United States, irreligion vs. religion and demographics

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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]

In June 2016, American Interest reported:

First of all, religious belief is still very powerful and widespread, and there is nothing inevitable about its decline. In fact, the proportion of people who say they believe in God actually ticked modestly upward, from 86 percent to 89 percent, since Gallup last asked the question in 2014.[2]

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."[3]

See also:

American irreligion/religion, demographics and desecularization

Due to Hispanic evangelicals, church attendance was up in New York City in 2013.[4] 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.[5]

See also: Demographics of agnosticism

Professor Eric Kaufmann, Birkbeck College, University of London, specializes on how demographics affects religion/irreligion/politics.

Steve Turley wrote:

According to a recent a demographic study by University of London Professor Eric Kaufmann, there is a significant demographic deficit between secularists and conservative religionists. For example, in the U.S., while self-identified secular women averaged only 1.5 children per couple in 2002, conservative evangelical women averaged 2 to 3 children per couple, which amounts to a 28 percent fertility advantage. Now Kaufmann notices that this demographic deficit has dramatic effects over time. In a population evenly divided, these numbers indicate that conservative evangelicals would increase from 50 to 62.5 percent of the population in a single generation. In two generations, their number would increase to 73.5 percent, and over the course of 200 years, they would represent 99.4 percent.

Kaufmann noticed further that the more religiously conservative, the more children. For example, the Amish double in population every twenty years, and are projected to number over a million in the U.S. and Canada in just a few decades. We're seeing a similar trend among Mormons, who have averaged a 40 percent growth per decade, which means that by the end of the century, there will be as many as 300 million Mormons in the world, or six percent of the world's population. And note: Mormons vote overwhelmingly Republican.

Now in stark contrast to all of this, Kaufmann's data projects that secularists consistently exemplify a low fertility rate of around 1.5 percent per couple, which is significantly below the replacement level of 2.1 percent. And so he sees a steady decline of secular populations after 2030 or 2050 to potentially no more than a mere 14 to 15 percent of the American population. He notices that similar projections apply to Europe as well.[6]

In 2012, Kaufmann wrote:

In the United States, they manage 1.5, considerably lower than the national 2.1. This disadvantage is not enough to prevent religious decline in much of Europe and America today, but secularism must run to stand still. Since the history of religious decline in Europe suggests that secularization rates tend to drop over time, this portends the end of secularization. Projections I recently published with Skirbekk and Goujon in the journal Sociology of Religion show secularism losing momentum and beginning to decline in both Europe and America by 2050, largely because of low fertility and religious immigration.[7]

Kaufamann wrote about irreligion/irreligion and the culture war in America:

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.[8]

Kaufmann, who is an agnostic, wrote about the higher fertility rate of the religious right, "Furthermore, the demography of the nation suggests that God may ultimately be on the side of the Religious Right."[9]

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.[10]

American religion/irreligion projections and race

See also: Western agnosticism and race and Western atheism and race

Pew Forum reported about agnosticism/race in the United States:

Atheists and agnostics are particularly likely to be non-Hispanic whites. Fully eight-in-ten atheists and agnostics (82%) are white, 3% are black, 6% are Hispanic, and the remainder is of some other race or of mixed race."[11]

For more information, please see: Western agnosticism and race

Projected racial demographic of the United States and religion/irreligion in the United States

MSNBC reports:

Varied growth assumptions lead to different estimates of the speed and level of demographic change by that year. On the low side, the projection is 105 million Latinos in the U.S. by 2050 out of a total population of 384 million. High side? 119 million Latinos out of a total US population of 415 million. Under most assumptions, Latinos are expected to be at least 29% of the total U.S. population by 2050.

Using the middle growth series projections, by 2050 the racial\ethnic breakdown of the population is expected to be:

  • 47% Non-Hispanic white
  • 13% Black
  • 8% Asian
  • 1% Native American and Pacific Islander
  • 4% of “two or more races”...
  • close to 28% of Hispanic\Latino origin.[12]

The article Godless progressivism will not be dominant in the USA's future indicates:

Given the historic immigration from Latin America to the U.S, consider this report about evangelicals, proselytizing and Latin America:
Evangelicals, including Pentecostals, neo-Pentecostals, and other non-mainline Protestant denominations, such as Baptists, are the fastest growing world religion by conversion... In Latin America the growth of evangelicals has been dramatic since the early 20th century...

Time Magazine reported in May of 2013:

According to Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life while “more than two-thirds of the 52 million-plus Latinos in the U.S. are Catholic, that number could be cut in half by 2030.” NHCLC also establishes that 35 percent of Hispanics in America now call themselves “born-again.”

Fox News reported in May 2013 concerning Hispanic evangelicalism in the United States:

Alfredo De Jesus is a fire-and-brimstone preacher who represents a global groundswell of Hispanics who've left the Catholic Church to become Protestant Evangelical Christians.
De Jesus pastors the New Life Church in Chicago, helping to expand it from 120 members in 2000 to over 17,000 today on multiple campuses.
"In the Evangelical church, we find freedom to worship, and with Hispanics, it's in us to be able to love people. Naturally, we just love people. We are hugging people," De Jesus said.
Latinos make up the largest ethnic minority in the United States — 52 million, according to latest Census stats. The majority — two-thirds — are still traditionally Roman Catholic. But there's been a palpable shift from one generation to the next, with the newer ones being "born again."...

Godless progressives, abandon all hope that godless progressivism will be dominant in the United States. [13]

For addition, information, please see: Hispanic evangelicalism

Hispanic evangelicalism

Due to Hispanic evangelicals, church attendance was up in New York City in 2013.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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

American atheism, youth and retention rate of atheists raised in atheist households

See also: Atheism and its retention rate in individuals and Atheism and immaturity

Pew Forum indicates about American atheists, "Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population; 68% are men, and the median age of atheist adults in the U.S. is 34 (compared with 46 for all U.S. adults)."[18]

In 2012, a Georgetown University study was published indicating that about 30 percent of those who grow up in an atheist household in the United States remain atheists as adults.[19]

In 2012, a Georgetown University study was published indicating that in the United States only about 30 percent of those who grow up in an atheist household remain atheists as adults.[20] According to Dr. Mark Gray, "of those raised as atheists, 30% are now affiliated with a Protestant denomination, 10% are Catholic, 2% are Jewish, 1% are Mormon, and 1% are Pagan."[21] See also: Atheism and poor relationships with parents

Theodore Beale wrote about the Pew Research Forum's examination data involving individuals raised as atheists:

...the example of various former atheists such as C.S. Lewis and Anthony Flew indicates that atheism is nothing more than a transitive state for many individuals...

The retention rate is even worse for the full blown atheist population. 60% of those raised atheist abandon atheism; 0.5% of the population was raised atheist and 0.3% of it left atheism. And while 1.4% of the population became atheist, the fact that nearly all of the nation is not atheist means that the non-atheist population has a retention rate of 98.6%, which is nearly 2.5 times better than the atheist retention rate of 40%. Therefore, the perceived rapid growth of atheism is nothing more than an artifact of the atheist population's statistical insignificance. Even the dying Episcopalian church has a better retention rate than atheism...[22]

Decline of firebrand/militant atheism in the United States and Western World

See also: Decline of the atheist movement and Decline of militant atheism in the West

The atheist movement saw a number of setbacks during the latter portion of the 20th century and beyond in terms of historical events/trends. As a result, it has lost a considerable amount of confidence (see: Atheists and the endurance of religion).

Post Elevatorgate (a July 2011 controversy in which new atheist 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).[23][24]

Theo Hobson wrote in The Spectator in 2013:

The atheist spring that began just over a decade ago is over, thank God. Richard Dawkins is now seen by many, even many non-believers, as a joke figure...

Atheism is still with us. But the movement that threatened to form has petered out. Crucially, atheism’s younger advocates are reluctant to compete for the role of Dawkins’s disciple. They are more likely to bemoan the new atheist approach and call for large injections of nuance. A good example is the pop-philosopher Julian Baggini. He is a stalwart atheist who likes a bit of a scrap with believers, but he’s also able to admit that religion has its virtues, that humanism needs to learn from it. For example, he has observed that a sense of gratitude is problematically lacking in secular culture, and suggested that humanists should consider ritual practices such as fasting.[25]

On November 6, 2015, the New Republic published an article entitled, Is the New Atheism dead?[26]

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.[27]

YouTube atheist Thunderfoot said about the atheist movement after Reason Rally 2016 had a very low turnout:

I'm not sure there is anything in this movement worth saving. Hitchens is dead. Dawkins simply doesn't have the energy for this sort of thing anymore. Harris went his own way. And Dennett just kind of blended into the background. So what do you think when the largest gathering of the nonreligious in history pulls in... I don't know. Maybe 2,000 people. Is there anything worth saving?[28]

Baylor University, Eric Kaufmann and projections about religion/irreligion

Pat Neff Hall at Baylor University.

In November of 2015, the Christian Post reported

Distinguished scholars from Baylor University on Tuesday decried the myth that religion is on the decline in America and argued that it's actually growing and is stronger than ever.

Professors from Baylor University's Institute for Religion Studies in Waco, Texas, participated in a panel discussion at the National Press Club focusing on the "secularization myth," where they lambasted the media's spin on various surveys which has led many to believe that irreligion is on the rise in the United States...

J. Gordon Melton, professor of American religious history, explained that although Mainline denominations have lost membership in recent years, the number of denominations in America has increased steadily since the 1960s. Now, there are over 1,000 denominations in the U.S.

Melton cited the Encyclopedia of American Religion and the 2010 American Religious Census to show that, as the American population has risen, church membership in America has risen at a much quicker rate.[29]

The Baylor University website similarly declares:

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 worshipping 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.”[30]

In 2012, Baylor University indicated that a significant amount of American nondenominational church members are checking "unaffiliated" or "no religion" on surveys.[31] Nondenominational Christians, who tend to be conservative and creationists, are the fastest growing segment of the religious population.[32]

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]

Miscategorization of nondenominational Christians as having "no religion"

See also: Nones

Research shows that a significant amount of American nondenominational church members are checking "unaffiliated" or "no religion" on surveys.

Based on research done by Baylor University, a February 2011 article entitled Good News about Evangelicalism declares:

Nondenominational churches, almost exclusively evangelical, now represent the second-largest group of Protestant churches in America, and the fastest growing section of the American religious market...

This trend has affected popular statistics and has also served to exaggerate the loss of religious faith and evangelical influence in America. Most previous research missed a new phenomenon: that members of nondenominational churches often identify themselves on surveys as unaffiliated or even as having “no religion.” Because traditional surveys do not provide categories that adequately describe those who attend nondenominational congregations, their members often check “unaffiliated” in typical surveys and questionnaires...

Similarly, claims that Americans, including evangelicals, are falling away from the faith contradict seven decades of survey research confirming that only 4 percent of Americans are atheists.,,

...We found no statistically significant difference between younger and older evangelicals on other moral and political issues, however. Younger evangelicals were, in fact, sometimes more conservative than their elders.

...The number of evangelicals remains high, and their percentage among practicing Christians in America is, if anything, rising.[34]

A review of Rodney Stark's book Why the World is More Religious Than Ever declares:

...it is argued that the percentage of Americans who say they have no religion is skyrocketing. But, all that reflects is an increase in the percentage who have no denominational preference. They are not irreligious. Most of them pray and say they believe in God. In 1944, the Gallup Poll was the first to ask about belief in God, and four percent of Americans said, “No.” When asked that question today, four percent say, “No.” In fact, actual church membership is at an all-time high, and 66 percent now tell Gallup that “religion is important in my daily life."[35]

See also

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. Atheism is Rising, But…, American Interest
  3. Facts about atheists
  4. Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular, Beliefnet.com, November 2103
  5. Feminist Futility: Why the Women's March Promises a Conservative Future by Steve Turley, Christian Post
  6. The Future Will Be More Religious and Conservative Than You Think by Eric Kaufmann, American Enterprise Institute
  7. Why are 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  8. Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann, Belfer Center, Harvard University/Birkbeck College, University of London
  9. 3 Reasons America May Become More Religious
  10. “Nones” on the Rise - Demographics, Pew Forum
  11. The ‘majority-minority’ America is coming, so why not get ready?
  12. Godless progressivism will not be dominant in the USA's future
  13. Hispanics turning evangelical, Jews secular, Beliefnet.com, November 2103
  14. 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,
  15. 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,
  16. 10 facts about atheists, Pew Forum
  17. Nazworth, Nap (July 11, 2012). "Study: atheists have lowest 'retention rate' compared to religious groups". christianpost.com.
  18. Study: Atheists Have Lowest 'Retention Rate' Compared to Religious Groups
  19. Study: Atheists Have Lowest 'Retention Rate' Compared to Religious Groups
  20. Another atheist myth
  21. Is the New Atheism dead? by Elizabeth Bruenig, New Republic, November 6, 2015
  22. Uproar Against Dawkins Is Sign of New Atheism Retrogression by Joshua Kelly
  23. Richard Dawkins has lost: meet the new new atheists by Theo Hobson
  24. Is the New Atheism dead? by Elizabeth Bruenig, New Republic, November 6, 2015
  25. Uproar Against Dawkins Is Sign of New Atheism Retrogression by Joshua Kelly
  26. Even atheists bash 'Reason Rally'
  27. Christianity Is Not Declining in America, Baylor University Professors Say, Christian Post, November 11, 2015
  28. Scholars Will Challenge “Secularization Myth” Nov. 10 at National Press Club
  29. http://questionevolution.blogspot.com/2012/08/research-shows-american.html
  30. http://questionevolution.blogspot.com/2012/08/research-shows-american.html
  31. Why are 2012 and 2020 key years for Christian creationists and pro-lifers?
  32. Good News about Evangelicalism, First Things
  33. Rodney Stark: Why the World is More Religious Than Ever By Steve Addison, 3 November, 2015