American atheism

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The Pew Research Center reported in 2013: "The number of people who identify themselves as atheists in the United States has been rising, modestly but steadily, in recent years. Our aggregated data from 2012 show that 2.4% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 1.6% in 2007."[1]


Low stature of American atheists in American society

Concerning various views on atheists, research in the American Sociological Review finds that among several groups listed, atheists are the group that Americans relate least to in terms of their vision of American society and are the group most likely to be mentioned as one that Americans would not want to have marry into their family. [2] Dr. Sam Harris is a founder of the New Atheism movement. Sam Harris is quite aware of the stigma surrounding atheism and has even advocated that atheists no longer call themselves atheists.[3] In fact, Dr. Harris has said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation."[4]

Position: This group does not at all agree with
my vision of American society:
I would disapprove if my child wanted
to marry a member of this group:
Atheist 39.6% 47.6%
Muslim 26.3% 33.5%
Homosexual 22.6% NA
Conservative Christian 13.5% 6.9%
Recent Immigrant 12.5% Not Asked
Hispanic 7.6% 18.5%
Jew 7.4% 11.8%
Asian American 7.0% 18.5%
African American 4.6% 27.2%
White American 2.2% 2.3%

American atheists and loneliness

The American atheist PZ Myers declared, "...I don’t object to bestiality in a very limited set of specific conditions..."[5][6] See: Atheism and bestiality

(photo obtained from Flickr, see license agreement)

See also: Atheism and loneliness and Atheism and arrogance and Atheism and anger and Atheism and bitterness

As noted above, Americans typically have a very negative view of atheists and they are often seen as lacking moral character and very arrogant (see also: Views on atheists and Atheism and morality and Moral failures of the atheist community and Atheism and arrogance).

In his article entitled The Lonely Life of an American Atheist, Alfred Garcia wrote: remains hard for non-theists in the United States. There is, of course, the cultural stigma—of being nontheistic in a nation where more than 90 percent of people believe in a higher power. There is only one openly atheist member of Congress, Rep. Peter Stark from California (who had a video appearance at the Reason Rally). Atheists are viewed more negatively than any other U.S. religious group, with less than half of Americans (45 percent) holding a favorable opinion of them. It can be a lonely existence. With no single umbrella organization to bring non-theists together, individuals can feel isolated, compounded by the fact that the various non-theist organizations are often fragmented in their approaches....

What has not changed much, though, is the image of the non-theist that O’Hair left in her wake. It’s the image of the atheist out to pick a fight, the unbeliever who is constantly seeking the next debate. As Fidalgo from CFI put it, O’Hair was an “extremely polarizing” figure who “gained visibility for American Atheists but may have been integral in forming the image of atheism in the U.S. as arrogant.”[7]

American atheist activists exaggerating the number of atheists in the United States

See also: Atheist movement

In 2012, the organization PolitiFact Rhode Island accused American Atheists president David Silverman of wildly exaggerating the number of atheists in America by attempting to included the Unaffiliated (also called Nones) who made up about 15% of the United States population at the time (despite the fact that only 15 percent of "nones" identify as atheists) and by also attempting to lump agnostics with the atheist population.[8][9]

According to PolitiFact Rhode Island:

When the American Religious survey asked people what they thought of the existence of God, 2.3 percent said 'There is no such thing.'...When Pew asked a broader question -- "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?" -- 5 percent said "No."[10]

The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) found that only 0.7% of U.S. adults identified as atheist, but at the same time 2.3% said there is no such thing as a god.[11] The reluctance of Americans to self-identify as atheists is likely due to the American public's low opinion of atheists (See: Americans have a low opinion of atheists).

The atheist Georgetown professor Jacques Berlinerblau likens the strength of the American atheist movement to a "gimpy little zebra".[12]

Atheist Jacques Berlinerblau on American atheist movements

The atheist Georgetown professor Jacques Berlinerblau declared:

American atheist movements, though fancying themselves a lion, are more like the gimpy little zebra crossing the river full of crocs. In terms of both political gains and popular appeal, nonbelievers in the United States have little to show. They are encircled by cunning, swarming [religious] Revivalist adversaries who know how to play the atheist card. The gimpy zebra remark was a little goofing on this over-the-top chest-thumping that emerges from Movement Atheists. They wildly overestimate their numbers. They tend to overestimate the efficacy of their activism. They underestimate how disciplined and organized their adversaries in the religious right are, too. They fail to recognize that mocking religious people in public is entirely inimical to the goals they wish to achieve."[13]

Hate crimes in the United States against atheists/agnostics are very low in number

See also: Persecution of atheists and Atheism statistics

According to a 2007 Pew Forum survey, about 4% of Americans are atheists/agnostics.[14] A 2008 Gallup poll showed that 6% of the U.S. population believed that no god or universal spirit exists.[15]

According to 2013 FBI statistics, 6/10 of a percent of hate crimes were against atheists/agnostics.[16][17]

Claims of being an oppressed minority by American atheists are often not taken seriously

Dennis Prager is a vocal opponent of atheist indoctrination in public schools.[18]

See also: Atheism vs. Christianity

In the United States, a significant amount of atheists are white males and the American atheist population has been criticized for its lack of racial diversity and lower amount of females in its population (Western atheism and race and Atheism and women). The Pew Research Forum reported in 2013 concerning American atheists: "About four-in-ten atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 29% of the general public."[19] In 2012, the Pew Research Forum reported regarding American atheists: "And about 38% of atheists and agnostics have an annual family income of at least $75,000, compared with 29% of the general public."[20] Also, atheists within the United States have developed a reputation of uncharitableness as they gave far less to charities, even if church donations are not counted (see: Atheism and uncharitableness). As a result of these factors, claims of being an oppressed minority by atheists are often not taken seriously even by fellow atheists (For more information, please see: Atheist whining and Persecution of atheists).[21]

In addition, given the favorable treatment atheist activists often receive in the media and the atheistic indoctrination that occurs in public schools/universities, the notion of atheists as an oppressed minority is often rejected by Americans.

At the same time, in America as in many theistic societies, atheists are the least trusted group and many Americans have a low opinion of atheism/atheists (see: Views on atheists and Atheism and social outcasts).

Historically, many Christians have shown a significant amount of patience/tolerance towards atheists - even in face of persecution by atheists (see: Christian patience, forgiveness and long-suffering towards atheists).

Reason Rally

The Reason Rally was billed as the largest secular event in history.[22] It was held in the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2012.

According to the Religion News Service 8,000-10,000 people showed up for the rally. [23] The Atlantic reported 20,000 individuals were in attendance.[24]

Although the event was billed as the largest secular event in world history, strictly speaking that is not accurate. Communist countries have embraced state atheism. And Marxist-Leninism along with Maoism explicitly adhered to the atheist worldview and communist countries have engaged in militant atheism and religious persecution (see: Atheism and communism).[25] China still engages in religious persecution. Communist countries often had large/massive rallies. For example, at Tiananmen Square during the Cultural Revolution, the atheist Mao Zedong greeted 1,500 Red Guards and waved to 800,000 Red Guards and spectators below. [26]

Decline in the rate of increase of American 1990s secularism

See also: Decline of American 1990s secularism

In 2008, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) reported:

The 1990s was the decade when the “secular boom” occurred – each year 1.3 million more adult Americans joined the ranks of the Nones. Since 2001 the annual increase has halved to 660,000 a year...

Regarding belief in the divine, most Nones are neither atheists nor theists but rather agnostics and deists (59%) and perhaps best described as skeptics.[27]

In 2012, Baylor University indicated that a significant amount of American nondenominational church members are checking "unaffiliated" or "no religion" on surveys.[28] Nondenominational Christians, who tend to be conservative and creationists, are the fastest growing segment of the religious population.[29]

Lack of significant outreach to racial minorities in the Western World

See also: Western atheism and race

The atheist community has not had significant outreach to racial minorities within the Western World whereas Christians have done this (particularly among the poor).[30] The atheist Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson declared “If mainstream freethought and humanism continue to reflect the narrow cultural interests of white elites who have disposable income to go to conferences then the secular movement is destined to remain marginal and insular.”[31]

In the United States, the Hispanic population is expected to triple by the year 2050 and become 30% of the United States population.[32]

Demographics and the expected further decline of American secularism

See also: Demographics and the expected decline of American secularism

Notwithstanding the abovementioned increase in secularism, the Birkbeck College, University of London professor Eric Kaufman wrote in his 2010 book Shall the Righteous Inherit the Earth? concerning American secularism:

High evangelical fertility rates more than compensated for losses to liberal Protestant sects during the twentieth century. In recent decades, white secularism has surged, but Latino and Asian religious immigration has taken up the slack, keeping secularism at bay. Across denominations, the fertility advantage of religious fundamentalists of all colours is significant and growing. After 2020, their demographic weight will begin to tip the balance in the culture wars towards the conservative side, ramping up pressure on hot-button issues such as abortion. By the end of the century, three quarters of America may be pro-life. Their activism will leap over the borders of the 'Redeemer Nation' to evangelize the world. Already, the rise of the World Congress of Families has launched a global religious right, its arms stretching across the bloody lines of the War on Terror to embrace the entire Abrahamic family.[33]

In 2013, citing experts in demography and survey data, the Christian Post declared that there were three trends pointing to the United States potentially becoming more religious in coming years - namely an aging population becoming more religious over time, religious immigrants and the higher fertility rate of religious conservatives.[34]

Past long Term Increase in Those Who Have No Religious Identity

Over the longer term there has been a substantial and relatively steady increase in the number of Americans having no religious identity. Gallup has been specifically tracking this trend since 1948.[35] At that point a mere 2% of Americans volunteered "no religion". In the intervening years, however, the numbers have steadily grown so that in 2008 the figure had reached some 16% of the population.

As noted above, in 2012 Baylor University indicated that a significant amount of American nondenominational church members are checking "unaffiliated" or "no religion" on surveys.[36] Nondenominational Christians, who tend to be conservative and creationists, are the fastest growing segment of the religious population.[37]

The bottom line of the research is described as follows:

Gallup surveys confirm a downward drift in religious identity among Americans, as well as a slight increase in the number of Americans who view religion as old-fashioned and out of date.

Lack of identification with a formal religious group does not necessarily mean religion is irrelevant in a broad sense in a person's life. One can remain quite religious, or at least spiritual, while at the same time eschewing attachment to or identity with a formal religion or denomination.

Still, trends on an additional Gallup question indicate that there has in fact been a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans who say religion is not very important in their daily lives -- from a range of 11% to 14% through most of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s to 19% over the past two years. This suggests that there may be some diminution of "inner" religion accompanying the reduction in explicit religious identity and the increased perception that religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date.

See also


External links


  1. Facts about atheists
  2. Edgell, Gerteis & Hartmann 2006
  5. Atheist Achilles Heels: Objective Morality and Sacred Life
  6. The “objective morality” gotcha
  7. The Lonely Life of an American Atheist by Alfred Garcia, Religion and Politics
  8. American Atheists President David Silverman says there are twice as many atheists in U.S. as Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists combined By C. Eugene Emery Jr. on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.
  9. Meet the 'Nones:' Spiritual but not religious
  10. American Atheists President David Silverman says there are twice as many atheists in U.S. as Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists combined By C. Eugene Emery Jr. on Sunday, February 26th, 2012 at 12:01 a.m.
  11. Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, [1], March 2009, American Religious Identification Survey [ARIS 2008], Trinity College
  12. Professor Jacques Berlinerblau tells atheists: Stop whining!, Christian Century, Sep 14, 2012 by Kimberly Winston
  13. Professor Jacques Berlinerblau tells atheists: Stop whining!, Christian Century, Sep 14, 2012 by Kimberly Winston
  14. Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey - Key findings
  15. Belief in God Far Lower in Western U.S. Retrieved on 2012-02-05.
  16. 2013 FBI hate crime statistics
  17. Atheism: The Next Civil Rights movement, Vlad Chituc, The Daily Beast, 4-6-2015
  18. How atheism is being sold in America
  19. 5 facts about atheists By Michael Lipka, Pew Research Forum, October 23, 2013
  20. “Nones” on the Rise - Demographics, Pew Research Forum, October 9, 2012
  21. Is mocking religion enough? Harris, Dawkins and the future of atheist/secular politics by Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith, Salon magazine
  22. Winston, Kimberly (March 24, 2012). "Atheists Rally On National Mall; The 'Reason Rally' Largest Gathering Of Nonbelievers (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
  23. Benjamin Fearnow & Mickey Woods, "Richard Dawkins Preaches to Nonbelievers at Reason Rally", The Atlantic, March 24, 2012.
  24. China’s Communist Party Reaffirms Marxism, Maoism, Atheism
  25. (Chinese) 倪天祚, "毛主席八次接见红卫兵的组织工作" 中国共产党新闻网 2011-04-07
  26. Press: Americans Who Don’t Identify with a Religion No Longer a Fringe Group
  29. Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
  30. Atheism’s white male problem: A movement needs a moral cause beyond glamorizing disbelief by CJ Werleman, Salon, October 4, 2014
  31. [U.S. Hispanic population to triple by 2050 U.S. Hispanic population to triple by 2050], USA Today, By Haya El Nasser, 2/12/2008
  32. Why are 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  33. 3 Reasons America May Become More Religious
  34. Gallup: In U.S., Increasing Number Have No Religious Identity
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