American atheism

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David Silverman is the president of the American Atheists organization.

According to the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS), the number of atheists and agnostics in the United States has remained relatively stable in the past 23 years. In 1991, 2% of Americans identified as atheist, and 4% identified as agnostic. In 2014, 3% of Americans identified as atheists, and 5% identified as agnostics.[1]

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."[2]

Post Elevatorgate (a July 2011 controversy in which Richard Dawkins was accused of misogny), there has been a lot of friction with the atheist movement (see: Atheist factions).

New Atheism is a form of militant atheism which was launched in 2006. Due to the Elevatorgate controversy and ongoing accusations of prominent new atheists engaging in Islamophobia, the New Atheism movement has waned (see also: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence and Richard Dawkins and Islamophobia accusations).[3][4]

On November 6, 2015, the New Republic published an article entitled, Is the New Atheism dead?[5]

In 2015, the atheist author Joshua Kelly wrote:

...since the death of Hitchens: angry atheism lost its most charismatic champion. Call it what you like: New Atheism, fire-brand atheism, etc., had a surge with the Four Horsemen in the middle of the last decade and in the last four years has generally peetered out to a kind that is more docile, politically correct, and even apologetic.[6]

In addition, Baylor University reported in 2015:

Recent coverage of American religious life, by focusing on the decline of some of the larger denominations and the new organized life of non-theistic communities, have missed the larger story that since World War II, religion in the United States has grown spectacularly and ahead of the population curve. America is now the most religious it has ever been with Church membership at an all-time high and relatively new worshiping communities representing the spectrum of the world's religions now spread across the urban landscape. As a nation in which the great majority of its people have affiliated with a religious community, without government coercion, America is possibly the most religious country that the world has ever seen.”[7]

For more information, see: Baylor University researchers on American Christianity

Liberal Christianity is shrinking in the United States and some of these individuals are becoming "nones"/religiously unaffialiated (only 7% if nones are atheists), others are embracing more conservative/fervent forms of Christianity and a small percentage are joining the atheists/agnostic camps.

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. [8]

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.[9] In fact, Dr. Harris has said concerning the label of atheist, "It's right next to child molester as a designation."[10]

Journal of Contemporary Religion on schisms within U.S. atheism

See also: Atheist factions and Atheist movement

The Journal of Contemporary Religion says about schisms within atheism:

The persistence of internal schisms and regular outbreaks of in-fighting within the atheist movement also ensure that much energy is effectively wasted on parochial concerns and further undermine attempts to establish a genuine sense of group cohesion.[11]

The Journal of Contemporary Religion say that internal divisions within the American atheist movement have to do with:

internal divisions within the movement around issues relating to goals, strategies, and direction. These can be seen most notably in debates about the formation of a collective ‘atheist’ identity, in disputes about the effectiveness of confrontationalism and accommodationism, and in concerns about the movement’s ethnic, racial, and gender profile.[12]

American atheism and atheist feminism related online schism

See also: Atheist factions and Atheists and antisocial behavior

The forerunner of the feminist Atheism plus movement was the online Elevatorgate controversy involving new atheist Richard Dawkins and feminist Rebecca Watson.

The Guardian wrote about Atheism plus and the reaction of many atheists on the internet:

In the passionate world of American atheism, the venom usually directed at believers has now been turned against the wrong kind of atheists...

It took 700 years from Constantine renaming Byzantium in his own honour to papal legates circulating letters of anathema that split the Roman and Orthodox churches. Atheism, in its public, online life, has started exchanging internet anathemas – perhaps we should call them inathemas – in little more than a decade.[13]

Post Elevatorgate and Atheism plus, the conflict between atheist feminism and anti-feminism atheists continues. Two of the most anti-feminism atheists are YouTube atheists Thunderf00t and TheAmazingAtheist.

Composition and structure of the American atheist movement

See also: Atheist organizations

The Journal of Contemporary Religion says about the composition and structure of the American atheist movement:

The organisational structure of the atheist movement is characterised by plurality and eclecticism. Based around no predominant group and possessing no formal leadership or tangible set of governing arrangements, this movement assumes a non-hierarchical and decentralised form that operates within a number of organisations set up to promote a range of atheist, secularist, and humanist (collectively referred to here as ‘ASH’) ideas and causes. Notable organisations include: the American Humanist Association (established in 1941), American Atheists (formed in 1963), the Freedom From Religion Foundation (1978), the Council for Secular Humanism (1980), the Atheist Alliance of America (1991), the Center for Inquiry (1991), the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (1998), the Secular Student Alliance (2000), the Secular Coalition for America (2002), and the United Coalition of Reason (2009).

At the present time, little is known about the specific composition of such groups and the reasons why individuals become actively involved in the atheism movement are still being debated (e.g. LeDrew). Research suggests that a majority of atheists positively engage in efforts to promote atheism in some form (Silver), but it appears that only a small percentage become involved in formal organisations of this kind. Research also indicates that atheists who are actively participating in formal non-religious organisations tend to belong to a number of different groups at any one time (Hunsberger and Altemeyer).[14]

Atheist Eddie Tabash on the American atheist movement

Eddie Tabash (photo obtained from Wikimedia Commons, see license agreement)

The American atheist activist Eddie Tabash said at the 2010 Michigan Atheists State Convention:

In every generation there has been a promising beginning of a true vanguard movement that will finally achieve widespread public acceptance for nonbelief. Yet, in each generation there has been an ultimately disappointing failure to actually register the naturalistic alternative to supernatural claims in the public consciousness...

Now given the confounding extent to which religion is entrenched in our society, it could take a minimum of 100 years of sustained, intense effort to even begin to cut into the current monolithic stranglehold that religion has on American mass culture, [15]

Tabash's proposal for gains in atheist acceptance unrealistic

The likelihood that American atheists will engage to 100 years of sustained, intense effort as far as atheist activism is remote (See: Atheism and apathy and Views on atheists).

Pew Research reported about the American public:

In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.[16]

In addition, demographic trends point to the atheist population in the United States plateauing in the 21st century as far its proportion of the American public (see: Demographic trends in American secularism).

Also, a 100-year sustained and intense effort of atheist activism would require a high degree of cohesiveness and cooperation among atheists. Tabash said in a speech to the Michigan Atheists State Convention, "Since we are a bit of a cantankerous, opinionated lot...".[17] See also: Atheist factions and Atheism and social skills

Furthermore, due to various historical events/trends, the atheist movement saw a number of setbacks during the latter portion of the 20th century and beyond. As a result, it has lost a considerable amount of confidence (See: Atheists and the endurance of religion).[18]

American study on the six types of atheists

A University of Tennessee at Chattanooga study of non-believers found that there are 6 types of atheists/agnostics/non-believers: atheists/agnostics who are more intellectually minded (38% of total sample); non-believer political activists who commonly get involved in leftist/political causes more than atheist activism (23% of non-believers, most atheists lean toward the left end of the political spectrum, see Atheism and politics); Anti-Theist (This vocal group often gets conflated with all atheists by believers, but they merely constitute 15 percent of non-believers); Seeker-Agnostic (makes up 7.6 percent of non-believers) and Non-Theist (apathetic and is only 4.4 percent of non-believers).[19]

See also: Antitheism and antisocial behavior

American atheists and loneliness

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:

...life 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.”[20]

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.[21][22]

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."[23]

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.[24] 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).

See also: David Silverman intentionally exaggerating the number of atheists in the USA

Atheist Jacques Berlinerblau on American atheist movements

The atheist Georgetown professor Jacques Berlinerblau likens the strength of the American atheist movement to a "gimpy little zebra".[25]

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."[26]

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.[27] A 2008 Gallup poll showed that 6% of the U.S. population believed that no god or universal spirit exists.[28]

According to 2013 FBI statistics, 6/10 of a percent of hate crimes were against atheists/agnostics.[29][30]

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

See also: Atheism vs. Christianity

Dennis Prager is a vocal opponent of atheist indoctrination in public schools.[31]

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."[32] 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."[33] 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).[34]

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.[35] 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.[36] The Atlantic reported 20,000 individuals were in attendance.[37]

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).[38] 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. [39]

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).[40] The atheist 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.”[41]

In the United States, the Hispanic population is expected to triple by the year 2050 and become 30% of the United States population.[42]

Demographics and trends in American secularism

Due to Hispanic evangelicals, church attendance was up in New York City in 2013.[43] With the continued rise in the number of Hispanic, Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians in North America and the rise of evangelicalism in Latin America and South America, secular leftism is not going to be dominant in America's long term future.[44]

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.[45]

Demography research indicating that religiosity in the United States may experience growth

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.[46]

Hispanic evangelicalism

Due to Hispanic evangelicals, church attendance was up in New York City in 2013.[47]

With the continued rise in the number of Hispanic, evangelical Christians in North America and the rise of evangelicalism in Latin America and South America, secular leftism is not going to be dominant in America's future.[48]

Hispanics and the future of religion/irreligion in the United States

Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon religion/irreligion demographic projections

Current religious demography scholarship suggest that the relatively low fertility of secular Americans and the religiosity of the immigrant inflow provide a countervailing force that will cause the secularization process within the total population to plateau before 2043. This represents an important theoretical point in that demography permits society to become more religious even as individuals tend to become less religious over time.[49]

In their 2010 journal article entitled, Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043 published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon wrote:

We find considerable stability of religious groups over time, but there are some important shifts. Hispanic Catholics experience the strongest growth rates to 2043. Immigration, high fertility, and a young age structure will enable this group to expand from 10 to 18 percent of the American population between 2003 and 2043, despite a net loss of communicants to secularism and Protestantism. This will power the growth of Catholics as a whole, who will surpass Protestants by mid century within the nation’s youngest age groups. This represents a historic moment for a country settled by anti-Catholic Puritans, whose Revolution was motivated in part by a desire to spread dissenting Protestantism and whose populationon the eve of revolution was 98 percent Protestant (Huntington 2004; Kaufmann 2004). Another important development concerns the growth of the Muslim population and decline of the Jews. High Muslim fertility and a young Muslim age structure contrasts with low Jewish childbearing levels and a mature Jewish age structure. Barring an unforeseen shift in the religious composition and size of the immigrant flow, Muslims will surpass Jews in the population by 2023 and in the electorate by 2028. This could have profound effects on the course of American foreign policy. Within the non-Hispanic white population, we expect to see continued Liberal Protestant decline due to low fertility and a net loss in exchanges with other groups. White Catholics will also lose due to a net outflow of converts. Fundamentalist and Moderate Protestant denominations will hold their own within the white population, but will decline overall as the white share of the population falls.

The finding that Protestant fundamentalism may decline in relative terms over the medium term contrasts with a prevailing view that envisions the continued growth of “strong religion” (Stark and Iannaccone 1994a). This is the result of an older age structure, which increases loss through mortality, and immigration, which reduces the size of all predominantly white denominations — all of which are poorly represented in the immigration flow. Fundamentalists’ relatively high fertility and net surplus from the religious marketplace is not sufficient to counteract the effects of immigration. Obviously, this could change if significant immigration begins to arrive from more Pentecostalist source countries such as Guatemala or parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Our work also sheds light on the religious restructuring paradigm, though we do not find a clear victor between secularism and fundamentalism. The secular population will grow substantially in the decades ahead because it has a young age structure and more people leave religion than enter it. The sharpest gains for secularism will be within the white population, where seculars will surpass fundamentalists by 2030. On the other hand, there are important demographic limits to secularism, demonstrating the power of religious demography. The relatively low fertility of secular Americans and the religiosity of the immigrant inflow provide a countervailing force that will cause the secularization process within the total population to plateau before 2043. This represents an important theoretical point in that demography permits society to become more religious even as individuals tend to become less religious over time.[50]

For more information, please see: Growth of evangelicalism in the world and in the United States and American culture war, demographics and expected tipping point after 2020

See also

Essay:

External links

References

  1. Hout, Michael; Smith, Tom (March 2015). "Fewer Americans Affiliate with Organized Religions, Belief and Practice Unchanged: Key Findings from the 2014 General Social Survey" (PDF). General Social Survey. NORC
  2. Facts about atheists
  3. Is the New Atheism dead? by Elizabeth Bruenig, New Republic, November 6, 2015
  4. Uproar Against Dawkins Is Sign of New Atheism Retrogression by Joshua Kelly
  5. Is the New Atheism dead? by Elizabeth Bruenig, New Republic, November 6, 2015
  6. Uproar Against Dawkins Is Sign of New Atheism Retrogression by Joshua Kelly
  7. Scholars Will Challenge “Secularization Myth” Nov. 10 at National Press Club
  8. Edgell, Gerteis & Hartmann 2006
  9. http://newsinitiative.org/story/2007/06/19/interview_with_an_atheist
  10. http://newsinitiative.org/story/2007/06/19/interview_with_an_atheist
  11. Divided We Stand: The Politics of the Atheist Movement in the United States by Steven Kettell Journal of Contemporary Religion, Volume 29, Issue 3, 2014
  12. Divided We Stand: The Politics of the Atheist Movement in the United States by Steven Kettell]Journal of Contemporary Religion, Volume 29, Issue 3, 2014
  13. Is American atheism heading for a schism? by Peter McGrath, The Guardian
  14. Divided We Stand: The Politics of the Atheist Movement in the United States by Steven Kettell]Journal of Contemporary Religion, Volume 29, Issue 3, 2014
  15. Atheists Speak Up - Eddie Tabash
  16. 7 facts about atheists, Pew Forum
  17. Atheists Speak Up - Eddie Tabash - Part 2 of 4
  18. Shall the religious inherit the earth? - Eric Kaufmann
  19. The 6 Types of Atheists and Non-Believers in America By Amanda Marcotte / AlterNet July 11, 2013
  20. The Lonely Life of an American Atheist by Alfred Garcia, Religion and Politics
  21. 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.
  22. Meet the 'Nones:' Spiritual but not religious
  23. 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.
  24. Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, [1], March 2009, American Religious Identification Survey [ARIS 2008], Trinity College
  25. Professor Jacques Berlinerblau tells atheists: Stop whining!, Christian Century, Sep 14, 2012 by Kimberly Winston
  26. Professor Jacques Berlinerblau tells atheists: Stop whining!, Christian Century, Sep 14, 2012 by Kimberly Winston
  27. Pew Forum Religious Landscape Survey - Key findings
  28. Belief in God Far Lower in Western U.S. Gallup.com. Retrieved on 2012-02-05.
  29. 2013 FBI hate crime statistics
  30. Atheism: The Next Civil Rights movement, Vlad Chituc, The Daily Beast, 4-6-2015
  31. How atheism is being sold in America
  32. 5 facts about atheists By Michael Lipka, Pew Research Forum, October 23, 2013
  33. “Nones” on the Rise - Demographics, Pew Research Forum, October 9, 2012
  34. Is mocking religion enough? Harris, Dawkins and the future of atheist/secular politics by Richard Cimino and Christopher Smith, Salon magazine
  35. Winston, Kimberly (March 24, 2012). "Atheists Rally On National Mall; The 'Reason Rally' Largest Gathering Of Nonbelievers (PHOTOS)". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-05-02.
  36. Benjamin Fearnow & Mickey Woods, "Richard Dawkins Preaches to Nonbelievers at Reason Rally", The Atlantic, March 24, 2012.
  37. China’s Communist Party Reaffirms Marxism, Maoism, Atheism
  38. (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
  39. Atheism has a big race problem that no one’s talking about by Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, Washington Post June 16, 2014
  40. Atheism’s white male problem: A movement needs a moral cause beyond glamorizing disbelief by CJ Werleman, Salon, October 4, 2014
  41. [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
  42. Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular, Beliefnet.com, November 2103
  43. Why are 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  44. 3 Reasons America May Become More Religious
  45. Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular, Beliefnet.com, November 2103
  46. Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043, Journal for the Sientific Study of Religion, vol. 49, no. 2 (June) 2010, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon,
  47. Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043, Journal for the Sientific Study of Religion, vol. 49, no. 2 (June) 2010, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon,