Pew Review

Published by Minnesota Atheists on

By George Kane

Head shot of George, smiling in jacket and tie.

The number of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated is growing rapidly, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center that was released on October 9. That report states:

In 1972, only 7% of the adults in America were religiously unaffiliated. That number now stands just under 20%. In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15%, an increase of about a third. 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%).

Of those who responded to the question of their religious affiliation with ‘None,’ 12% call themselves atheists and 17% call themselves agnostics. Although two-thirds of people without religious affiliation say they believe in a god, 88% of them are not looking for a religion, indicating that they have permanently severed their ties with religion. Since the report lumps atheists with these god-believers into the same category, it unfortunately does not provide a demographic picture of atheists. It does, however, provide a few interesting facts.

America remains a highly religious nation when compared to the nations of Western Europe. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say religion is very important in their lives compared to only 17% in Britain, 13% in France, 21% in Germany and 22% in Spain. The report notes that the United States is the principal exception to the general rule that religious belief is high in nations with low per-capita GDP, and low in nations where “existential security” is high.

The entire 80-page report, “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, is available as a free download.

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