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.
CALLING ALL ATHEISTS......It takes a tremendous amount of FAITH to believe that there is no Creator when everyday you see his creation. So to say that Atheists are without FAITH would be a gross understatement. Atheists are so convicted of their FAITH that they are willing to hold up signs, post billboards, march, blog, fight and vehemently protest the believes of others; I don't believe in UFO's however I don't put up billboards in Roswell condemming those who do. ATHEISM IS A RELIGIOUS CULT!!! Atheists prosetlytize(these posts are evidence). Atheists have doctrine(Faith that something came from nothing). Atheists have prophets( Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawkings etc.). Atheists have many bibles(just do a google search for atheists bible). Atheists have a conventional church(National Atheists Convention). Don't tell me that ATHEISM is not a CULT RELIGION. Don't pretend that you are just trying to educate the rest of society to their psycopathic believe in God by standing up for something that doesn't exist. WHO IS THE PSYCOPATHS HERE!!! ATHEISTS LITERALLY STAND FOR "NOTHING"!!! I read posts from atheists all the time about how they don't need a moral compass. That, just be kind and respectful of others and that morality does not come from God. That morals are evolved self evident rules that we inately inherit from our primordial coexistence with early cavemen. REALLY...So let me get this straight. Atheists belive that monkeys that came from rocks who still exists in the wild and cannabalize each other somehow through survival of the fittest and natural selection became Humans who respect each other and have an inate sense of right and wrong. And atheists think Christians are crazy. To belive the very definition of evolution is to contradict all that is moral and right within Man's Nature. One can't believe that a Natural Order that destroys the weak and lame can be that very same nature in humans that is respectful, just, right and moral. It is a paradox. THE END!!!
Nope. It takes no faith at all to not believe something that has no proof. How much faith does it take for you to not believe unicorns? None, right? Your god is a figment of your imagination, as YOU can prove to YOURSELF if you are disciplined enough to follow the logic where it takes you. Good luck.
CALLING ALL ATHEISTS ... THE END!
cannibal monkeys? care to name the species. most primates live in relative peace in their communities. its only when territory is an issue that monkeys fight.
† Atheists have bad breath, and their body odor is not so good either (the result of eating babies).
† Atheists watch the wrong TV shows. Nature, DWTS. Need I say more?
† Atheists proclaim knowledge is good. That's just so STUPID! Remember Eve?
† You can't potty train an atheist. He'll pee on your rug every time.
† Atheists can not be trusted between the hours of midnight and 3am. Hide your money during those hours and pray.
† The Bible says atheists should be tenderized, sauteed, and eaten with relish. But not on Sunday, because that would be wrong.
"WHO IS THE PSYCOPATHS"
uhhh, well ok, but you have to work on some your English. Also, I know they are expensive, but buy some more lower-case letters.
OK., If my God is pure love, and I am in his "all-inclusive" palace with 28 gorgeous women and I have what it takes to satisfy them – I am a believer!!!
I think religion is fine for you and everyone like you. Rational thinking is not for everybody. Some of us just don't have the tools for it. Given that, religion is probably your next best option.
Explain to me how some faithful Muslim can oppress their women. Having religion does not mean having moral compass. You can create your own version of God, follow the rules you imagined that he/she created, but your eventual action can still be immoral. It is sad but true, standard of morality changes with time and changes with number of the majority.
People that don't believe don't waste their time trying to prove they don't believe.
You seem disturbed
@Jeff Williams Where did you get your info? If those things are in the bible, No wonder atheism is growing.
i don't know where to begin. There is so much ground to cover....
So who would you rather visit Earth – Borg, Volcans, or some guy from planet Jesus?
Is it Volcans or Vulcans?
can i pick amazon women from the moon?
Who cares they're all make believe.
I cant speak for anyone else but myself I dont go anymore because what i see are life long clergy who feel the church is there to serve them and not to serve the poor and forgotten. The drive their nice cars,live in their nice homes and drive by a member of the church in need of a ride because its too much trouble to drive an extra 5 min. Then your expected to give 10 percent for that kind of service.or lack thereof. then you see how loyal folks in the church are just used by the church in the name of god to do all kinds of work while the pastor gets paid and doesnt lift a finger.then folks that go do who commit all those sins all week and come to chruch for confirm in the eyes of god their good christans and that God will forgive them. Or worse they try to force their religous beliefs and customs on you through legislative action an make a mockery of religous freedoms and the very principals of why and how america was founded.
I stopped going to church because after long and careful study I realized that my spiritual beliefs were complete and utter bullsh!t--as was my god and all others.
Nah, It's the gibberish. The nonsensical idea that God had to clone himself as a blood sacrifice to himself to atone for Adam and Eve being exactly as stupid as God made them. Drunk or sober that makes zero sense.
The problem is the man-made rules of the various sects of Protestantism and the patriarchal stubborness of the Roman Catholic church. Jesus never said women should not wear make up or that people shouldn't dance (the Jews danced the Ark across the desert). He never said that women could not be priests. This is all made up by men subugating women. At a time when women were valued less than camels and goats, Jesus chose to be born of a woman and had close women friends. He strove to raise the status of women. Christ actually only told us to do two things:1) To love God with all our hearts and all our minds and all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves and: 2) to participate in the Communion service "Do this in memory of me".There are two types of Christians – Negative Christians that focus on what one should not do according to their 'rules' and Positive Christians that focus on what we CAN do with God's help. True religion should empower you to be the best that you can be. It encourages questions and truth-seeking. C.S. Lewis said,"Beware the Fundamentalists" in ANYTHING! You cannot reason with fundamentalists because they are so convinced they are right. As man evolves, so does his understanding of God and each soul develops according to that understanding. We are all at different spiritual levels according to our soul's development. C.S. Lewis also said, "The worst bad man is the religious bad man". That certainly has proven to be true with priests, pastors, coaches, etc.who use their positions to abuse the vulnerable. We are here to love and help one another. Find a church that allows you to say, believe in reincarnation, if you choose to do so. Do go to church if only to receive Communion as Christ asked.
If all religious people were like you than I doubt atheists would even see religion as a problem
How has more to loose being wrong? The one who belives in GOD or the one who chooses to ignore him?
which god. if you pick the wrong one you go to hell also.
Get some spelling lessons. My goodness.
The one wasting his time believing in fairytales.
So someone is going to punish me for all eternity because I guessed wrong?
The ones who believe, and choose to live their lives based on a set of principles, those who do not believe simply live to live, without worry of the afterlife.
If the believer is wrong, he has devoted the whole of his existence to a fairy-tale. That's pretty much the worst thing imaginable
That's a bad argument – one does not have faith in something due to fear of a future state.
CNN...you need to check your math numbers. The 2010 US Census says there are approximately 308 million citizens...so, your number of 33 million (non-religious people) is closer to 1 in 9...not 1 in 5. Just saying...third grade math.
Yeah that would be relevant in 2010, this is 2012
Ummmm... the number has GROWN by 25%; it's not 25% of the population.
Actuallly both of you are mathematically challenged. 33 million non-religious – population approx 330 million – that 10%, so that's 1 out of 10
Good thing he can do third grade math, now just needs the third grade reading.
funny! Your observation is correct. The survey speaks only in percentages, though it might apply to only adults.
The relevant number is 19.6%.
It's a lot of people.
Bible is a heavy, talish, archaic book, but strangely, almost every movie or book plot follows its themes.
that's because it's a wonderful piece of literature. It wouldn't still be around if it weren't. That said, people need to start reading it as literature rather than fact.
Just as The Bible follows many themes which predate it.
So the Three Stooges Movie followed the bible?
Here we all are again...Gathered around the CNN altar of unbelief. Has anyone else noticed that the recent blog themes are all the same. I'm visiting this one to preach the same gospel that has been preached for 2K years.
FIRST, for all you atheistic evolutionists out there: WHEN DID "ANIMALS" THAT SUPPOSEDLY EVOLVED INTO THE HUMAN RACE DEVELOP A "CONSCIENCE" BASED ON "MORALITY"?...Please don't put forth some faith-based reply. You hate that when us followers of Jesus quote rrom someone else's written work...
While you're at it, tell us what your OBJECTIVE SOURCE for ABSOLUTE TRUTH is that dictates your moral system? (i.e. Why is it wrong if your husband or wife commits adultery against you if it brings him/her pleasure?...Why is it wrong if someone likes little boys & girls?...Why is sx with animals forbidden and morally repugnant if there is NO ABSOLUTE SOURCE OF TRUTH?)...
You all do realize that we are probably a generation away from people wanting to marry their pets or pediphiles screaming for their right to have sx with your children, don't you?
If "morality" was the natural evolutionary process to bring forth societal order with no ULTIMATE JUDGMENT (i.e. God) then TRUTH is based on what one generation from the next determines...just like this generation is determining that gay marriage is acceptable, which simply evidences my point above and the fact that the truths that dictate your moral value system today are truly void of any real authority...truth does not really exist...but you're allPLAY ACTING as if it does...and I truly don't get it. And then you scream with some make believe absolute authority that us who follow the Jesus of the Bible are delusional. But who is LOGICALLY delusional...Oh, did I say LOGICALLY? That,comes from tje Greek word LOGOS, which is umderstood by Plato, Aristotle and Scorates as ABSOLUTELY NEEDING AN ABSOLUTE SOURCE OF TRUTH...and tye Bible calls Jesus "the Logos", the Word (i.e. God – The Source of all truth and logic) who "became flesh"...
Now whether you believe it or not, the Bible historically recorded Pontius Pilate's response to Jesus' statement about "truth" in the following way, "What is truth?"...SOUND FAMILIAR? It's like the now famous bumper sticker: "WHATEVER", that, in one word, summarizes the worldview of today...WHATEVER...Nothing matters...because there's no truth...WHAT IS TRUTH?
No absolute SOURCE of truth = NO TRUTH...Just WHATEVER! And NO ULTIMATE RECOMPENSE (i.e.Judgment Day) for anyone transgressing the moral system that the populace sets up for a generation...imcluding your own personal moral system that you transgress...That's not only convenient but it's absolutely self-serving and irrational! (and it lacks LOGIC).
Your life, then, is ultimately a lie, and a "vapor" on top of that, as the Bible states...Then comes the Judgment that the Bible speaks of to ALL of us – The Judgment of God that we who logically & spiritually recognize as being connected to the Source of Absolute Truth found ih the black&white pages of the Bible...the Judgment upon ALL OF US...
The Bible doe not discriminate regarding levels of sin and sinners...ALL HAVE SINNED AND FALL SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD..."All", lest anyone thinks us Bible thumpers are not included...BUT HERE'S THE "GOOD NEWS":
9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
13 This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit.
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God"
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a]Christ Jesus our Lord.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
Romans 10-9-10, 13
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.
13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Jesus)will be saved.”
READ WHAT YOU WILL, IF ANYTHING! BUT HERE IS MY LAST PASSAGE:
1 John 1:1-10
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.
2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.
3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
4 We write this to make our joy complete.
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.
6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
Way tool ong and crazy – no one will read this.
Oh no. Why more of Gullible's Travels?
And this is why so many of us turn away from organized religions and people who get all preachy and holier then thou.
Please. Seek help. Or, at the very least, get over yourself.
We don't buy into your particular myth. Deal with it.
"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." matthew 5:18
i'd be willing to be you ignore most of the 600+ commandments on a daily basis.
First and foremost, Jesus was a jew! Therefore, by worshiping him rather than the original Jewish God, you have betrayed God! Second, if you really blieve that Jesus died and then came back to life, then you have no business talking about reason and logic becuase you have none! Thirldy, religion (the bible) is a story, written by men. Very ancient and probably very ignorant men. To take anyhting written back then literally today is not only asinine, it is dangerous! How come people don't take the Lord of the Rings trilogy and just turn it into religion? Its the same type of story with good and evil etc.
Religious people have a fundamental fllaw in their brain. They lack the ability to ask questions when normal people do! I distnaced myself fro religion when I was 13 becuase I could see through the BS. I gues some people are too weak to live without being told what to do and how to act!
So the invisible man that lives in the sky that created humans from mud pies is the absolute truth?
You have way too much free time on your hands to write this stuff.
This does not even qualify as philosophy let alone facts. It is an opinion! At least a philosophy is mostly internally consistent, although other philosophies reasoned from other viewpoints can oppose it. Religion is one new rule after another claiming irrational reasons why a former rule is internally not consistent. At lease reasonable, thinking people can admit they are just wrong and adjust their beliefs to more closely fit with facts. Facts are something that religious people seem to shrug off in favor of fantasies.
Its 2012, lets put all these ridiculous mythologies in the history books where it belongs, This manner of thinking is only a detriment to the human race; as it is the cause for wars, misogyny, blatant hate, and come on lets be honest..just straight up asinine behavior.
No Religion, Know Peace
Since we're so overwhelmingly organized (!?!), I guess this mean that we atheists can now claim tax exempt status too.
Lets try and be as different from religious groups as possible.
You probably don't have to – seems like most of you don't make enough to pay into the system to make a difference.
Why so judgmental? Makes you look ugly as F***
Not judgemental at all – are you sure you understand the meaning of the word?
Great news: an army of God-denying zombies will replace God-worshiping ones.
Well the Aztec calendar does show a crowned face with tongue hanging out – a clear foretelling of the zombie apocalypse, slightly eclipsed by the Diamond Jubilee.
you dont have to deny god to hate organized religion.
"But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6
somehow the church's seem to forget about this line.
Traditions unfortunately disappear rapidly, including religions. What remains is a consumer-oriented society. Religion has brought upon us a lot of bad things, but a lot of greatness too. We just hope that the greatness in humans survives in some form.
@ Grampa – Athieist beliefs are just as mythical so you can join the club of beliefs in strange things – BTW you can't prove your position.
CGAW please expand on your comment what exactly are these atheist beliefs you post of?
If youve never read the Bible how do you know you dont believe it? If you have read the bible, what part dont you believe?
The part(s) of the Old Testament where God has the Jews commit genocide, for starters
i'd have to say the disbelief started at genesis 1:1
You don't need to read the bible to acquire faith – it only takes some effort to look outside yourself and realize you really don't know it all. The Bible is a difficult read and hard to understand
Have you read it. Its like a bunch of ridiculous stories. I couldn't read it without laughing sometimes. To think that so many believe it as fact is comical.
I've read it. Several versions, including the Old Testament in Torah form – without all the King James edits.
There isn't enough space here to list all the points I don't believe, but we can pretty much start in Genesis with the creation myth and go from there.
I have never read Harry Potter. I know that is fake.
The part where the first woman was made from a man's rib, and then the part where all of humanity is descended from two people (wow, incest much??), and maybe then the part where the planet was flooded except for Noah's family (more incest, I see a pattern)...well, all of it.
trying to keep, up with you- and I don't know if I can do it
oh no, I said too much- I haven't said enough?
Best news ive heard in awhile.
The world would be far better off without organized religion.
Again, that is your religious belief/religion.
I think your religion is illogical and self-destructive.
You are correct that it is my assumption the world would be better off.
However its based on history. When i think of how much pain, suffering, the sheer number of deaths, wars, torture, etc that has been and are still being caused in the name of organized religion......i weep for humanity.
I didnt say the world would be better off without religion, i said organized religion. There is a big difference. Belief in god is not necessarily a bad thing, being spiritual is not necessarily a bad thing, nor are they necessarily a good thing. Its when people try to force their beliefs on others that there is a massive problem. Its when the people running the religions try to maintain their positions of power that there is a major problem. ETC.
I think it is important as a society to progress beyond the constrains of religion. Faith is highly illogical.
That is your religious belief/religion. I think your religion is a false way.
Liberals require tyranny? lol.
Maybe you haven't observed the definition of liberal or the definition of tyranny. You can't have liberal thoughts without first having tyrannical thoughts. Liberalism requires that you use the force of government to FORCE other people to stop behaving in ways you don't like.
LiberalismRequiresTyranny – And conservatism does not?
The human race is growing up and shedding its beliefs in myths. It's a slow but unstoppable process.
This will be a hard lesson learned. Seems religion will not fade quietly into the annals of history, but one day it will be spoken about a if it weres a boogieman... something to scare young people but still holds no root in the real world.
Not true at all. There is exactly the same percent of people with religious beliefs/religion as there as always been and will always be. 100%.
Every person with a functioning brain has religious beliefs.
The pride filled people have just convinced themselves that their religion doesn't count as a religion.
One day, an alien ship will come down here, and someone will ask them – do you believe in God? And they will say, no, but if you do – "die heretics".