in America,” Newport argues that a number of factors, including baby boomers reaching senior ages, migration to more religious states, recognition of health and well being of religion and an increase in a Hispanic population, are all reasons that “we are going to continue to have a quite religious nation going forward.”
Atheist and humanist activists disagree and pushed back against the Gallup study.
“The truth is, it doesn't really matter whether one of these surveys – even a big one like Gallup – shows the number leveling off a bit this past year,” Greg Epstein, humanist chaplain at Harvard University, says. “First of all, the numbers for young Americans are still dramatically higher, and secondly, it is beyond dispute now that the "nones" are one of the largest demographic groups in the United States, and we're going to stay that way for a long, long time.”
The Gallup study also found that 27% of Americans age 18 to 29 identified as religious nones, making the age group the largest subgroup in the study. The finding tracks with other studies on religious nones, many of which have found the growth among the religiously unaffiliated has been most notable among people who are 18 to 29 years old.
“There's no slowing here at the Secular Student Alliance. We're up to 394 campus groups from 310 a year ago,” Jesse Galef, communications director at the organization, says in response to the survey. “You can see the religious future of America just by looking at the demographics: Young Americans (18-29) are almost three times as likely to be unaffiliated with religion than senior citizens are.”
In particular, Galef points out, the Secular Student Alliance has experienced growth in ages below 18, an age group that Gallup did not survey. In the last year, says Galef, the number of Secular Student Alliance affiliates at high schools doubled to 60 campuses.
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News of strong growth among nones had long been heralded by their community.
As study after study began to report that religious nones in America were growing, many atheist, agnostic and humanist activists began to stress the need for these relative non-believers to come together and turn their numbers into political and social influence. Though some leaders split on what wielding that influence would look like, the size of religious nones became the impetus for many leaders to call for more recognition.
In response to the Gallup study, those calls continued.
“The real question now is when are our historically large numbers going to start turning into more votes and influence,” Epstein says. “The nones can become a steady and inspiring powerhouse in American life if we focus on what we do believe in.”
And even though the Gallup study found a relative leveling off of growth among the nones, David Silverman, the president of America Atheists, says he finds the survey “not at all troubling.”
“This underscores what American Atheists has been saying for years - that every person in America knows more nonreligious people than they think they know,” Silverman says. “America has to get used to the fact that atheists are everywhere, you already know us, and we are a vibrant and growing portion of society.”
Isn't slower growth, still growth?
See if that makes you feel better when they're talking about your cancer.
Yes, and the nature of these studies means that there can be some significant errors. For example, a BBC study showed the rate of atheism to be 9-10% where another study found 1.6% (the difference was how the question was asked: if youu ask a group if they believe in any kind of god, 9-10% will say no, but if you ask them if they are atheists, only about 2% will identify as such.)
He even loves the slow ones.
Yeah Howard, you tell him.
Just like every village witch doctor, shake your rattle and threaten to throw a curse on him...
Ahhh, nice false analogy Howard.
not according to mittens and the gop, slow positive growth is negative growth derpa derpa
I've been dead for several months now and it is exactly as I thought it would be.
No god, no devil, no wiskey, and no women.
Quiet a bore, really...
Plenty of whiskey here. You sure you are where you THINK you are?
Hitch would have spelled "quite" correctly... and CERTAINLY would have known how to spell "whiskey".
I'm sorry, "hal 9001", but "you" are a redundant doosh-bag, therefore your assertions are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".
Get rid of the religions. We can live without them. I am. I was part of many types of religions. I realized they are all false and lie. Once a Buddhist told me that Buddha heals you. If you break your leg they take you to temple and in 2 months leg gets healed. No really thats what he said. Really people your bones heal in 6 weeks. Christian religions. I grew up in a Pentecostal Nazarene church. It was a heaping joke of guilt preaching pathetic yelling bible shaking fits to make you repent yet nothing changed except your pocketbook.
You are using your small understanding of God and projecting it on others.
Dumb. Dumb. Da Dumb.
I don't quite think we need to end religion...it's more of a question of people devoting every waking minute to it. People will put this faith above their own children they actually have in front of them..put it in front of their family...they give all props for anything they do to this faith. If people found a balance to where they could still be faithful and believe in something without making it everything they talk about or do..that'd be cool
most beleivers have a balance
I just don't believe any of it and I never, ever have. Even as a kid, I thought religion was ridiculous and if the bible was true and god made abraham think he had to kill his own child, then I thought god was a jerk. I don't know what's happening out there is spiritual land and NO ONE ELSE DOES EITHER. NOBODY KNOWS. Just be a decent, kind and nice human being and if that's not enough, then too damn bad.
Well, Pam – it's just not enough.
And, another study in Great Britain says the the 'nones' are up past 25%. Like with most things, including gun control and universal healthcare, our greatest ally leads the way for what America will hopefully aspire to be in the future.
Great Britain isn't in good condition right now. There economy is taking worst than ours.
The British Journal of Psychiatry:
"Of the participants 35% had a religious understanding of life, 19% were spiritual but not religious and 46% were neither religious nor spiritual.
Religious .................................. 35%
Spritual but not religious .......... 19%
Neither spiritual nor religious ... 46%
Forget 25%, by this data, the "nones" could be as high as 65% in Britain.
Until the Muslims put knives to their throats, and those "nones" discover Allah. Quickly.
Yeah, Gallup also predicted a solid Romney win last November. Come back when you have numbers from an organization that knows how to do math.
I'm a None. Atheist in fact. Age 38. My personal opinion is that using ages 18-29 as an indication of ....well ....anything is basically a mistake.
At that age, most normal young adults are basking in new found freedoms, new found money, new careers, new unrestricted access to alcohol, new types of sensual pleasure etc etc. Religion (unless your one of the few Tebow-like stepford children) takes a major backburner to everything else. It just doesn't get much of a thought at that time of your life, which may be why nearly 1 out of three designate themselves as a none.
Once you get a bit older and start having your own children, or job growth stagnates or becomes repetetive, or seeing friends or close relatives pass away is usually when most people start to give religion a thought.
I have seen many friends and family members follow this pattern. Apparent none until they had their kids, or a parent passed away, or lost a job. Then sadly, suddenly that person rediscovered their childhood religion.
So my point is...I think the age group to critically examine for any true growth of nones... is age 30-50.
At least you don't sound narrow-minded and have a bunch of preconceived notions of what it means to have a relationship with your maker.
I'm a "None," too. Specifically, I'm an agnostic. My position is that there may be a God, and there may be ghosts. You can't PROVE or DISPROVE the existence of either one. I await some evidence; in fact, I'd love to see some evidence. In the meantime, I try to live my life according to the Christian values I was raised in.
BUT HERE'S THE IMPORTANT PART ... I try to do "the right thing," not because I expect a "heavenly reward" or because I fear "eternal damnation." I do it for no better reason than because it IS "the right thing."
If there is a God, and he judges me harshly for that code, then I'm not sure his is any heaven I'd want any part of anyway.
+++BUT HERE'S THE IMPORTANT PART ... I try to do "the right thing," not because I expect a "heavenly reward" or because I fear "eternal damnation." I do it for no better reason than because it IS "the right thing."
Yea, that is not why I love God.
Great post – I'm an atheist, in the 30-50 range as well. There are a surprising number of us out there – I'd love to see the end of religion in my lifetime, but slow growth is at least growth. (at least that's what my financial planner keeps telling me.....)
What is so shocking to me is the growth of all these 'neo-Christian' strip mall churches. A group of people get tired of having to conform in a traditional church (Protestant based), and then run off and start a new church that may be more to their liking. Are they really so insecure that they need the constant reinforcement of like minded minions?
Sweet! We're still growing!
Same can be said for many cancers.
And crime rate.
I have never understood the supposed exclusivity of science or religion. I've long believed in both and see no contradiction, admittedly in part because I'm not a literalist when it comes to the Bible. And I wouldn't jump to the conclusion that religiously unaffiliated people are actively atheistic, but may simply not be comfortable with any formal religious hierarchy or really to have given it much thought. Agnostic is probably a good description for most. Don't know; haven't thought about it.
science is BASED on observation, evidence, proof....religion is the EXACT opposite, relying on people being ignorant, blindly faithful to something that goes against existing evidence...
It is not science vs religion Rob. Both can help us make better sense of this world.
Interpreting Pew's version of the "nones", they include a range of belief and un-belief including people who are 'relgious' – just not belonging to a particular church, people who are 'spiritual but not religious' and people who are neither spiritual nor religous.
………………………………Pew-07 … Pew-12 … PRRI-12
Atheist ……………………….… 1.6% … 2.3% … 6.7% (with Agnostic)
Agnostic ……………………….. 2.4% … 3.4% … n/a
Other secular unaffiliated* …… 6.3% … 2.7% … 7.3%
Spiritual but not religious ………. n/a ….. 7.4% …. n/a
Religious unaffiliated ………….. 5.8% … 3.6% … 4.3%
* Not atheist/agnostic, but not spiritual or religious.
Reblogged this on TheBarkingAtheist.
Oh no, not another religion blog ... here we go again.
Boston Fan: Boston is the best city, and the Red Sox are King.
New York Fan: New York is the best city, and the Yankees are King.
Then we get hundreds and hundreds of people trying claim they can prove one of these statements right.
Guess what: you can argue until you are red in the face, but I got news for you – both fans are right. Same with belief in God: it's all personal opinion, so please let the religious folks have their personal opinions, and let the non-religious folks have their personal opinions. And stop acting like y'all know whether the Red Sox or Yankees are 'King' – you really make yourself look foolish that way.
The Belief Blog is here every day.
I'd be fine with that IF the religious nuts will keep that crap to themselves and not shove it down the throats of others....
I agree no gods exist.
The difference is that theYankees and Red Sox actually exist.
I'm going to keep trusting in God. People, like the ones that post a lot on here, have let me down.
I have two creators: My mother and my father. All other claimants need to provide proof of existence before I believe in them.
Yea, I leave that dilemma between you and God.
Then god had a creator. (Here comes the "everything has a creator except what I tell you didn't have a creator, it makes sense to me" gibberish).
It's not really a dilemma. Should god see fit to provide irrefutable evidence of existence, I would believe. I would do the same for big foot or the Loch Ness monster.
You have eyes, but you are blind.
God is not a creature. :)
Sorry, but you have some false logic in there...
The argument is not "whether or not the Yankees are king"... it's whether or not the Yankees EXIST.
On that note, god(-s/-esses) either exist or they don't. We might not be able to prove one side right or wrong, but that doesn't mean that it is a matter of opinion.
Your limited knowledge of this universe isn't that helpful to me. Thanks anyway. :)
I fail to see how this data really represents anything 'new'.
Protestant / other Christian ..... 51.9% .... 42% (Evangelical 19% + Mainline 15% + Historically Black 8%)
Catholic .................................... 23.3% .... 22%
Mormon ...................................... 2.1% ..... 2%
Jewish ....................................... 1.7% .... 1.7% (2006)
Muslim ........................................ 0.6%
Other non-Christian ................... 2.6%
None ........................................ 17.8% ... 19.4%
It begs the question "where do the 'spiritual but not religious' report in?
Doubtless most of them will be in the "None" but due to the nature of Gallup's question, many ot those that Pew calls "Unaffilliated" will be in Gallup's "other Christian" category. Gallup's Protestant / Other Christian category is higher than the sum of the larger Protestant demoninations tracked by both Pew and the PRRI.
If many of the 'other Christians' counted by Gallup are counted as 'Unaffilliated' by Pew it makes me wonder about the number of atheists/agnostics in the Gallup 'None'.
Is it higher than Pew-12 (5.7%) or PRRI-12 (6.7%)?
Sorry – column 1 is Gallup-2012, Colum 2 is Pew-2012
the writer fails to understand that the loss of the 18-29 yr old demographic means that the religious people aren't getting the kids while they are young enough to brainwash effectively. Those kids will grow up to have kids with the same level headed view of the world. There aren't too many smart people teaching their kids to bury their heads in the sand...
God bless them all.
As we age, the choices of activities we have on Sunday morning lessen. It's either Golf or Church. And with colder weather, church seems much more agreeable!
Wow, only two options for you? Seriously? And your choice to go to church is that you can't golf because of the weather?
Nonsense! There is always my favorite: Sleeping in. I rarely get enough sleep during the week, so Sunday is my "day of rest".
You need to find yourself a girl mate.
How about football?
In the winter – at least on the West coast* – Sunday morning belongs to the NFL.
* I guess it depends if you are a west coast Portland or an east coast Portland.
@Jack, I'm not sure if anyone else got that reference, but THANK YOU. Awesome.
And still growing. There is a ray of hope and enlightenment in the dank darkness of religion.
Religion isn't to blame for the world's evils. It's just an easy scapegoat. Without religion, people would still come up with excuses to hate and be violent towards others that are simply different. Your own "dank darkness of religion" comment is proof how most people have a burning desire to bash those with different beliefs instead of taking the higher road of tolerance. Sure, there are religious nuts out there. But it just shows your ignorance that you attack all religious folk as if it is some evil thing. FYI, I'm not religious.
Buck, the very defition of religion=ignorance. Without ignorance, people would have knowledge instead of faith....
Rob, is it really that difficult to keep a discussion at a mature level? Your comment is just further evidence in how people are driven to bash others that are different. I had a friend once that thought the moon landings were faked. Instead of calling him an idiot, I provided him with a mountain of evidence to show he was wrong. Is that too difficult for you to do as well? Not all religious people believe the Earth is only 1000 years old, FYI. Furthermore, much smarter people than you or I have been classified as religious minded. That being said, it's entirely incorrect for you to say religion equals ignorance.
Or interpreted differently,
"Gallup agrees with Pew that the "Nones" are growing"
... even if the rate is decreasing.
Part of the reason that nones are made up of young people could be that they have not recognized their mortality. That is just based on my own experience. When I was a young man I never considered death, and seldom avoided danger.
Ah, but atheists do not tend to convert when faced with death. I have watched a number go through the end of life with cancer or old age, and never ever did they go for Pascal's wager. I have talked to atheist soldiers who got in some very scary situation where death seemed probably, and they did not become religious.
Sorry Robert, but what you said is just not true. It's going to be very hard for people like you to convince people who use science ever minute in the form of iPhones and computers and medicine that science is wrong. They can see it does work. There are other reasons, of course, but basically the ridiculousness of the claims and arguments of religion are what is discrediting it.
" Part of the reason that nones are made up of young people could be that they have not recognized their mortality. That is just based on my own experience. When I was a young man I never considered death, and seldom avoided danger. "
I don't know about that. However, a lot of the "nones" or atheists that I know were brought up either in an overly 'religious' environment, which turned them off to any kind of religious path... or ... what I have seen more of is actually people that were raised in "nones" or "atheist/agnostic" households, and they have just continued with the "nones/agnostic/atheist" mindset-worldview.
Robert, your experience is your own. Personally, I am not afraid of my mortality. I accept death as the logical result of birth. No lie about immortality, not matter how pretty, is more attractive than the truth.
The reason the nones are made up of young people is because we use information technology much more than older people. The vast amount of information that is so easily accessible to my generation is what is causing the decline in religiousness.
Technology has made it much easier to challenge (or attempt to validate) the claims of our community leaders and parents. Earlier generations were not so easily exposed to differing viewpoints, so religious claims often went unchallenged.
becoming religious out of fear when one gets older? sounds a little...off...besides, even if there is a god, he'd know you were only being religious "just in case"....
Religion is the best,
That was just a thought I had, I haven’t seen others converted when faced with death. I meant young people don’t even think about it. When some people mature enough to realize that they won’t be here forever, they at least think about it.
I don’t try to convince people that something is wrong with science, computers, or medicine. Some people think that the bible and science are at odds. I choose to trust the word of God because of my personal experiences with God. If someone has a personal experience with God then they don’t need any convincing.
I think what happens to the ones who are raised in an overly religious environment as you put it, is that they see hypocrisy and recognize it or they rebel. Many times the ones who rebel come back to it later. The ones who see hypocrisy are hard to reach. People who play church have more of a negative impact on Christianity than anything else.
I disagree. My thoughts about the imaginary cloud god become more solidified with age. Maybe someday I'll be old and senile and spend all my money on Peter Popoff's miracle water. Let's hope not.
Everyone comes to terms with the mortality of these bodies one way or another. I became a believer while I was still reckless and thought I was immortal, so it didn’t enter into the thought process for me, but I thought since these nones were mostly younger folk, some of them may not have thought about it yet.
True, you don’t want to play around with God. He knows your heart. Playing church will get you in more trouble with God, than totally denying him. To whom much is given, much is expected.
We do tend to get set in our ways, but I have seen people of every age converted. Something happens, I call it a personal experience with God, some term it a supernatural experience, whatever you call it, it would have to be something pretty amazing to change someone’s mind and heart.
I think in this post 9/11, gun-crazy America, kids think about mortality quite a bit. I also think that kids change their mind a lot – an atheist today, a catholic tomorrow, a buddhist the next. But at least they're thinking about it and not letting themselves be trapped in the faith of their parents without experiencing something else. Experience opens minds, and that can only be good.
I agree Robert Brown. I made a comment somewhere above with similar thoughts before seeing yours. Many 18-29 year olds consider themselves nones for the simple reason that they don't give religion consideration one way or another. I'm an atheist and certainly had cognitive dissonance growing during my high school years when I was forced to attend church, but from 18-29 I NEVER thought about religion. I didn't give it more thought until marrying and once again going to church and realizing how ludicrous it all seemed.
You need to watch an older ager group to see if there is true growth in "nones".
You do have access to more information and differing viewpoints. So, if I claim that I have had a personal experience with God, and millions of people over the years claim the same, does this make you curious? Do you want to find out if it is true for yourself, or do you believe the few naysayers and decide it isn’t true and isn’t worthy of finding out?
Robert Brown: So, old people believe because they fear their own mortality?
I agree, everyone should find out for themselves. How else could they ever really believe what they claim?
So, when you were forced to go to church, did you ever think you were saved or converted?
I don’t know about that. It is probably harder for a senior to be converted.
"So, when you were forced to go to church, did you ever think you were saved or converted?"
Not that I remember. I went to a fairly liberal Methodist church. The church had a gay associate pastor and a woman pastor at different points when I attended. The weekly sermon was usually new testament based and focused on doing good, being kind, helping others etc. Don't really remember the word "saved" being used as part of that churches terminology.
I was always was a bit skeptical about many bible myths. Like um are you sure its not allegory that a guy lived in a whales belly?, but as a child I would have said I was a Christian if asked.
This is quite a contrast to the church I attend now with my wife. The minister is bigoted and hates on gays, other religions, atheists, and frequently uses the "saved" term. Additionaly he likes to use "the ENEMY" teminology as the reason for everything bad in the world happening. Completey different than what I grew up in. I would be ok with my kids going to a church like I was raised in, but I don't want my kids to attend the place I go now... I dread that conversation and certain fight with the wife.
Robert I have tried to point much of this out on this site in the past. The problem is many people religious or not will not consider anything other then their personal belief. The religious cling to their faith so do the atheist. Both call anyone who disagrees nuts, stupid, idiots, etc.. I seems more logical to me to lesson and learn from one another but that activity is extremely rare on this site.
I guess I would be considered a fundamental conservative Christian, but I don’t think I would like where you are going now either. Just because of the hate part. There are churches where the word of God is preached in love. They don’t deny the power of God, but they don’t condemn others. Their goal is to reach those who don’t believe. I hope you and your family find the right place and I hope you have your own personal experience with God someday.
I agree. I exchange thoughts and ideas with lots of folks on here, most of them don’t agree with me and I don’t agree with them, some throw insults around, but I tend to ignore that and just keep on, keepin on. I have learned a lot considering others opinions, and in some cases, it has challenged and strengthened my faith.
Hi Robert, In my experience confronting mortality solidified my atheism. During my mother's final years I spent a lot of time considering our existence. I'm satisfied with knowing that my mother continues to live through her children. Laplace, when asked by Napolean where a god fit into Laplace's model of the universe, stated that he had no need for that hypothesis. If magic were happening around us, I think it would be noticed. Consider plotting what religion was formerly leveraged to explain and how that has changed over time. The trendline travels only one way.
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.