October 9th, 2012
12:01 AM ET
Survey: One in five Americans has no religion
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.
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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.
To claim you don't believe in God is simply saying you refuse to follow. This is still a religion. Their God is the devil.
How utterly stupid.
scott your intelligence is roughly that of a syphilitic, medieval teenager
Critical thinking must not be one of your strong points. Average person that follows a religion scores low on critical thinking skills.
Average Agnostic and or Atheists tend to have above average critical thinking skills.
Did you ever read up on that study in which Atheist knew more about the bible than those who claim to follow it. Should check up on that.
Scott: Calling it as it is: You're an idiot!! If we don't believe in your imaginary friend god, then we do not believe in its imaginary enemy either.
If that is true, then you also have to believe that there is a 1957 Chevy orbiting Pluto. What ? You never read your Bible ?
"For many are called, but few are chosen".
"No one shall come to me, unless the Father draw him".
Jesus would not have said that is all were called.
Take a religion class, idiot, and stop you judgmental preaching.
"Judge not, lest ye be judged".
To claim that you do believe in god is simply saying that you are a snivelling, whimpering sycophant who cannot think for themselves.
If Adolf Hitler found jesus and truly repended on his deathbend, then this racist, murdering genocidal megalomaniac is in heaven, right?
If Mother Theresa converted to Hinduism on her deathbed, then this generous, kind, selfless, giving, humble person is in hell, right?
And you DARE call your good 'good'?
He has a concentration camp that he will torture most of the human race in forever. The Christian God make Hitler look like a lightweight.
Big red flag.
Gaunt boy: Back with your nonsense? Have you forgotten how I crushed you and your silly arguments in the earlier pages? Do I copy paste that here? Would be a little embarrassing for you don't you think?
Gaunt boy: Coward much? Don't worry I won't copy paste that; I am not in the habit of embarrassing kids in front of adults. Grow up, get rid of your silly atheism and we will one day talk like adults. Am waiting!!
Once there was a Gaunt
Atheism on him did haunt
The times I crushed him I lost count
But yes he is beneath my taunt!!
GO_GOP, you're acting like a child. No one thinks your stupid rhyme is clever.
DNA is absolutely essential for life to exist. But DNA can only be produced by life. How then, when no life existed, did DNA come into existence? Do atheists have answers for this? Your fairytale answer of science and reason will answer every question is in error...
Oh fun! A religious person trying to use science to debunk science.
Do read a bit about DNA before you psot stuff like that so you don't make a fool out of yourself again.
If you had just taken the 10 seconds required to wikipedia DNA, you would not look like such a fool right now. Please dont TRY and talk about science when you understand NOTHING about it, you home-schooled half-wit.
DNA can easily be created in the laboratory, it's been done. Small strands at a time. They've even linked some of those strands into the proper sequence to create a simple bacteria. If you knew anything at all about science, you would know that. Try doing some research before posting ignorant nonsense that you pulled out of your posterior.
Abiogenesis. The DNA molecule evolved from more basic self-reproducing molecules which most likely originally came into being by chance.
You're probably a pretty dim person though, so just keep watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians and let your intellectual superiors worry about things like science.
CC: If you think you have a better answer than a simple "I don't know" than please enlighten us. If you say god, then you must then tell us who/what created god or your own attempt at logic fails.
Well said correctlycenter: The atheists do not have any answers and they hide behind the net and post insults. They do not have the maturity of a 10 yr old. Case in point: An user called :"Gaunt" lying is his birthright. Christianity made this nation great and will remain with us always. Atheists: I will sponsor your tickets to leave USA. Also please turn back to the earlier pages to see how I crushed Gaunt every time he opened his atheist mouth.
GO_GOP: Pot meet kettle! We don't claim to have all the answers...that would be believers-not us!! You look in to a single boook for your answers, we look at numerous books for ours and when we don't have an answer, we are HONEST and say we don't know...you will resort to some scripture and say that is the answer. Time to grow up-fairy tales are for children!
Are you serious, GO_GOP and CorrectlyCenter? They answered your question very well! I learned about this stuff in highschool chemistry. Did you not go to school or something?
Good. Maybe our country can hope for some common sense and decency in the future rather than the hate, bigotry, ignorance and sheer insanity that have shaped our society in the past due to "religion".
Let's see...Christianity...responsible for the torture and murder of millions in the name of "God." How convenient that current Christians ignore that minor fact.
The sign should say " Hi Mom, You raised an Idiot."
Just the products of a Dumbed down sociey.
"i don't know, thus god" is simply choosing to live in ignorance
No, it should say "Look Ma, I have a BRAIN". Unlike religious nutjobs.
Spending lots of time on your knees, luk?
Given that the current US population is around 320 million, the 33 million unaffiliated would be 1 in 10, not the 1 in 5 stated in the headline. Whatever is happening to American religion, math ranking does not seem to be improving.
Jules, he's using that new Chinese math.
They are probably not counting children, since children cannot think for themselves and are brainwashed to believe whatever religious fairytale their parents believe.
Half of pop is under 18 years old.
Christianity, like all religions, is nothing more than ancient mythology, written thousands of years ago by members of a primitive society in an effort to explain existence and comfort people in the face of their mortality. I've read both the old and new testaments cover to cover. I've read many other religious texts as well. They're all just ancient mythology from primitive cultures, nothing more. Period. End of story.
When I look around, I don't see a god flying around in a cloud or pillar of fire, I don't see sticks turning into snakes, I don't see rivers turning to blood or wine, seas parting, etc. etc. If that stuff was real and happened then, it would be happening now. I don't see miracles happening, all I see is a lot of ignorant people blindly accepting ancient mythology as fact, while rejecting modern scientific knowledge. If people would use their brains for a change, THINK about it using logic, reason and objectivity, then they would understand that it's just old myths. It's just so utterly obvious.
What religion you are is mostly determined by where you were born and which mythology you’ve been indoctrinated with since birth. That right there should tell you it’s not real.
All the gods that have been worshiped throughout history would fill 10 football stadiums, but of course everyone believes that THEIRS is the only one that’s real. It’s just all so stupid.
Thankfully a lot of people are waking up and actually THINKING about it for a change.
Well said. Couldn't agree more!
Luis, perhaps YOU should use logic and reasoning and understand that there are MANY well educated scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. that are Christians. How did they arrive at their conclusions if not by logic and reason. Of course, at some point their is an element of faith to fully believe but there are plenty of truths even in the physical world that we did not know even 50 years ago. Don't be afraid to examine ALL the evidence...there is more of it in favor of a Creator than not. Even if you cannot believe in an "old book" the book of nature has plenty of evidence that science alone cannot fully explain. We, the silly believers, will pray for you...
"How did they arrive at their conclusions if not by logic and reason."
Cultural or familial indoctrination?
dan: how do you make the logical leap from a creator to a god?
To my fellow Christians.....Please! Let's spread the gospel of Jesus! Don't get argumentative with people. Just let them know that God is merciful and has provided the means of salvation......Jesus Christ!
and there we have the heart of religion: telling others how to behave. Jeremy, it's their computer and you are not their mom. How about letting your deluded buddies post however they want?
I don't want a fake god's mercy. Get real. You've got a puppet god. Really, if god exists let him or her speak for themselves.
Freedom in its self is misrepresented by those who believe they chalange others free to believe in god. I for one believe god made man an women an all creation on earth an in heavens. Evil part is mans doing an a lot evidence to prove that man has concocted tails of devil to blame others for own doing on earth. Man will have to come to terms with there own doing on earth its only then when god free us from this life of misimfomation an delusions of mass confusion. Its matter of faith in god ,ten commandments is all god ask from us ,why is so hard to live by those words,truth wil set us free
It's more likely you'll start using proper English than me buying that load you're trying to sell there.
jerry maybe english isn't your first language. Kudos to you for having more than one language in your repertoire. However... All religion is a fraud. If you suffer from a brand of this delusion, it is no less crazy than any other.
The first 4 commandements demand worship of your god, the remaining ones do not take a book to figure out. How small minded you are if you require that to keep you from killing or raping or causing harm to others.
Religion sucks, period!
So where are the atheist groups that have highly accredited schools for our kids, brings our communities together, and provides food and shelter to those in need?
I have answered that three times, each time you posted. Why ask a question if you are going to flee like a coward when it is answered?
I can't speak for atheists since I'm an agnostic/pantheist. But I do a lot of volunteer work and contribute to charities. So do a lot of my friends that feel the same way I do. Atheists and agnostics are all around you doing good work, you're just too blind to see it. They also don't shout about their beliefs and try to convert you to them like you probably do. Try using your brain for a change to actually THINK about life using logic and reason instead of blindly accepting ancient mythology as reality.
Atheist accredited schools? We do not have a set of doctrine like you do (ie; the bible written a mere 2000 years ago by men who never met one another and done so over the course of 400 years with no proof of divine help). We base our beliefs off stuff that can be proven to be true using peer-reviewed studies and evidence.l As for Atheist groups/charities...a quick search of secular charities would give you those answers-Doctors Without Borders, Planned Parenthood, UNICEF, Amnesty International, GoodWill Industries, Kiva, OxFam, Natuee Conservancy...the list goes on.
The churches stopped doing that years ago. Now they are more interested in making a buck, building mega-churches, TV time, influencing our polical system all the while taking our tax money and teaching their kiddies in their schools that women are second class citizens, all tax free. Hopefully America will see through this culture of hate and more people will turn away. I have nothing against religion mind you, I just think it's fear with different holidays.
Jay isn't looking for an answer. He's rather just spray questions (that have been answered time and again) like a drive-by shooting.
I believe in the separation of church and state. I am also curious about the nature of organized Athiesm. Like the Athiest Alliance of America, many of the these organizations and their members have conventions, memberships, programs, gatherings, and fundraising initiatives. These Athiest organizations are behaving very much like churches with their established belief systems.
I'm not Atheist, but I do believe that in order to compete with organized religions, they too need to be organized.
However, as we learned from watching organized religions, organization isn't always a good thing.
I urge all atheists to turn to Christianity since this is the only way to heaven. Please give up your fantasies. Seek the lord and find peace.
Ah the lying coard is back. You went quiet for a fw pages, so i assumed you had developed some shame. I guess not.
EVEN if we assume there actually is a god, (for which there is no evidence for, and plenty against) then GOGOP, I ask you to prove that the god above is not Allfather Odin, with his wife Frigga, as well as Thor Bladur and the rest. prove it. provide one shred of evience your god is real and thiose gods are not.
Since you CANT, if you were even remotely intellectually honest (which you are not, as you have demonstrated) you would have to believe in them too.
Gaunt the "educated" atheist cannot spell coward. Grow up and get an education Gaunt boy. And yes I can teach you for free. Do contact me for details.
virgin birth, water into wine, people rising from the dead, talking bushes ... what were you saying about Fantasy?
The last tragic desperate tactic of the dickless internet coward. If all your lies have been crushed and your made-up crap exposed as falsehood, attack someone's typos.
Urge all Christians to grow a brain. Then maybe you'll stop blindly accepting childish fairytales as reality.
go_gop: please give up your fantasies of heaven and hell
Some worry that without religion, more humans wouldn't think twice about committing crimes or harming another person. That's simply not true because empathy, guilt, and regret are natural human traits that can't be taught and were around long before the existence of religion.
It could be argued that proper parenting and rule of law are more important for keeping society safe, since losing either one would likely lead to a complete collapse.
The fundamentals of human ethical behaviour where incorporated into religion. It would be nice to have classes in school in ethics etc as traditionally the church has taught these, when parents did not. Treat other as you would have be treated etc. We see the crazy side of religion, but not often the good side.
Good point. Many of the bible's teachings are actually great lessons for humanity.
Greed, Malice, Hate, Lust, and the will to indulge these traits has also been around since time began. Empathy, guilt and regret do NOT stop them or trump them. They don't even curb them in most cases.
A good question was asked earlier...where are the aid/help organizations of the Atheists? Where are the food banks and soup kitchens of the Atheists?
Believing that this is all that there is helps people justify doing nothing for others. It helps people feel better when they turn away from those in need. It helps people feel better when they do things they KNOW to be wrong.
Some say the existence of a conscience and the presence of empathy and love are indications of the existence of a God who made us that way for a reason.
The instinct and need for faith is a human one. It will always be there.
to attempt to categorize atheists as inhuman makes you the worst kind of human
Actually atheists are kinda like overweight morbidly obese people. Exercising (faith) is good for you, but without it you are less than what you could and bottom line unhealthy. Sorry about that.
One doesn't need to believe in God to have faith. Faith can be held in many things.
Exactly. While it is not my way, I would support any Satanist, Islamic, Hindu, Pagan or whatever when it comes down to faith vs. atheist which isn't exactly Christian vs. atheist. But that seems to be the way probably 99.37857% people view it as.
Evolution begins and ends with a hopelessly illogical premise: Nothing + chance = everything? What created the matter and energy necessary to create the universe? The evolutionist has no scientific evidence, so he/she says, you must assume by FAITH! Really?
errrrr..just what is creationism based on...FAITH...really????
what an asinine theory..
So what you are saying is that what is currently unknown will never be known? Are you implying that what is currently unknown should be filled with "God did it" and stop pursuing any questions from that day forward? You would fit in well with the dark ages.
Also for matters of the beginning of the universe and where matter came from would be in the realm of physicists and such and Evolution is the realm of biologists. (Evolution is the study of how life evolved and has nothing about how life began or where matter came from.
correctlycenter: evolution and creationism are two separate things. try to keep up
I went to 12yrs of Catholic school and got both my BS and MBA from a Baptist university, So....I have had more religion than anybody should have to endure. I think the push by fundamentalists of all religions pushing their ideas, morals, and philosophy on everybody is making people like me re-evaluate their own faith. For example, the push for creationism, the persecution of gay people, anti-abortion, or the demonizing of people of different faiths, including atheist cause people to re-examine what they believe. I became an atheist in my 40's. And yes, I feel atheism is a faith that god does not exist. When religions are less accepting of science or other people, they will continue to loose membership. This human reactions gives me hope four our species. When an atheist does good works, he/she does it because it is the right thing to do not because they expect to get a reward like a dog.
you mirror image my thoughts....TOUCHE'
Christians, why are you getting into this conversation? Our God tells us to love everyone and pray for all. For those who choose not to believe in what we believe is their choice. For those who don't believe in God, that's your choice. Why do you take a stand or position on something you don't acknowledge exist. I believe what I have read in the Bible. I am a Christian and I am going to pray that you will change your position before you die. Christians... let it go. This is what they want. Why get defensive when we know the truth? May all have a great and blessed day....
1. "No one shall come to me, unless the Father draw him". So, fail by your own savior's words. "Many are called, but few are chosen".
2. No one "chooses to believe or not believe". Non-belief is not a moral failing. Do you have a "choice" to believe there is a 1957 Chevy orbiting Pluto ? No. Your premise is false. You not only need a Logic class, you need a Theology class.
How do you know what God is telling us? Did you talk to Him on the phone last night? Or did He email you? Seriously, don't you think if God exists it's a little presumptuous to think you know what He thinks or wants us to do? People die in wars because of such nonsensical beliefs. By the way, the bible as we know it was commissioned by Roman emperors who also presided over editing content. Unless you believe Constantine and later emperors were human impersonations of God, the bible is just another religious book put together by humans. If you believe, despite the history, God Himself supervised the process of assembling the bible and put his stamp of approval on it, then god help us all, especially you.