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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About this blog
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.
Pray everyday? To what? Prayers go the way of socks in the dryer, emails into cyberspace. They go, but not to some being or socks to 'sock heaven.' "Prayer: Message undeliverable."
Write a prayer on a check and send it to me, and you will find where it, and all prayers go.
Its a con dude, nothing more.
This is the best news I have heard for many years. The Lord seems to be working in mysterious ways!!
At what point did 1/5 of americans become 33 million? Has there been a genocide recently that I didn't read about.
1/5th isn't equal to 1 in every 5 people.
current U.S.A. population: 314,367,023
do the math again.
If you redo the arithmetic and exclude those under 18 years old.......
The Pew forum website reports 16.1% unaffiliated, which is not equal to either one in five, nor 33 million Americans. None of the math in this article makes sense.
You said, "At what point did 1/5 of americans become 33 million? Has there been a genocide recently that I didn't read about."
Nah, it is just piss poor reporting by Dan Merica. The 33 million is only the group of unaffiliated US adults. It doesn't include the agnostics or atheists. The PEW report claims it to be 14% (which would translate to an adult population of about 236 million).
This is what the report says: "In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%)."
You can find the report here: http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx
@WASP explain the difference. I went to public school.
@Try again. Excluded the 24% under 18. Still got 47 million.
Where ya' been ? Great to see you here !!! 😀
Jesus Christ is religion there is no other way to believe in God or to know God except through him. I d encourage all of you to read the new testament for yourselves and not go on what youve heard preached in the past but really study it for yourself think for yourself. the gosbel message is this: Christ died for our sins..was buried...rose to life on the 3rd day swallowing up death whole...appeared to his desiples first and then some 500 brothers...and after ascended to the right hand of power as both Lord and Savior. If you will believe in him with your heart..and confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus you will be saved.
I assure you I have read it more than you.
I have concluded it is cult propoganda and nothing more.
An implausible plot line, ridiculous sub-texts, and inconsistent messaging.
Essentially Harry Potter for the feeble minded
Well...at least according to that book right? I mean man did write the book. So your fith here is in man.
I think you don't realize how preposterous that sounds to someone thinking about it objectively.
Really? This doesn't sound a bit strange to you? What do you think would have happened if Christ had not "died for our sins"?
You should really believe in harry potter too then, did you read his gospels? He defeated the dark lord.
nope to nope
Sin is an imaginary disease invented to sell you an imaginary cure.
lives – i will never understand how so many people fall for such foolishness. an omnipotent god making a blood sacrifice of himself against a law which he imposed? talk about ludicrous.
i guess it is a testament to the quality of indoctrination.
Nope is true
(case is significant)
"Essentially Harry Potter for the feeble minded"
At least Harry Potter had a logical plot.
Your faith is a belief without evidence, which also encourages the denial of contradicting evidence. Ironic how vicious the cycle is.
Your guy jesus was and is a total screw up, sent to earth to straighten things out, what a joke. How well has that worked out over the last 2100 years? Even his dad god can't figure out why people believe in jesus, you have got to wait till you die to get everlasting life, then why wait, goodbye already.
Your heart is in the right place, but Jesus is not religion, religion killed Jesus. Jesus is salvation from an eternity it Hades when we die and fullness of life on this Earth while we live. Religion is an organization of mans doctrine to control people into one direction. This direction is not always good.
Blah Blah. Tell him to finally show up and tell us that. Been hearing this Jesus crap all my life and haven't seen him do a dag on thing for anyone. Christians have been saying he's coming back for centuries and where is he? No where to be found. He is about as real as the easter bunny or santa claus. Never seen them either. Religion is just another way to generate revenue for greedy jesus peddlers and to keep people disliking those who dont believe what they believe. Did I mention you cant prove any of that garbage? Besides christians cant decide if he is the son of god or god himself. He cant be both. So which is it?
blogo- You contradict yourself.
That still leaves 80% who believe in fairy tales, so sad.
Hey, it's progress... the number will continue to shrink.
I am over 70 years old and I do not miss religion in my life. I cannot imagine a time when I would go to church or believe what is written about in a religious text. Although I have many friends who attend church, I find it difficult to believe that they really believe all of the fiction. I could never vote for a Republican since the Right has taken over.
Reblogged this on Carlos Chino.
What sort of political representation is it that the non-religious want? Taking the word God off of our money? Less religious displays in public? Not mentioning religion during campaigns? Really are these the things that are affecting your lives? I'm sure there is very little that actually changes anything so I don't know how the non religious could be a voting bloc? How are jobs going to be affected? How is your income going to be affected? Less government handout to religious organizations with tax payer money? How much do you think a single person's share is of these programs? $2 dollars a year?
Oh, I don't know, maybe less discrimination (George HW Bush said that nonbelievers aren't US citizens)? Maybe the chance to serve in public office (considering some states BAN nonbelievers from doing so)? Does it really matter what they want, as long as their voices are heard and listened to by those who pledge to do so (representative government)?
So you are requesting our demands already?
And we haven't even killed any hostages yet.
You Fundies are gonna roll over when pushed.
Yes, no tax breaks to churches, which make Ridiculous amounts of money. No God on my money. Separation of church and state. Your sky fairy isn't real. deal with it.
logic – the religious continually attempt to impose their beliefs on the populace via civil law. as a voting block, the non-religious would more easily combat them.
I think people are tending towards a desire for more rational discourse. That's not a political agenda, but a manner of thinking that allows diverse views to be exchanged logically. If you are a deist or a theist who doesn't go to church, you want to talk about society's problems from a logical position. If you are an atheist, you want the same. Religion has proved to be an impediment to that discourse because it tells us to suppress our higher faculties, suspend our skepticism and just 'take it on faith.' I think on a deep level we would all love to believe in a God, but not at the expense of our planet and our children's future. Rejection of religion is an expression of hope now, the affirmation of the living and their progeny, as well as love for our fellow human.
Religion is fine. I am open to people having faith.
Organized religion is another story. It's very corrupt.
Religious states are just the worst. To impose laws based on faith is wrong. Don't look too far USA, you are a religious state (not radical, but still ridiculous)
So, using that definition of a religious state...all countries in the history of man have been religious states. Does that make your point or contradict it?
yawn – another say nothing article to inspire the hateful and presumptuous to comment.
at least people are having the conversation right?
I'm republican AND an atheist. Crazy, isn't it?
no, a religion should not be your definer of who you vote for.
Go gay and you get the Trifecta!
Atheist, Republican, (gay) as -big Willy D pointed out... and 'black' and you'll have the 'quadfecta' 😀
Add 'woman' and well... ! 😀
Hey me too... but only because of the stupid 2 party system. I'd vote Libertarian if they were viable. Since there not, I vote the money. Though the right wing nut jobs get under my skin.
Our senses prove that some things are in motion.
Things move when potential motion becomes actual motion.
Only an actual motion can convert a potential motion into an actual motion.
Nothing can be at once in both actuality and potentiality in the same respect (i.e., if both actual and potential, it is actual in one respect and potential in another).
Therefore nothing can move itself.
Therefore each thing in motion is moved by something else.
The sequence of motion cannot extend ad infinitum.
Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.
SO who moved God?
Perhaps all of existence was created by the Virgin Mary giving Jesus a swift kick in his seat whist yelling "Get a job you Palestinian bum?"
Makes perfect sense for the rred necks!
You've made a lot of assumptions there. Care to back them up?
Wow, you mean there is actually some sort of scietific equation that identifies god?
You made me smile today, thank you. I'm still waiting to see a atheistic hospital, but it needs some potential.
God by definition is self-existing. Therefore he doesn't need anything to "move" him
The CDC is a hospital!
correction: some assume that first mover is God. critical thinkers don't just put "magic" into the equation because they don't know what it is. We're simply awaiting the data. If it is god, what created/caused god? you cannot logically argue a singular complex being (becuase not much exist in nature singularly) that had no evolution coming into being—and we arrive back at ad infinitum. wash, rinse, repeat.
"Gott Mit Uns" which is German for "God is with us" was stamped onto fifty five million Nazi belt buckles.
These were the same belts used to hang children and whip Jewish woman into providing intimate services to good Christian men prior to these good Christians gassing said Jews and making lamp shades out of their flesh.
Good Bye and Good Riddnace to Christianity, may it burn in it's imaginary hell
So then what about the American money we use that has " In God We Trust " you sir are an ignorant person.
And a brief, pre-emptive response to those who will claim Hitler was atheist:
"We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out".
The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, Oxford University Press, 1942
As others will quickly point out to you, the "God" references on your currency as a result of McCarthyism – hardly your country's best example of peace and tolerance.
Exactly. America pushes faith, just like the Nazi's did
We will probably face the same fate as well.
God has always been...simple as that
Here's the link if you would like to read more.
How could throw all Christians to one garbage bag? There are good people and there are bad people. There are true believers and psedo Christians who do bad things in the name of God."Yes, if you want to hit a dog you will always find a stick" meaning that If you do not believe in God and his message of love and mercy you will always find a way to spit in His face. I am Christian and when I die I am going where God is, do you know where you are going?
You are correct, you ARE going where God is when you die.
You are going nowhere.
Booo! : Because in America, money is god.
His hour is near.
“Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”
—1 John 2:18
His hour was 2,000 years ago.
I hear Mary M says Jeebus was only good for like three seconds
"His hour is near." has been said for 2,000 years. Late much?
mark 14:60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
no he didn't...
"And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, [thou] Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast [it] to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great [is] thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." Matthew 15:22-28
Do you think that was kind? Do you think it was godlike? What would you think of a doctor, if a woman came to him distressed and said, "Doctor, help my daughter, she is very ill." What would you think of the doctor who would NOT reply at all at first,
when she fell at his feet groveling and begging him answered that he did not spend his time doctoring dogs? Would you hire him as a family physician? Do you think that, even if he were to cure the child then, he would have done a noble thing? Is it evidence of a perfect character to accompany a service with an insult? Do you think that a man who could offer such an indignity to a sorrowing mother has a perfect character?"
How can one speak of spiritual things to those that are carnal minded only, it is written that the gospel is foolishness to that are perishing. Casting pearls to swine as it were. Ignorance is at play here and very rampant if I may say so. I would recommend they watch a video of either Kirk Cameron or Ray Comfort, for most their attention span will be short and lack of understanding already seems to be overwhelming them.
I grew up without any type of, "religion" and found myself to study it for argument against these "do gooders or self righteous bigots etc. Found out I was in great error of understanding, I've studied approximately 168 religions and found myself at the end knelling before a book written by many that were inspired by a Creator simply for the reason of love.
Valerie: His hour has been near since he was whacked. He is not coming, so get off your knees
Spirituality is one thing, religion quite another. People are waking up to the evils of organized religion, which will probably the downfall of mankind.
Lol, it isn't religion it is organizations. All organizations are corrupt and evil. That's why the only option that can work is total anarchy and survival of the fittest.
I think it has more to do with money. That leads to people realizing the evils of organized religions. hehehe. When people ran out of money they went, "Where did it all go?".
Religion is the worst thing that ever happened to the human race.
You think it trumps evolution? We could all be happily ignorant moneys right now.
If you travel south of the Mason Dixon, you may find many of us still are ignorant monkeys.
The only difference between people there and everywhere else is that they know they are idiots whereas most other people are deluded into thinking they are not.
Ya know, I understand how ancient Humans would've created religion, as we were just learning to make fire and starting to rise to the top of the animal totem pole. I understand we needed some rules for order and civility, and needed to explain everything unexplainable. But, today, 2012, what...12,000 years since Humanity as we are today emerged, you'd think the majority of Humanity would have the capacity to accept the answers that science provides, instead of holding on to myths.
We can totally be a civilized, orderly, peaceful, sharing and even altruistic people without religion. Long ago, religion gave us some form of foundation for how to think and behave. As an elightened species, we were children then, so we were provided children's stories. But, we are an adult species now, and we should think rationally, and behave accordingly. It's okay to believe in a presence or power greater than us, but to believe in the nuts and bolts in writings that subjective men wrote thousands of years ago, and to apply these writings into modern context – is irrational.
As someone from south of the Mason Dixon line I can testify that the only difference in people there is that they are held more tightly under the control of conservative religious and political ideologies. The result is higher levels of dogmatic ignorance.
Really, seems like there are just as many ignorant people north of the mason dixon line as south of it. If you think there are more south, its because some many people have moved south over the last 20 years. Thanks Yanks!
Ignorance is ignorance no matter how your sugar coat it.
@Rob-Texas: your comment is from someone in a state where the religious right has re-written the history and science textbooks to their liking. Are you really saying that is the result of "Yanks?"
...and the Texas GOP explicitly opposes the teaching of critical thinking skills.
You say that like there are science/history books written that are unbiased. I'm still looking for a media source that even pretends to not be biased on current events let alone ones that happened more than 15 minutes ago.
Show me an Atheistic hospital.
You probably are one those that think the center of the earth has a molten core as well..... hmmm how did you come to that claimed fact? If you believe you came from a monkey, adopt one and support your cause.
Religion can be "Freedom" or simply believing that the money you have actually has value without the dependance of others faith as well. Granted, so called Christians do more damage than good when it comes to that label of Christ but as it written, many shall claim that they are and yet Christ will even deny them as well.
Are you saying that you don't think the earth has a molten core? Also, can you point me to the hospital where they only use prayer to treat everything?
Those who have not found their way in the world's existing religious traditions will be pleased to know that there is a New Message from God for our time. It is not based on any existing religion. The New Message provides a pathway to the deeper part of each person and their purpose in the world at this time of great change and upheaval. Find out more at newmessage.org
Marshall Vian Summers is just another salesman of snake oil and his new message is the same old message of fiction, preying on those caught up on in the God delusion. Bummer.
So God is on the net now? Funny how he had to wait for a gay atheist to create computers before he could get his own website. Doesn't sound all powerful to me.
And exactly who did God dictate this 'new' message to? Do you have any evidence to back up this claim? Has He moved with the times and recorded a youtube video or left an audio recording of some type? Or has He stuck with tradition and uttered words that were heard only in the mind of one person,because God knew that this time we would all believe his new 'prophet'?
Or is this just a desperate attempt by one deluded individual to stave off the death-throes of religion that the saner ones among us have been hearing of late?
Ignore my question above. I've just looked at the 'newmessage' link. It took this new-age God 30 years to dictate just 9200 pages of its message. Not very efficient for a supreme being.....oh, hang on, I think I get it. Just another fraudulent self-styled prophet who's seen the wealth and / or adulation / power, etc. to be made leading one's own religion or pretending to be the sole beneficiary of some imaginary friend's word. Well. it worked for L.Ron Hubbard, Billy Graham, Joseph 'Hatface' Smith, Mohammed, Jesus H. Christ.................................
And if that doesn't work, throw a fossil just over their head.
At the very outset the jews denied there was ever a jewish male as described by the christians and they continue to do so right up until now.
Sooo, why were all the followers of Jesus Jews, including every writer of every word of the new testament?