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.
I'm not saying i'm a christain, but being a good person is a matter of opinion to that persons beliefs, so if i was an athiest and thought 'i dont kill people' therefore i am a good person. Making it hard to call athiest hipocytes because no one really knows what they believe, but for chirstains what they belive to be a good person is defined to the world so its very easy for athiest to call them out as soon as they slip up...
So your morality is from a Bronze Age book?
Slavery, torture, murder and incest are ok because some Palestinian sheep herders said it was?
WOW! Either you don't know the dogma, or you CAN'T endorse it.
The average Christian doesn't or shouldn't claim to be perfect. The average Christian should unabashedly and wholeheartedly admit they are a sinner. That is the reason for the need for Christ. He is the Redeemer of sinners who are repentant.
@fly on wall
Didn't we just cover this on the previous page ?
The infinite universe theories posit that with an infinite number of universes, anything that can exist will exist, no matter how unlikely. A universe able to support life has odds of around 1 to ten to the fiftieth against (10 with fifty zeros behind it) But even those odds are of course irrelevant to infinity. This is a viable and only non-theistic explanation for the existence of our universe able to support life.
The existence of God may seem extremely unlikely to you, but with an infinite number of universes, he will, must exist in some....
Agnosticism; It's the only choice because it is not a choice.
Agnostism only defines knowledge, not belief. If you believe in god, you are a Theist...if you don't, you are an Atheist. If you are certain of your knowledge, you are Gnostic...if you are uncertain, you are Agnostic. There is a fine line between knowledge and belief!
So, your conclusion is that this god exists in some but not all universes..
I used to think along those lines as well, 'if the universe is infinite, then anything is possible'. The problem with an infinite universe and an infinite deity is that since eveything is possible, nothing would have meaning.
Can you PROVE you theories????Which GOD is it??????
@ Gorsh, your talking about multiverse! Something, that was created by science fiction and quantum mechanics. This is something that is not proven, just like religion itself. Multiverse is still a dream just like string theory.
@ Nikki, no God! Just science.
@common sense I know that is what i'm asking where is all of this PROOF lol ......
There is a GOD, i didn't believe it either. but i put a quarter in this machine and he told me there is
Whe you consider the thousands of deities that have been worshipped by human over the past few dozen millenia, and add in the fact that a large majority of people on this plane claim that all of those other gods were "false" and that only their one god is real. That means that the population of the Earth is already 99.99% atheist.
Think it over god-lovers: When you think about why you discount the existence of all other gods, then you will realize why I discount the existence of yours.
That is an excellent way to put things........
I don't understand. Why do you discount God?
Why do you believe in God???????? It goes both ways it is an argument that will never end......
Why do you dismiss all other deities aside from your own?
I believe in God largely because of the Bible. And because His presence in and around my life is unquestionable.
God is not my own.
And do you pray to your deity before you make any choice in life?
I don't always. But I probably should.
So how do you know when a prayer has been answered? Like, say you pray on which socks to wear, how do you know for sure if you've made the right choice?
God's will for my life usually doesn't involve a selection of socks. Sometimes my prayers don't get answered and those have been some of the greatest blessings of my life. If you have children then you know that sometimes as humans we want what isn't best for us. I trust God to operate in and around my life to put me exactly where I should be to glorify Him and enjoy His blessings for doing so. What is your belief about this issue?
But you can never really be sure, can you? The choice of this pair or that pair could be the most important decision you ever make for reasons not readily seen at the start.
My beliefs are my own, no better or worse than anyone elses.
I agree that we cannot be 100% sure about our choices. I have a very helpful guide in the Bible and I meet with other Christians on a regular basis with whom I can discuss big decisions. But I also believe God is sovereign and that I cannot limit Him by anything I choose to do, or not do. And for the record, I am not saying there is anything wrong with your beliefs in this moment. I think it is great to have healthy conversations about life's purpose. I hope you would explore more about God though.
Just i used to think like you, however i came to the conclusion that no matter what you always make your own decision. You are what you decide! There is no God involvement. There is no God telling you what to do! THere is only your own decision. For every action there's a reaction, and i learned from very young that i should trust and listen to myself first and Only.
If I were to tell you that I have explored and found a belief in a deity to be lacking, would you believe me?
If you say that there is a deity who is looking over your shoulder, or looking down at you, then by all rights you should have to pray for each and every choice you make. You can never know what choice may or may not go against the wishes of a deity.
I think God does help us decide what to do if we seek Him. There are lots of resources – Bible, Christian radio, Christian TV, Christian books, Christians, prayer, etc. If you don't seek Him then He likely won't barge into your life. The relationship with Christ is an offer, not a mandate.
Yes, I would believe you. I thought I explored a relationship with God when I was younger. For me, it turned out that I really didn't give Him a chance. I just tried to conform Him to my concept of what a god should be. If it is something you really do want to explore, I think you have to give it a proper chance, like anything else. Read one of the Gospels or the Book of Romans to start.
And to quickly comment on your last point, I believe the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit of God, lives in and around me. I believe we can actually feel when the Holy Spirit grieves our bad choices. But again, I analogize my relationship with God to that of a Father and child. And I trust that He will correct me when I need correcting.
I make my choices for better or worse. I don't balme anyone for my failures nor do I give undue credit for my successes. That is a problem I have with religion, the fact that all the credit for the good goes to a deity, the bad is your own damn fault. You can't have it that way. If a deity is responsible for some of the good choices then it stands to reason it is responsible for some of the bad as well.
Ah, so you take the posistion of most believers and just assume that I didn't try hard enough. For some reason believers have a hard time understanding that and I don't hold it against them.
No, I didn't particularly mean that you or I didn't try hard enough. I meant in my own case that in my life I didn't allow God to be who He really is. I don't think anyone can try hard enough to be a Christian, or anything else for that matter. We are what we are.
How are you made aware that your deity is really who it says it is and is not some imposter?
He is always the same throughout the Bible. I don't believe anyone or anything else can fake the miracles that God can perform. There is going to be an element of faith with any system of beliefs. For me, I have faith that Jesus died for my sins and God resurrected Him and He ascended into Heaven. I wasn't there to see it with my eyes, obviously, but I believe it nonetheless based on the Word, and my prayer and reflection.
Yes, I understand that the words in the bible will be the same whether you read it once or a thousand times, though the meaning of them may change. What I am asking is that when you pray/talk to your deity, how are you told that it is what you think it is?
I also meant that God's character is the same throughout the Bible, not just the words being multi-meaning in some cases. For me, God answers me in lots of different ways. There are times I have prayed for people and they have been healed. There are times I have prayed for marriages and they have come back from total chaos. There are times I have asked God questions and my pastor has answered them in church, without me asking the pastor. There are lots of times when the Bible will answer my question, and same for small fellowship groups.
But mostly, my concept of God comes from what He shows me, not what I think about Him.
It was nice talking with you Damocles.
For those unenlightened: there are no "atheists", just like there's no group of "roundearthers" or "gravity-acts-downers". That's completely nonsensical – unless you want to describe rational, intelligent people: in that case, just say "rational, intelligent people", that will suffice! There are only people that are rational and don't believe in delusional nonsense. Obviously, that excludes religious people from being intelligent and rational – because they are not!
Hmmm. Why so many atheist organizations, websites, and forums?
@luv: atheist is a way to describe a person wtih a lack of belief in gods, that's all. humans naturally place things into catagories. male/female, mammal/plant, god/godless.......take your pick. atheists didn't label ourselves atheist, the religious placed us into a grouping........we just kindof shrugged and went with it.
look up the definition of atheist. 🙂
Athiest: those who want PROOF haha......is it not that simple....It is those that question....But isn't that what humans do question?????? Watch the History channel where would we be today if we did not question and just settled for what someone else said????
There are tons of baking websites as well. Is baking a religion?
I can't help but wonder if folks are turning to legal pharmceuticals and alcohol to deal with life rather than religious affiliations and/or faith. It certainly is easier. It would have been an interesting part of the study.
That's what they did in Russia when the same type of government our liberals want imposed state atheism.
The weak, sick people will always look for an excuse.
Luv U don't be an idiot. Russia was run by Communism which has no affiliation with Atheism.
Yes, you can.
I am! I really hope that's a sarcastic joke! Communism and atheism go hand in hand. Russia, China. Read up a bit.
“Atheism as a denial of this unreality; has no longer any meaning, for atheism is a denial of God and tries to assert through this negation the existence of man; but socialism as such no longer needs this mediation...”
– Karl Marx
Luv U obviously you do need to do your research better. You are obviously one of those idiots who believe Communism is the same as Atheism. Well here we go again. Let me educate you on something.
Communism – political government party
Atheism – a belief that no God exists.
See the difference clueless one.
That's about the tenth idiotic thing I've seen you post, Luv U. Are you in school? Did you go to school?
" Communism and atheism go hand in hand. "
LOL you couldn't be farther from the truth. Those two terms and not mutually inclusive.
Example: China is a communist country, yet is predominately buddhist.
I think I smell the disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. bootcamp flunkie. (Luv U)
(No one else comes close to making such stupid claims.)
Of course we know him also as:
"Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
"truth be told" degnerates to:
"Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
"Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
"tina" deganerates to:
"captain america" degnerates to:
"just sayin" degenerates to:
"nope" degnerates to:
"2357" degenerates to:
"WOW" degnerates to:
"!" degenerates to:
"pervert alert" or "...." where he writes such lovely lies such as "QUE ERS, THE ONES WHO GAVE AIDS TO AMERICA"
and many other names.
These comments make me sad. Why can't people just respect one another? (I know a ghastly complex). I am tired of either argument: The Believers saying that the Non-believers will go to hell and the Non-Believers calling the believers unintelligent. Both are simply not true. If people wish to still believe in religion, then let them. If people do not believe in religion, then don't condone them for it. I personally believe in God and am Catholic. It gives me comfort and faith in humanity that science would simply not allow me. But I also still believe in evolution. News flash people: you can believe in both things. There are flaws in religion and sometimes the "facts" do add up. But there are things that science cannot prove as well. All in all, respect one another and do not belittle someone for their beliefs.
Thank You!!!!! It is a belief people either way either side can speak their own opinion but nobody has an accurate argument!!!!How much violence would subside...... think about it if people would just LET IT GO.....Nobody knows for sure whatever they choose to believe is what gets them by day to day. Suck It Up.... and move on until IT IS SEEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I hope you meant "don't condem them" rather than "don't condone them" since the latter seems opposed to the rest of your statement.
It is clear what is being said "don't condemn" another for their opinions.
Very sad! I know organized religion has its faults...but God is perfect. One thing if for sure, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord of All.....eventually.
Yeaa...no. I will bow down to no man nor bow down to a God. I am an individual being and I will seek my own life.
I agree, Broker. Unfortunately, if it is not here, it will be in hell.
I think you and other believers have a tendency to not understand what you are saying when you toss out words like 'perfect' and 'all powerful' and 'all knowing'.
Just like every knee will bow to Amon-Ra, or Zeus, or Ahura-Mazda, or Odin, or Wakontonka, or...
I pray that your eyes and heart will be opened.
"I pray that your eyes and heart will be opened."
Funny, I hope for every christian to experience this as well. Because your eyes are shut and heart cold.
What is your evidence for god being perfect? Is it the genetic diseases that exist on both sides of my family? I would say perfect is a little exaggerated.
[adj., n. pur-fikt; v. per-fekt] Show IPA
conforming absolutely to the description or definition of an ideal type: a perfect sphere; a perfect gentleman.
excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement: There is no perfect legal code. The proportions of this temple are almost perfect.
exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose: a perfect actor to play Mr. Micawber; a perfect saw for cutting out keyholes.
entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings: a perfect apple; the perfect crime.
accurate, exact, or correct in every detail: a perfect copy.
I agree, very sad. Just think, God still loves them.
By far the biggest piece of evidence is the Christ who came, lived perfectly, payed the price that we ALL deserve to pay. He rose again, ascended to Heaven and will return. Don't let his sacrifice be for nothing. He is generously offering eternal life in paradise...all you have to do is accept it.
"By far the biggest piece of evidence is the Christ who came, lived perfectly, payed the price that we ALL deserve to pay. He rose again, ascended to Heaven and will return. Don't let his sacrifice be for nothing. He is generously offering eternal life in paradise...all you have to do is accept it."
It is not much of a sacrifice if he didn't really die though (no-one ever comes back from the dead after 3 days...that is a scientific fact...in fact the brain can only go approximately 10 minutes without oxygen before it is no longer revivable-what made your imaginary friend jesus any different???). Can you provide the solid evidence for heaven/hell? Try doing so without referring to anything biblical. You are aware that there are more updated books out there...right? Maybe do some research about the claims your book is making before sounding like a complete moron!
How could you possibly know this to be true?
For something to be perfect everyone would have to agree that the person/object is indeed perfect.
Jesus was a Communist – "give up your personal property for the common good, take only what you need..." except that his inspiration came from "god" instead of Karl Marx.
Jesus was a Jewish Buddhist.
I have no use in Jesus or Communists. In fact that gives me another reason to dislike Christians, they are a bunch of Commies.
I once saw this and had to laugh...
Atheism: The belief that there was nothing and nothing happened to nothing and then nothing magically exploded for no reason, creating everything and then a bunch of everything magically rearranged itself for no reason what so ever into self-replicating bits which then turned into dinosaurs. Makes perfect sense.
I am not against athiests or people of any religious group... I just found that funny.
Cute, but not remotely accurate.
Get some education, pleeeeeeese. Nothing funny about you being an idiot.
And my favorite add on. An Agnostic is a potential Atheist who is hedging his bets.
Except, of course, that is just fundiot nuttery. It simply shows the profound depths of the scientific ignorance of these cretins.
Yeah, that's funny considering that is not the definition of atheism.
Funny, because atheists believe in magic? I don't think so..
What a lot of people need to understand is that people who don't believe in magic (or god), don't claim to know everything (like religion does). We nonbelievers are completely comfortable saying "i don't know", or even better "we haven't figured that out yet".
It's ok to not have answers, it's not OK to hold onto answers that are wrong just to have an answer.
Religion: The belief that there was nothing. ANd nothing happened to the nothing, but suddenly there was something and that something used his magical powers to create even more something. And then he buried dinosaur bones to confuse the guilible.
Made me chuckle, but far from the truth. Atheism is just a lack of believe in a god. Not a belief in nothing. I believe in plenty of things. Just not gods that have no proof of existence.
Clearly it shows the lack of science in American Schools. What your are talking about is the big bang theory. One of the most accepted theory by scientist of how the universe was created. It is normal for Religion to ignore and try to cover religion. After all science discredit religion, that is why humans weren't able to progress for centuries. However, just because someone is atheist it doesn't mean they believe in all scientific theories. Furthermore, to believe in God created the world needs as much imagition and belief in magic as it does to believe in the big bang theory.
Atheism aint no religion. But we'll sure as heck fire gonna get together like a church and profess our non-belief like we have a non-imaginary god ourselves. Woooo dawgy sure will.
Can't we go back to the 'good ol days' of organized religion and let the ones who create the most converts with war and torture be the winner? Depending on fooling ignorant people to convert is slower and ends up bringing in more poor people who don't add much to the coffers.
The numbers are being misinterpreted.
No one is BECOMING an Atheist, they are merely ADMITTING they always have been.
We are the majority and we intend to start acting like it.
Keep your damn cult nonesense out of my government and out of my kids schools
I think with the infusion of religion into science we are going to see more people coming out of the religious closet. when members of the congesional science committee don't believe in science, Houston, we have a problem... as a long term atheist, welcome to the new arrivals
wow. fat finger syndrome. Congressional Committee on Science..
There are many who do not have a problem with God and Science as science is really the study of a process. I am not one who would have thought science to be correct when it said the world is flat and I am not one to think we are treally correct today. The future will show us to be as largely ignorant as those before us BUT we helped move ahead. So, while we understand the process we are capable of understanding and we observe the world as we wish to see it, we do not have the tools to really understand and much of our science is full of stories that further knowledge will cause to be as simple minded as the stories of the Bible. We have not changed, for all time all people have tghought they have had the answer and none have so we really are no different. We simply have been moved along by those beofre us. There will always be a religion of some sort- we are in the midst of creating a new one and do not even know it. Creation always follows destruction. We are simply in the destruction phase and those who follow will create somethig knew and it may include a God of some kind with another name, another face- that is all.
"I am not one who would have thought science to be correct when it said the world is flat and I am not one to think we are treally correct today"
Carl, science didnt profess this. Religion did. Religion forced science to have this position, or else....
I see this as a plus and minus for religion. It is as plus for government and it is nil for the masses. Religious areas of the world will have their view of the west substantiated. It will be a boost for the call of terrorism. It will wash religious groups of those who say they are but are not. In our country I would expect a society that becomes less tolerant (as it is now). Governments will gain power as there will no longer be a 'higher authority' to which there is a standard beyond government that citizens will be able to point to. While religion employs psychological means of control government is more physical. Bottom line, there will always be the 'rule-makers' and a religious/government balance in that power has really not been that bad. For anyone expecting that removing God will make a better world really would have to overlook wars over oil, land, geopgraphy, food, philosophy, wealth....people will still war and still go after each other. So, all in all...this is really not a big deal- people are still people and religion, if removed, will be replaced. There will always be those who see a better way and those who will fight for it and never will the best way be reached.
I think that whatever replaces religion will be a better system of psychological control, if that is indeed even neccassary. Any supernaturalism is not healthy for people. It makes people ignore the truth, block science, and be irresponsible for their actions. Progress will be maximised. Ethics will return to normal. There will always be people who prey upon the ignorance of others, but that will surely be reduced by seularism. So all in all it will be an improvement.
I see so many arguments over this topic and have been in many debates myself in reality there is no proof of anything. Yet again we would also in a sense be naive if we thought only us existed. I am a good parent who works hard and find it offensive for anyone to tell me or someone else that not believing in what they believe makes me less of a person. I am against violence and am not a criminal reading a bible makes nobody better than the next. Isn't it FREEDOM of RELIGION. I teach my children not to BELIEVE in any ONE belief but to be open minded to any possibility. Screaming out about believing in YOUR God is like screaming the earth is flat. You do not know and choose to believe it is true, difference is the earth was not flat that was scientifically proven wrong. We may never know the truth, but is it necessary to judge others so harshly.
That is the argument from ignorance. Just because there could be something we don't know about, does not mean that there is. For someone to make the caim that there is, makes a dishonest statement based upon their ignorance or misinformation. This is why secularists make such harsh judgements on religious people. If someone makes up a story that is not true or doesn't know to be true and spreads it, that is either the height of dishonesty or ignorance. Both of which should be judged harshly.
Lets just say I DO NOT believe in things that I cannot prove. And Shawn I DO understand what you are saying. I DO NOT like religious goers like I said above to JUDGE me for questioning their theories. I am just simply pointing out that this is and will always be a never ending argument.
All religions are hate groups. All claim they are the religion of "peace", but are in fact murderous. Nazism, Communism, religion – all substatially hateful dogmas to promote the interest of the groups.
Athiests are haters
True. They hate idiots.
I hate people who generalize – does that count?
Not so at all.
We like your mama!
It's you we hate.
The only kind of "trickle-down" that actually works:
"teamroper" degenerates to:
"WOW" degenerates to:
"truth be told" degnerates to:
"Ronald Regonzo" degenerates to:
"Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
"Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
"tina" deganerates to:
"captain america" degnerates to:
"just sayin" degenerates to:
"nope" degnerates to:
"2357" degenerates to:
"!" degenerates to:
"pervert alert" or "...." where he writes such lovely posts as "QUE ERS, THE ONES WHO GAVE AIDS TO AMERICA"
and many other names, but of course I prefer to refer to this h0mophobe as
the disgruntled ex Evangelical Fortune Cookie Co. "writer".
most of us are lovers.. of knowledge
"Atheists are haters" => well, most Atheists hate.... dogmas 🙂 Who can blame that ? 😉
Is choosing facts rather than myths "hate" ?
In other news, 1 in 5 Americans don't like broccoli.
God = broccoli
Not liking broccoli is responsible for the more deaths throughout history than all other religions. And yes, it is a religion whether you say so or not. Period.