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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
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.
soundoff (7,763 Responses)« Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 Next »
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.
There are always unintended consequences and it will be no different with the Secularists working tirelessly to destroy religion. In the end, on top of destroying the one thing that keeps many from perpetuating violence, they may actually succeed in destroy every religion (at least overtly) .... except Islam. Therein lies the problem. You will end up with a war between over a billion Islamist (who do not fear death and are experts at guérilla warfare) and everyone else. Care to guess who wins that one?
"Secularists working tirelessly to destroy religion" I had no idea that that is what secularists do!
Religion keeping people from being violent? What the heII are you smoking? Nothing makes people more violent than drugs and/or religion.
Religion's are hinduism, illegality of hindu Jew's, criminal secularist and you are none but their intended victim.
I am hoping we will evolve enough to understand on a basic level that religion is not needed anymore. I doubt I will see it in my lifetime but boy would it be amazing...
If you are a professor I feel sorry for your students.
I didn't know there were a billion – a BILLION, mind you – expert guerilla fighters in the world, let alone in a given religion. Wow.
Religion keeps people from being violent...really?
Jerry Sandusky just professed his belief in the christian god as he was sentenced for ra.ping children. Did not work so well there did it.
Maybe religion puts consequences in place to stop some individual's violence based on society's view points on morality, but it also organizes and organized in the past mass acts of violence against people with other view points and has given the excuse to perform such violence. And in the heart of the one perpetrating that violence having a religious excuse puts peace in their minds for performing such acts. Such examples can even be found in the Bible. And this violence is not specific to any particular religion
For this is the will of my Lord,
that everyone who sees the Son (of Man) and believes in him
may have eternal Life!
And (my Lord said:) I shall raise him in the Last DAY (=MILLENNIUM)! (John 6/40)
So that "Son of Man" has thus already come now to seek and save those who are lost,
in the beginning of this most critical Third and Last DAY (=MILLENNIUM) now! (Luke 19/10 = John 6/27, 40)
==UNIVERSAL MAGNIFICENT MIRACLES==
Jesus is waiting. What are you doing here?
From the book of hindu Mithra ism, racist savior ism, labeled as Christianity to hind, fool humanity.
It will be very interesting to see who makes up this 25%. Usually surveys like this, if provided details, could give very illuminating answers to why people do not believe in religion. For instance, they could be going through a particularly difficult patch in their lives (actually this improves faith in a higher being in many cases) or they could have developed habits that are directly confrontational to their religion. Without such facts it probably gets clubbed into people following the dictates of atheists which in all probability is not true. Don
While this is true, I'd think there was an equal or even greater number of religious-identified responders who are actually more atheist than religious but still too embarrassed to admit it or have some other reason not to.
there is a devil..with atheist he has accomplished what he set out to do
Or is it the other way around?
Or he never existed and still doesn't, and some people have realized that you don't need religion to be a moral person.
Yeah that's what Bin Laden said too.
Hahahaha......That's pretty funny.....
yeah. nothing so evil as reason and freedom from iron age mythology.
no god, means no devil:) I will ask you this without any emotion please try and convince me there is a god and there for a devil.
A few points in your attempt you can not use the bible cause if the bible says there is a god well DUH it's a faith based text so I kind of expect that. If the bible says there will be doubters well DUH it's pushing a faith that relies on well faith and no fact so of course there will be doubters! If the bible says it's word of god well DUH! What good would it be to those who actually do believe if it was not but to those who do not share it's beliefs what is says is well meaningless. No offense. Now you can't use FEAR wihich is commonly attempted you know the old I'll burn in hell for all eternity kind of stuff. That is an emotion you know. It won't work on me however.. I'm not that easily scared you see:)
bomba – there is no reason to actually believe there is such a thing as the devil.
Pagan Jim, I think someone, with a better handle on the science than me, can explain this better....
It is generally believed that the universe came into being by the theory of the Big Bang. This is actually good news for Theists because of the queston... What was the catalyst that initiated the Big Bang? Also, what existed before the Big Bang? It is possible, even in theoretical physics, that an energy (I call it God) existed before time and space. It was this energy that was the catalyst for the Big Bang.
Another popular theory today is that the universe isn't expanding becuase it is already infinate. The universe(s), in which we are like a grain of sand, are made up of energy. In my humble brain, I think for energy itself to be infinate, one has to entertain the idea (at least) that this energy is intelligent – I mean humans are somewhat intelligent, right? – so, if we're part of the energy of the universe, and we're intelligent, then I think one (almost) has to say that the universe is intelligent – ergo, God.
It's sad to hear that many people these days do not have a desire to know the word of God or try to knowledge that Jesus is the only way to everlasting life. I think it's pride and laziness that people don't seek the Creator of Life, God. I wish the best for everyone and i hope one day you'll believe that life on this planet is temporary and there's a bigger purpose than the things of this world. 19yrs old and i couldn't be more at peace with myself and the hard times this world brings.
Wow! 19 and you have it all figured out; I have never heard that before.
The bible does not come form the mouth of God unless you try to give God human characteristics
Its pride and laziness that make you believe in god.
Selena, it's the worst kind of intellectual laziness to accept something simply on faith. You have a brain, and powers of reason. You are surrounded by more scientific knowledge, and can access it more easily, than at any other time in history. Non-believers often become none-believers after starting out as believers, and then going through the very hard work of seeking answers.
To simply believe something – especially something as foundational as, is there a god? – because of a feeling you have, or because of a book, or because that was the way you were brought up, is the worst reason to believe something.
I am also at peace. I do not believe in mysterious beings including the following, santa claus, easter bunny, boogie man and of course, god. Why must you religious people always think that athiests are miserable lazy people who do terrible things? I would venture to guess atheists are MORE at peace than someone trying to gain approval of something that they do not even know exists. When you die ... you die. Done. And there is nothing wrong with that. Enjoy your life and stop wasting your precious time in fairy tales.
I suspect laziness must indeed be a factor why you still believe in the ridiculous bronze age fairy tales that you claim to be the word of god ! The bible was written by men. Stop beign so gullible!
"I think it's pride and laziness that people don't seek the Creator of Life"
I think it is incredible hubris to claim to know the thoughts of god.
"pride and laziness"
- Laziness = goddidit, end of story
- Pride = and it's MY "God" that did it, too.
Everlasting life sounds exhausting and overrated.
Well for me it was becoming sick to death of all the lies and hypocrisy that drove me away from christianity
All you non believers I will keep quoting the bible and its laws until you believe on my believes hahahahhahahhahahahahahaha
We will never believe on your believes.......?
Well yeah a lot of people do, but I need 100%. I will use fear tactics to achieve that MUahahahahahahhahah
Here’s an interesting quote for you bible thumpers. Turns out Mosses was a war criminal and a pervert
And Moses said unto them “Have ye saved all the women alive?... Now therefore Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him, but all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” Num 31:1-2, 9-11, 14-18
No kidding? Just listen to the stories people believe. Like the Mormons, some guy digs up the third book of the bible in his back yard. Seriously. IN the US? Seriously? And all the male believers are going to get their own planet? Seriously? And you need to wear magic underwear to go to church? You can't be serious? Scientologists are right along side them with the unbelievable stories. And once you figure out a couple of religions are bogus cults it is easy to see the similarities in the others. Free yourself from the tyranny of religion. Going to church is just subjugating you and keeping your church employed.
A belief in God and belonging to (or following) the doctrine of an organized religious sect are two completely different things. Personally, I don't believe people would feel the same way about God if His word had not been perverted by organized religion and people understood the concept of "free will". Personally, I have never found a "version" of organized religion that I could stomach.
it is not surprising, given the reduced indoctrination.
this can all be traced back to when women realized that they had greater worth than just mothers and homemakers, leaving the child rearing to nonauthoritative uninvested strangers.
It's all part of Satan's great plan.
@ Scott- actually, it's all part of Santa's great plan
Now if we can just teach the Muslims to lose their religion we might have a world worth living in.
Yahoo! You don't need it! God is within!
To all the religious, please watch this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSdGr4K4qLg
I love all the comments insinuating that that all the increases in non-belief are because people are self-centered. I would bet money that the people claiming that also believe:
1) They have a personal relationship with God.
2) God will reward them for their beliefs with eternal joy.
3) God will forever punish those that believe differently.
Nothing self-centered or arrogant in those beliefs, right?
The creator of the Universe and I have a personal relationship. No ego tripping going on there.
Really, scott? What does he look like?
God is Alpha and Omega. There is no rewards there is no miracles because they have always been there. God has no favorites or will play favorites for doing the ocus pocus or any religious tradition. The problem is that people are blind and don't see it that God is everlasting never changing love. All it takes is to chance perspective and to loose ignorance towards the world. Loose ignorance and hatred will leave your heart and will be replaced with respect toward other human brothers. We are all the same essence in the end.
Sam – turn on the sarcasm detector. I think.
I'm a Catholic, My Children are Catholic, their children will be Catholic. Christianity is not a religion. It's a way of life. Some call themselves Crhistians but do not live their lives according to the Gospel. It's not judging, it's the truth. The truth and only truth in my life and my family's life is the truth from God. I don't follow men, nor priest or bishops. I follow Jesus Christ according to the teachings of my church. 1 hour a week to attend mass is simply not enough when we hear the preaching from the devil everywhere you turn in America, every show on TV, every music genre. 1 hour is not enough for us. We serve God every day in every aspect of our lives. Am I a sinner??? YOU BET! I was born a sinner YET God loves me and gives me the strength to walk away from sin. atheists choose not to believe..they choose to sin. They have never met Jesus in their lives because they have their own god.. greed and money and their by products. No thank you atheists!! I choose GOD!
Have you met Jesus? Because if you have that is a pretty big deal considering that he has been dead for 2000 years.
It's comments like this taht make me believe we truely are going backwards in society. I am sure you are a very nice and a model citizan, however, it's these beliefs that are getting us in trouble when we stay in the past and believe in a fantasy land filled with magic men.
"I follow Jesus Christ according to the teachings of my church. "
But that is not religion....Riiiiiiight.....! You contradict yourself. By the way I would not bet your children's children will stay Catholic after their initial indoctrination, I didn't.
You lost me at christianity is not a religion but a way of life.... go read a book. And not your magic book.
I can't wait until his bise.xual atheist grandaughter tells him she is marrying her girlfriend but still needs contraceptives for her casual encounters with men.
My mother thought the same thing, but made the mistake of educating her children and allowed them to think for themselves, now all are atheists. The Catholic church is a protectorate for paedophiles. You can keep your repellent religion.
While I agree that being a Christian should be a way of life and not just an hour a week at mass, the fact that you are calling atheists sinners is pride of the worst sort. pride, avarice, lust, anger, greed, envy and sloth. You just hit the first one on the head.
It is not your place to assume that anyone other than yourself is a sinner. Not even your kids. Read your bible and start acting like what you are claiming to be.
"I follow...my church"
Good for you.
It's too late for you..but please stop brainwashing your children.... Jesus is made up from dozens of sources.... educate yourself!
Case in point. Thank you for making mine. My ancestors were Catholics (generations ago) None that I know of now are. Just because you choose to stay with a viewpoint you were indoctrinated with doesn't mean you have any certainty that someone in your famiily will have the balls to stand up to the BS and climb out of the sqirming jar of tadpols desparately looking for meaning in their lives based an a 2,000 yr old book compiled by Constantine and his bishops (God knows what else was left out for the "good of the cause"). Good luck with your happiness. Just don't assume that everyone of your kin will ultimately remain Catholic or religious. Most of us brought up in the Christian faith have ties in there as well.
Lady if we were all to look up the phrase holier-than-thou in the dictionary you would be the definition. Get over your Catholic ego trip some time soon. You don't have to be religious to be a kind person. I don't think you are very kind to insinuate that people who are not religious are sinners and you are also a sinner who is loved by god so that makes you better than people who reject your faith. I hope your children and grandchildren see the era of your ways and use the space between their ears to think for themselves. You are the exact reason I have never ever been interested in even attending a religious service. I don't want to waste my time congregating with a bunch of egotisical, holier than thou, people who think that they are so much better than ever one else because they have said enough hail mary's to absolve them of their sins. I will use my time to be good to others and teach my kids in my own words right from wrong.
Morality is doing what is right no matter what you are told to do. Religion is doing what you are told to do no matter what is right.
Check the history of your religion. Check the complete history of any religion for that matter. Try not to make any excuses for your god.
@milky pirate – Yes, I have! my life is different becuase of him. I was dead and now I'm alive.. I was blind and now I see. YES! I have met Jesus. His word gives me life.
I continue to be fascinated by the bully paradise that is the comment sections on the internet. Wow...
Words are just words. If you can't take the heat stay out of the kitchen. Sometimes adults get aggressive when discussing issues that are important to them. You can't be bullied unless you allow it to happen to yourself. Stand up for what you believe in always and never back down. (I just told this to my 7 year old this morning, too bad your mama didn't tell you.)
Religion, for the most part, is based on a set of dogma, beliefs and assumptions, that are taken as perpetually true. Which goes against human thought, which is forever changing. It would be insane to assume that, though full of wisdom, Christianity, Islam and other religions in there present (some say outdated) forms will remain relevant to humanity forever.
One thing that is always constant down here is change! Evolve or go extinct, those are the choices!
Well said! Thank you!
The only choice that matters to anyone is Jesus Christ.
That is unless you have personal one on one experience with your God and your faith. Then for you it is acknowledgement that there is a God and that as some things change some things will NEVER change. In fact the only thing that may change is what one chooses or chooses not to believe in. The choice is yours but only one school of thought will be right in the end. Can you afford to be wrong?
BS: Can you?
"THE MONEY GOD & ME" Religion ..... sadly simple!
In the early days, religion gave people a foundation to build upon when there were so many unknowns in the world. Now that we have "outgrown" our training wheels that foundation will eventually lead to our downfall as a shaky foundation never lead to anything good. We as a people must start the transition from interpreting religious belifs as fact to fables and guidlines..
The time will be soon when not only is there no stigma attached to saying you are not religious, it will flip wherein there will be a stigma if you claim to be religious. Religion and a belief in gods is on it's way out. This does not mean that man will not consider the purpose of life and his/her existence. That is part of our DNA. It only means that the creating a mythical creature who rules over us all will be only considered as myth.
I would like to see the belief in Magic Super Friend made manditory.
I am responding to commentors from an earlier post, in which one said I should cite a source for my argument that religion itself is not "evil" or "good"; people by virtue of how they behave, do "evil" or "good." It is people on both sides of the front line in war who use/misuse religion to justify their actions. Romans 8:31 illustrates the point: "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Both sides in war believe they are right. Religion is not to blame for the evils men do.
You obviously haven't read the holy books.
Religion's are hinduism, corruption of truth absolute, a man made evil.
Pete, actually, I have. You obviously do not understand what I mean. The idea that if we believe God is on our side then we are morally justified in our actions (particularly in war) is a tragically naive misinterpretation, but one that societies have been making for thousands of years.
The idea that "god is on our side" and therefore justifies immoral actions is a product of religion, which goes against your argument that rligion is not to blame.
@Blessed are the Cheesemakers,
No, you have it backwards. It is the interpretation and the misuse (whether deliberate or naive) of religious teachings, in this case the Judeo-Christian religions. An immoral religious act is an oxymoron; the justification for what is in reality an immoral act is entirely contrived.
So when god commands people to kill woman and children in the bible it is not immoral? When a mother kills her children because she has been taught by her religion that they will not go to hell if they die before the age of reason. The fact that god gave rules on how to own slaves and did not just outlaw the owning of people as written in a religious book that people believe is the inerrant word of "GOD" is not religious? I think you are the one who has it backwards.
So only a positive interpretation of religion is a "true" interpretation? How do you know only a "good" interpretation is correct, what is your evidence for that assertion?
Exactly what kind of atheist are you?