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Nones do not subscribe to an organized religion such as Christianity or Judaism.[1]

Although some American atheists like to claim the unaffiliated (unaffiliated with organized religion), "nones" or "no religion" on religious surveys as one of their own, according to Pew in 2017, 72% of the "Nones" believe in God, a higher power, or spiritual force.[2]

In 2021, the Christian Post declared:

A new survey reveals that the share of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has declined slightly. However, more Americans still describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated than affiliate with any particular religious tradition.

The Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute released its first-ever Census of American Religion Thursday, which provided detailed information about the religious demographics of the United States.

The survey was part of PRRI’s 2020 American Values Atlas, based on phone interviews with 50,334 Americans throughout 2020.

A statement from the research firm alleges that the Census of American Religion “provides the most detailed estimates of American religious affiliation since the U.S. Census Bureau last collected religious data in 1957.” Data was compiled based on more than 400,000 responses to PRRI’s American Values Atlas dating back to 2013.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey is that “the Rise of the ‘Nones’” has slowed.[3]

According to The Guardian: "The great majority of the present-day Nones are found in east Asia, and especially China, where Christianity and traditional religion are both experiencing phenomenal growth. Meanwhile, demographic growth among Christians and Muslims in the global south suggest that Nones in the world will decline from 16% to 13%." (see: Growth of Christianity in China and East Asia and global desecularization).[4]

The atheist Georgetown University professor Jacques Berlinerblau declared concerning American atheists attempting to falsely inflate their numbers:

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."[5]

Nones: Beliefs, on religious belonging and behavior

A 2021 Christianity Today article entitled Most ‘Nones’ Still Keep the Faith indicates:

A majority of Americans across faiths (60%) can’t be classified as a none by any measure—belonging, behavior, or belief. But among 40 percent who have disaffiliated in at least one of the three, few can be categorized as nones across the board.

The Venn diagram illustrates how the remaining 40 percent of the population is situated around these three dimensions of religion. Note that behavior—not attending church—is the most common reason why someone would fall into the notes.

Forty percent of the nones overall don’t attend church but still identify with a religious affiliation and believe in God at some level. Another quarter of the nones neither go to church nor indicate an affiliation with any religious group (the intersection of the green and yellow circles), but still have a belief in God. Those two groups represent two-thirds of the nones.

No wonder research has shown that the unaffiliated in America are just as likely to return to church and reclaim a Christian identity as they are to become self-identified atheists and agnostics. In my book I write that nearly 20 percent of people who identified as “nothing in particular” had changed their affiliation to Christian just four years later. And this “nothing in particular” category represents nearly 1 in 5 Americans. The harvest is plentiful!

For the remaining two factors, it’s clear that belonging is the next to fall by the wayside, followed by religious belief. Only a quarter of all nones indicate an atheist or agnostic view of God (all those represented by the red circle).

The center of the Venn diagram indicates that just 15.3 percent of the population that are nones on one dimension are nones on all dimensions. That amounts to just about 6 percent of the general public who don’t belong to a religious tradition and don’t attend church and hold to an atheist or agnostic worldview.[6]

Global decline of nones in the 21st Century

See also: Growth of Christianity in China and East Asia and global desecularization According to the Pew Research Forum:

These projections, which take into account demographic factors such as fertility, age composition and life expectancy, forecast that people with no religion will make up about 13% of the world’s population in 2050, down from roughly 16% as of 2010.

This is largely attributable to the fact that religious “nones” are, on average, older and have fewer children than people who are affiliated with a religion...

China, with its large population and lack of reliable data on religious switching, is something of a wild card when it comes to the future of world religion. This is especially true for the religiously unaffiliated population; more than half of the world’s people who do not identify with any religion live in China (roughly 700 million).

Some experts believe the Christian population in China is rising while the religiously unaffiliated population is falling. If this is true – and the trend continues – religious “nones” could decline as a share of the world’s population even more than the Pew Research Center study projects.[7]

Eric Kaufmann told a secular audience in Australia: "The trends that are happening worldwide inevitably in an age of globalization are going to affect us."[8] Furthermore, Kaufmann also argues that secularization may reverse itself significantly earlier than 2050 in the West due to religious immigration and a religious population which is increasingly resistant to secularization in Europe.[9]

Percentage of nones expected to stabilize in the United States

Eric Kaufmann wrote:

The same is true in the United States. “Nones” may be the third-largest religious group in the United States, and ex-Catholics the fourth-largest, but the switching story needs a demographic context. If America remained 70 percent white, the population would reach European levels of secularization in two generations and Catholics would rapidly lose market share to Protestants. Instead, swift Hispanic and Asian population growth is projected to stabilize the share of nonreligious Americans at roughly today’s levels.[10]

Spiritual but not religious, mental disorders and suicides

According to the British Journal of Psychiatry: “People who have a spiritual understanding of life in the absence of a religious framework are vulnerable to mental disorder.”[11]

Elizabeht Drescher declared in the article Mew Research Links Spiritual but not religious to mental disorder:

In the British study, SBNRs were found to be significantly more likely to be drug-dependent (77%) and to suffer from phobias (72%) or anxiety (50%). No wonder they’re significantly more likely (40%) than the religious to be being treated with psychotropic drugs.[12]

Religiously unaffiliated and suicide

See also: Atheism and suicide

In 2004, the American Journal of Psychiatry reported:

Religiously unaffiliated subjects had significantly more lifetime suicide attempts and more first-degree relatives who committed suicide than subjects who endorsed a religious affiliation. Unaffiliated subjects were younger, less often married, less often had children, and had less contact with family members. Furthermore, subjects with no religious affiliation perceived fewer reasons for living, particularly fewer moral objections to suicide. In terms of clinical characteristics, religiously unaffiliated subjects had more lifetime impulsivity, aggression, and past substance use disorder. No differences in the level of subjective and objective depression, hopelessness, or stressful life events were found.[13][14]

Decline of Asian atheism

See also: Asian atheism

According to the global news website Quartz:

Atheists, agnostics, and other religious non-affiliates are a dying breed in Asia. According to a Pew Research Center study released last week, Asia’s shrinking pool of men and women who don’t identify with any religion are driving a drop in the proportion of “religious nones” in the world.

The percentage of the unaffiliated in Asia Pacific—home to about 76% of the world’s unaffiliated—will fall to 17% in 2050 from 21%, Pew estimates. ...this drop in Asia and the growth of religious communities elsewhere will mean the unaffiliated will make up only 13% of the world’s population in 2050, down from 16% in 2010.[15]

Nones and the moniker of spiritual, but not religious

Nones often declare that they are spiritual, but not religious.[16] Social science data indicates that that the spiritual but not religious are more vulnerable to mental disorders.[17]

Research also shows that atheists are more prone to depression/suicide and are also more prone to having lower social skills (see: Atheism and depression and Atheism and suicide and Atheism and social/interpersonal intelligence).

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.[18] 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.

Nones (no religious affilation), atheism, agnosticism and Latin Americans

See also: Atheism and Latino Americans

According to the 2019 edition of the Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions:

The irreligious population are slowly, but steadily, increasing in size in Latin America. While in every country they constitute a minority, in some countries, they have gained considerable weight. This has occurred both in countries with higher levels of socioeconomic development – such as Chile (15.8%) and Uruguay (37.1%) – as well as in less developed ones such as El Salvador (12.1%) and Honduras (10.5%). The far majority of irreligious Latin American are religious “nones” who declare believing in a supreme entity but do not belong to religious groups. Atheism and agnosticism, instead, are a rare phenomenon, mostly restricted to elite segments.[19]

Nones and poor survey design

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

Pat Neff Hall at Baylor University.

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.[20]

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

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.[21]

Americans with "no religion" and American patriotism

See also: Sociology of "atheism is un-American" view

CNN reported:

Christianity Today crunched data from a Pew Research Center poll that asked more than 1,500 Americans for their views of the United States.

“Nearly all Americans think they live in the best country on Earth. While a majority of Americans believe there are other countries just as great, nine in 10 say no nation is better. Within this high view of America, there are differences between different religious groups,” the magazine noted.

To this end, Christianity Today suggested the existence of a “patriotism God-gap in America.”

Among those surveyed, evangelicals were the most likely to think the United States is No. 1.

“Other Christian traditions were less enthusiastic about America's position in the world, but they still saw the U.S. as one of the best on the planet. About 40% of other Christians said the U.S. stands alone as the greatest country; around 55% said it and some other countries were equally great. As with evangelicals, only a few said there were greater countries in the world.”

“Those with no religion, however,” hold a much less favorable view, according to the magazine.

"Only one in five of those without religious beliefs said the U.S. is the best country in the world, an equal percentage agreeing that 'there are other countries that are better than the U.S.' ”[22]

See also

External links


  1. Meet the 'Nones:' Spiritual but not religious
  2. Key findings about Americans' belief in God. Pew Research Center (April 25, 2018). “In recent years, the share of American adults who do not affiliate with a religious group has risen dramatically. In spite of this trend, the overwhelming majority of Americans, including a majority of the religiously unaffiliated – those who describe themselves, religiously, as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” – say they believe in God or a higher power, according a new Pew Research Center survey conducted in December of 2017....Finally, among those who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated – also known as “nones” – 72% say they believe in a higher power of some kind.”
  3. Rise of the 'nones,' decline of 'white Christian America' slows in US, new survey shows, Christian Post, 2021
  4. The Guardian view on atheism: good without God - Editorial
  5. Professor Jacques Berlinerblau tells atheists: Stop whining!, Christian Century, Sep 14, 2012 by Kimberly Winston
  6. Most ‘Nones’ Still Keep the Faith, Christianity Today, Most ‘Nones’ Still Keep the Faith, 2021
  7. Why people with no religion are projected to decline as a share of the world’s population, Pew Forum
  8. Shall the religious inherit the earth - Festival of Dangerous Ideas - Eric Kaufmann
  9. *European immigration will pour Christian creationists into Europe
  10. The Future Will Be More Religious and Conservative Than You Think by Eric Kaufmann
  13. Religious affiliation and suicide attempts
  14. Religious affiliation and suicide attempts
  15. Across the Asia Pacific, the population of atheists and agnostics is shrinking
  16. Meet the 'Nones:' Spiritual but not religious
  17. Study: People Who Are ‘Spiritual’ But Not ‘Religious’ ‘Are More Vulnerable to Mental Disorder’
  18. Gallup: In U.S., Increasing Number Have No Religious Identity
  19. Atheism and Nonreligion in Latin America, Geography by Matías Bargsted, Nicolás M. Somma and Eduardo Valenzuela, Encyclopedia of Latin American Religions, Reference work entry, First Online: 27 July 2019 DOI:
  20. Good News about Evangelicalism, First Things
  21. Press: Americans Who Don’t Identify with a Religion No Longer a Fringe Group
  22. Patriotism and the 'God gap', XNN, 2011