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.
Odin is the only one true god. May he look upon all of us with his one eye. I hope to die in battle so that I may enter Valhalla or Fólkvangr to spend eternity.
Greater is me, than he that is in the world.
hinduism, stupidity, you could never be without truth absolute constant, LORD AND GOD of the world, get some education in Quantum Physics. hindu, ignorant.
Man is the one true god, and creator of gods. If I was to pick the coolest god, however, Odin would win.
We, the followers of Quetzlcoatl, declare your Odinism heretical!
Convert now! Reject your false God and bow down to Quetzcoatl or face His serpentine wrath!
You people are just delusional. Everyone knows Thor has the best abs and biggest hammer.
People with religion believed that the religion they are with is the chosen one. Supposed everybody born in Saudi Arabia where no other religion allowed to practice, all of us is a muslim. No doubt. We can worship GOD, but no religion. Religion just divide humanity.
Islam is Theen Allah, Consti tution of truth absolute, constant and religion's are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute by hindu's crooks.
religion is just the formalized practice of worshipping that god you speak so highly of.
belief in god is the retarded part.
why is belief needed if god is real?
belief without proof or knowledge of is equal to children believing in santa – minus someone putting santas name on sh!t that they themselves bought to convice others of your BS......
if god was real, and had laws which were breakable, AND upheld those laws with what it says god does to those that brake them then why can i say f u jesus christ, god, mary, joe, and all the other morons who fell in the attempt to make others believe your bs while laying outright to simple people whiling preaching against lieing and other terrible things to which god and the followers of god are so called commanded to do in the name of ????
RETARDS. the only reason is mental instability.
that includes you and others that follow other moronic belief systems.
@ hINDUISM RACISM OF hINDU'S, CRIMINALS BY FAITH EXPOSED
What crack-pipe are you smoking…..Forget your meds?
What else would one expect when the church has turned Christ's message on it head. Jesus was a pacifist. For 300 years after his crucifixion, his follows were persecuted and burned on stakes because they refused to fight for Rome. Today, the "Christians" are the most warlike in our nation, an anti-christ position.
Jesus was repeatedly invited into the homes of the wealthy. He would bring the poor people off the streets into their homes with him and tell his host to give their wealth away. When Jesus died, all of his disciples gave away all of their wealth. Today's "Christians" preach that God will reward his followers with monetary wealth, another anti-christ position.
Jesus flipped over the tables of money makers. When asked if we should pay taxes, Jesus said yes. Jesus healed the sick for free. Although he could have made a big profit, he didn't to show us a better way to live our lives.
Perhaps there would be more people attracted to Christianity if todays "Christians" actually taught and practiced what Jesus did.
But instead religion has become the tool of wicked men.
Not sure about the "fighting for Rome" thing; but definitely agree with you on the "following Christ to get wealthy" preaching. Heard that a couple of times myself – no way for me to believe this type of "Christ" or "Christianity".
Read Sabbath Economics by Ched Myers. The theme: there is great abundance if we only take what we need. Moses feed thousands of people in the desert for 40 years on sabbath economics. It was the economic system that the Judges preached for before King David and included the practice of jubilee (debt forgiveness). And, Jesus talked about the principals of sabbath economics constantly, it was the "good news." How are we going to feed and take care of 10 billion people on this planet in the next few decade? Sabbath economic. What great news!
As for the 300 years of early christian pacifist, I read about it decades ago in one of my history books. Here is a modern-day reference (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Christian_pacifism). The pacifist era came to an end when Constantine adopted Christianity as the new state religion of Rome and baptized his soldiers in water except for their sword hand so that they could still kill for Rome. Constantine also did some editions to the Christian teachings to better suit Rome's purposes.
Imagine that. 300 years of Christians saying, "I would rather die than be forced to harm others." How else could Rome be changed but by changing the warlike and materialistic foundations of Rome itself. Rome died over a thousand years ago, but Christianity lives on. Warriors may determine the resources that are available to a nation and therefore its lifestyle. But, it is the pacifist, like Jesus, that change the hearts of mankind.
Anyone who does not believe in any Supreme Being please help me: I don't understand why it's wrong to kill a human being while it's OK to kill a chicken as our food. Also I am puzzled by the fact that people seem to have this concept of "truth". Different people may have different opinions, but they all seem to think their opinion is absolutely "true". I don't get it, so need wiser atheists to advise me; otherwise I may become one of the "religious" people. Thanks!
Truth is constant and absolute in power, nothing can exist without constant and constant, truth absolute is THE GOD.
Here is a serious answer to your non-serious question.
Do you need the fear of retribution from a mystical being to keep you from killing someone and taking their stuff? If that is the extent of what is keeping you from murder, you may just replace your fear of god with fear of the police.
In regards to truth. Not sure what you are referring to. Each religion certainly considers itself the "truth", to the exclusion of all other. That's why it is so divisive.
If you don't understand the difference between killing a human and killing a chicken, perhaps you do need religion or some other authority figure to tell you what to do.
Or, is this your weak attempt at addressing the "Where do morals come from?" conversation?
Not everyone believes that it is ok to kill a chicken. Everybody has their own beliefs on what is right and wrong, just that some are more extreme than others, and that is true with both religious and non religious people.
It starts off with:
The question of “where morals come from” has exercised philosophers, theologians and many others for millennia. It has lately, like many other questions previously addressed only through armchair rumination, become addressable empirically, through the combined approaches of modern neuroscience, genetics, psychology, anthropology and many other disciplines. From these approaches a naturalistic framework is emerging to explain the biological origins of moral behaviour. From this perspective, morality is neither objective nor transcendent – it is the pragmatic and culture-dependent expression of a set of neural systems that have evolved to allow our navigation of complex human social systems.
Eric G, so would you mind telling me the difference if it's so apparent to you? True atheists would readily admit there is no difference. So it does not seem to me you are a strong atheist as you would want to claim yourself to be.
who says it is not ok to kill a human? sounds like a good plan to me. too damn many of them roaming the earth now, kill about 98-99% and start anew. (man I would make a great god. LOL)
wenqc – morality is a construct of our community and society. there are cases for both not killing a chicken (entertainment, torture) or for killing of men (defense, punishment, war). so it is clearly obvious the relative nature of morality.
Snowboarder, assume you are right that human society completely formas and defines the rules of morality and that these rules are 100% relative, it's natural to follow that soceity can also evolve and change these rules. Say, if the majority of a soceity (in democratic places) or a dictator (in totalitarian places) were to determine it's OK to kill a human being as it is to kill a chicken with the same condition (such as we can kill human beings as long as the purpose is to eat them), would it be perfectly acceptable to you? If you are a real atheist, your answer should be a resounding yes. But if you hesitate, then more explanation is needed because it would indicate there may be an "absolute" side of morality.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience; it doesn't matter if you are religious or an atheist as long as you find a way to live with the spiritual issues of life ie: love, compassion, fear, etc. Religion is not necessary to deal with those issues or to be a good person.
It seems from the survey that even those that choose to believe in a God have found that they do not need Religion to deal with those issues of life.
What do you mean we are spiritual biengs? Love, compassion and fear are emotions. What is spirituality? The only meaning I can attach to that word is some sort of belief in the supernatural.
You have to have some word to define that part of your life. I don't care what you call it, but if you were to become a psychologist those issues would be defined as spiritual issues. At least they were when I was in school and it had nothing to do with a God.
We are entirely 100 % physical beings. Your "soul" did not exist until your body existed. When you die, you are gone. Your "experience" of what you interpret as *spiritual* is 100% dependent on your brain chemistry, which, if damaged , will be latered, or cease. Sorry. Try harder.
I can't help it if you are not interested in understanding my position. Nothing I said had anything to do with a soul.
Fluffy, is this just a statement of your chosen belief, or do you have a shred of evidence to support it?
You are using a word "spirituality" that has this supernatural connotation to it for the majority of people. It contains the word spirit it it!
That may well be true for you, but it is not true for me. As an agnostic I had to learn new meanings in College in order to pass my course work.
Some articles on "morality" in primates from Google Scholar: (http://scholar.google.com/scholar?start=20&q=morality+in+primates&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&as_vis=1)
"Social play behaviour. Cooperation, fairness, trust, and the evolution of morality"
"Scientist Finds the Beginnings of Morality in Primate Behavior"
"Psychological Realism, Morality, and Chimpanzees"
"Group sanctions without social norms?"
Perhaps moral would be an easier word for the atheists to accept than spritual. Personally I find the radical atheist just as irritating as the Christians.
"radical" ?? .....
Actually I can not see my entire comment so I am not sure what your question is. I believe it may have been a comment I made about radical Atheists. Yes they are as irritating as the Evangelical Christians.
Only for the new members of this blog:
And globally, we have:
Christianity ……………………..2.1 billion
Islam…………………………… 1.5 billion
Irreligious/agnostic/atheism…… 1.1 billion – Look out, here we come!!!
Hinduism 900 million
Chinese traditional religion 394 million
Buddhism 376 million
Animist religions 300 million
African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
Sikhism 23 million
Juche 19 million
Spiritism 15 million
Judaism…………………………………….. 14 million
Baha'i 7 million
Jainism 4.2 million
Shinto 4 million
Cao Dai 4 million
Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
Tenrikyo 2 million
Neo-Paganism 1 million
Unitarian Universalism 800,000
Rastafari Movement 600,000
As an agnostic, non-religious I do not wish to be lumped in with the dogmatic, illogical atheists anymore that with the Hindus or Christians. Please break these numbers out for a more accurate count.
Hopefully, oneday we can say that number is now ZERO, But until then, all we can do is wait and blog until the truth is understood by all.
Those may be the published numbers but just because of the total populations of India and China they are highly suspect. It is easy to extrapolate that there would be more adherents than those numbers just based on the populations of those two countries.
Hinduism 900 million
Chinese traditional religion 394 million
Buddhism 376 million
New Living Translation (NLT)
Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed—the one who brings destruction.
Sure. Don't worry, the world's going to end in December anyway. My source is just as reliable as yours!
What does word GOD, means, literal translation please.
Keep your empty threats to yourself. We don't care.
I am not afraid, on the contrary, this is great news.
You best re-look at the bible and you will FIND that the version you are using DOES NOT even match the earliest known version of the scriptures. So whatever you are “reading/writing” sure, I’ll go for it. Hell lets rewrite it ourselves..
Oh my, more of Paul's contribution to Gullible's Travels.
It's probably me, I'm really clumsy and bring lots of destruction.
I believe ghost are good and entertaining characters for movies but, to believe in ghost in real life such as: God, it is insane. How can you believe in something that doesn't make any sense at all. It is an insult to the intelligence.
I like this article because it means;
people I automatically don't like because they persecute my beliefs...
-with science using logic and deductive reasoning...
will all go to hell and be stuck with Satan and all those heavy metal musicians and that idiot Darwin who awards people for dying in sad, strange ways.
My god is great and my arrogance and cognitive dissonance helps my ego to feel safe from you and your scientific evidence. IF DINOSAURS WERENT IN THE BIBLE, THEY WERE PLACED ON EARTH TO TEST OUR FAITH!!!!!
I know Jesus loves you all, but I will laugh at those sent to hell. I am righteous and I am a child of the lord.
Ramblings of a lunatic?
See, this is the problem with religions: I'm better than you because I believe in the RIGHT god and go to the right church. I'll be saved and you, poor pathetic people will not. Stupid people. But it’s their choice, right? Doesn’t matter, you’re above them. It makes you feel special to be part of the “right” religion.
Wow. Just like the writer of Revelation, you must have crashed your camel into some bath salts too I see.
Helps to turn on the sarcasm detector folks....
"I know Jesus loves you all, but I will laugh at those sent to hell. I am righteous and I am a child of the lord."
Jesus must be so proud of you! Way to go, Christian soldier!
Christian T. Raul... Christian Traul. Troll. Get it?
Ok so u atheist can't see when a fellow Atheist writes (Christian T. Raul is an ATHEIST). How do you read the Bible? Oh Hitchens and Dawkins do it for you! Religious Atheists are same as religious Christians-clueless!
Gorsh------your challenge is accepted.
Yes, By science, can any thing exist without constant, YES or NO ?
I'll take "Sentences That Don't Make Sense" for $400, Alex.
Only to a hindu's, looser.
English, I speak can't, hindu some reason for
When I stopped believing in Santa Claus, I also realized it's a human invention – just like religion.
Wow how original you are!!!
Well said. God is Santa for grown-ups.
The really funny thing is, there is actually more evidence of Santa than there is of god.
Does it being unoriginal make it any less true?
i believe in me and i don't need a book to tell me how to conduct life
Ahhhh...little did we know that Burger King would change our world forever. "Have it your way'. I trhink we are simply seeing a delayed response to the boomer generations narcissism. Most young people see the rediculousness in someone saying, "I am this or that' even though they do not truly practice it and they are not following that same path. I am 'unaffiliated' but my three children of 23, 19 and 14 all are quite strongly affiliated and go to church on their own. I grew up a Mass democrat and live in CT and they are quite conservative. I think we are simply seeing a washing out of the 'I'm confussed' with these generations and they are making a active choice as to affilaite OR not instead of affilaite AND not. Watch the divisveness in politics and don't expect that divisiveness does not ooze into other areas of life. Some may see what is happening as good...we will not know. Our children and theirs will be the ones to war over the reults just as we are still warring over the decisions of those before us who are long since gone. I see this as normal human history simply happening.
People are finally getting smarter in America.. about time.
I do not follow that logic. What you are saying is you know what is right and everyone else does not? Your way is the way? Where did you park your cross? 🙂
The logic would that smart people like Einstein thought religion was a farce that weak minds needed to cope with the uncertainty of life. So, as more people realize that, we must be getting smarter.
dave – not necessarily smarter, but less people are being brainwashed.
Newsflash – 1 in 5 people have a brain!
So that's 2 of 5. How about the other 3?
Those other four "without the brain" could be Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, John Adams, etc.....
I am an Apolist. I don't believe in Poland because Iv'e not seen any compelling proof of it's existence.
Then you are a móron, because there are plenty of pictures of Poland, you can travel to Poland, and speak to people from Poland. Now, where do I buy my tickets to visit heaven? And don't tell that I need wait until I die, because you can visit Poland any time of the year.
You are kind of an idiot, aren't you?
Really? Prove to me that these pictures are of Poland. Or if I go there that it is not a ruse by the Germans. In fact, prove to me that you exist. I think you are just a trolling computer program. The intelligence I've seen in your posts seems to support this hypothesis.
It's poland because that is the label we gave to that piece of land. Now, are you saying prove there is a piece of land?
gorsh – that is the worst analogy i have ever seen.
The existence of Poland does not require magic, something else that does not exist.
Of course he believes Poland exists you moron! Gees..you were so stupid to take him seriously. He was speaking figuratively and making a point which you obviously did not get.
You can be an ídiot all you want, but my answer is the same; buy a ticket and go and visit Poland. Now tell me where I can buy my tickets to visit heaven? I mean, if I going to strive all my life to go somewhere, I would like to see if I like it first. If you can buy tickets to go to Poland, but I cannot buy tickets to go to heaven, then it stands that Poland exists, and heaven is a farce.
The non-existence of god requires an infinite number of universes. If you believe in multiple universes without factual support is this not faith?
gorsh – the multi-verse is just one hypothesis. admitting that we don't yet know is a fact, attributing it to an imaginarly god is intellectually lazy.
"I am an Apolist"
No, you are a moron.
Darla – you cannot make a point just by saying stupid stuff; that just makes you stupid. If you are going to say that a = b and b =c thus a = c, then a should actually equal b. Otherwise you are just a móron, which makes sense, since he believes in fairy tales and magic trees.
Science has proven conclusively, without a shadow of a doubt that there is the definite possibly that there is no god.
Ricky, I don't believe in fairy tales, nor am I so arrogant to believe anything without proof. You seem to be one of those that do, and good luck with that.
Ahhh...Ricky. Who here exists? Do I? How do you know...really? It is odd we come here and we have conversations as if what we read are honest thoughts and those writing them are true people. We can all read the comments but we can only prove the existendce of another by assuming many things. As far as Heaven being any more or less a place than Poland... I can neither prove nor disprove that at this time but someday I will if I get to Poland. Until then, I will assume and have faith there is a Poland becasue you and others claim there is and I will assume there is something after we leave this world/life as there have been many who have died and come back who claim there is. But...someday I will know and there is no reason for me to persuade or disuade myself or others here on earth for it will be what it will be. I wonder of prior to this life someone said there was nothing after that life and now here I am here. Foolishness- on someones part. 🙂
step in the right direction, but until all religions are gone completely the world is still doomed.
Why, do you feel things are getting bad in the world?
I am now in my sixties. When I was in grammar school, we had something called Released Time Christian Education (I see that it still exists–to my amazement). The protestants went one place (a trailer) while the Catholics went another (the church across the street). The Jews just sat in the classroom and stared at the ceiling. Then an now your tax dollars were/are at work supporting religion (Christian only). We had 40 minutes of religious indoctrination once a week during the school day.
Of course crime rates, drug use and suicide are all at much higher rates than back then... Just sayin'
Actually crime rates have declined from that time. You just hear more about it, because of the 24hrs news channels and internet.
Borscht, crime was reported differently back then. There was lots of suicides. They were hushed up.
depends on what drugs you are talking about, gorsh. just sayin'
What interesting about the "crime Increase " you speak of Gorsch is that regions that are deemed more religious have higher crime rates so your "logic" doesn't follow through.
This is what happens when the Christian right wing and the religious fundamentalists spew their hateful/discriminating brand of religion. If I was searching for God I'd be turned off also.
Both affiliated and non affiliated should appreciate this article. Most of those commenting are wasting time and life by slandering others' beliefs. Prove you have that moral compass by loving one another, either through brain chemicals, Christ, or whichever God enables you to that.
NambyPambyAndy, of course we're slandering others' beliefs. If their beliefs weren't so absurd, we wouldn't do it. We're only looking out for you and the weak-willed bed-wetters you associate with. It's for your own good.
Pointing out the absurd is not a waste of time. Our scientific knowledge would be extremely primitive if we just accepted every piece of garbage that comes out of our mouths.
Young people are joining atheist groups in large numbers when compared to previous decades. Ask yourself why. Could it be that they see what the brainwashed don't see, that the gods that humans believe in doesn't exist.
Andrew unfortunately some peoples brain chemicals do not function and it is on this blog they display this. Don't take it too much to heart. Religious guys are the same whether Atheists or Christians.