Pew study: One in five American adults now have no religious affiliation

posted at 9:51 pm on October 9, 2012 by Allahpundit

It’s a steep climb to respectability, but at the rate we’re going, I think America might be ready for an atheist president within, oh, another hundred years or so.

Openly atheist president, I mean. You-know-who doesn’t count.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. 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%)…

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.

Click the link and start scrolling, as there’s plenty of tasty data to digest. Most unaffiliateds aren’t atheists but neither are they “seekers,” as believers often assume about the nonreligious crowd: Fully 88% of those who say their faith is “nothing in particular” aren’t looking for a religion that’s right for them. This is interesting too:

Five years ago, 38 percent of people who rarely attended services copped to having no religious affiliation. Today it’s 11 points higher. That suggests a change not so much in behavior as in people’s willingness to identify as unaffiliated, which, I suspect, is one legacy of Hitchens, Dawkins, and the capital-A Atheism identity movement. The more publicly acceptable professions of disbelief become, the more comfortable marginal members of a church will be in calling themselves unaffiliated. I’ve seen that happen among people I know, although there seems to be a generational divide: Younger friends who never go to church drift into unaffiliated-ness whereas older ones who never go to church still consider themselves nominally members of the faith. There’s a generational divide in Pew’s data here too, with 34 percent(!) of 18-22 year olds calling themselves unaffiliated versus 15 percent or less of people born before 1964 calling themselves that. Although it seems that has less to do with comparative reluctance in openly identifying that way than it does with more fundamental disagreements over values:

The new Pew Research Center/Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly survey contains some data that can be seen as consistent with this hypothesis. The survey finds that the unaffiliated are concentrated among younger adults, political liberals and people who take liberal positions on same-sex marriage. In addition, two-thirds or more of the unaffiliated say that churches and other religious institutions are too concerned with money and power (70%) and too involved in politics (67%); these views are significantly more common among the unaffiliated than they are in the general public.

That’s the “political backlash” theory of declining religious affiliation; follow the last link for three more. As for the inevitable partisan split, behold:

Unaffiliateds are now the second-biggest religious demographic in the Democratic Party, ahead even of Catholics. Among the total electorate, they split 63/26 between Democrats and the GOP, although 75 percent of them broke for Obama in 2008. They’re significantly more likely to say they’re pro-choice and pro-gay marriage than the American public at large. That’s something to keep an eye on in the years ahead as the parties’ demographic bases evolve. Are we headed to a true “GOP is the religious party, Democrats are the secular party” dynamic? Even more so than now, I mean.


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Prior to the late 1960′s, all of our laws, customs, and mores were derived from a Biblical perspective. That began to officially change with the removal of Bible reading and prayers from the schools in 1962-63.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Some citation on that would be appreciated.

Grindstone on October 10, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Prior to the late 1960′s, all of our laws, customs, and mores were derived from a Biblical perspective. That began to officially change with the removal of Bible reading and prayers from the schools in 1962-63.
Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM

Yup, especially in education. e.g. The New England Primer (“In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all”) was used even up to the 20th century.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 10:51 AM

Fair enough. If pro-choice and anti-religion were my only politics, I would tend to vote Democratic.
Now, my question?
“If I were pro-choice and thought religion was for fools, but also thought that government isn’t a charity or a big brother, which party would I latch on to?”
Grindstone

You’d be an independent, a party onto yourself.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Grindstone on October 10, 2012 at 10:39 AM

You bring up good points but I’m speaking of the overall philosophical environment. There are, fortunately, always individuals who will rise above the fray but overall the mass of people and that which they accept as valid, and today particularly the young, determine what is considered “true” and is generally never questioned.

Concerning an exclusively Humanistic viewpoint and it’s relative advisability as a philosophy: consider that the previously dominant view that there is a God and therefore absolute moral standards exist and there are consequences to violating them has not been overcome as much as they have been overruled and replaced.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 10:57 AM

First off, I don’t see how a humanistic worldview can be a negative thing.

The fact is provides absolutely no objective basis for morals, ethics or values would be a major negative in my books. The ascendency of post-modern deconstructionism in our society and the effects that has wrought confirms this concern.

tommyboy on October 10, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Grindstone on October 10, 2012 at 10:40 AM

Engel v Vitale ended school prayer on 1962 and Murray v Curlett ended manditory Bible reading in 1963.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Grindstone, as a small example, consider how it has come about that, in 1939 society was aghast at an actor using the word “damn” in a major motion picture (Gone With The Wind) and where we find ourselves today as regards our cultural markers.

Something has changed and it should be accounted for and it’s implications for the future weighed carefully.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM

tommyboy on October 10, 2012 at 11:01 AM

Yup.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 11:25 AM

listens2glenn on October 10, 2012 at 10:17 AM

.
I don’t see the connection between wanting a government that doesn’t run up massive amounts of debt and wanting a goverment that bans/dictates private behavior.

Grindstone on October 10, 2012 at 10:25 AM

.
Sexual immorality, drug abuse, and drunkenness are being flagrantly flaunted, in the light of day, IN PUBLIC. People who oppose such activity (myself, for example) are trying to drive it BACK “behind closed doors”.

People like me are NOT for peeking into peoples bedrooms, or motel rooms.

People like me are NOT for the placing of cameras and microphones in private places except on the basis of a warrant.

Warrants are NOT going to be issued on the basis of “suspicion” that a couple is engaging in activity that Christians would disapprove of.

As long as people kept their “vices” private, there isn’t any conflict.

listens2glenn on October 10, 2012 at 11:27 AM

Here’s the merciful truth about God: he even loves the godless.

natasha333 on October 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM

“If I were pro-choice and thought religion was for fools, but also thought that government isn’t a charity or a big brother, which party would I latch on to?”
Grindstone

You’d be an independent, a party onto yourself.
whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 10:54 AM

Just realized that might have sounded snide, lol. Not intended as such, since I would count myself within that same pigeonhole.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 11:48 AM

Here’s the merciful truth about God: he even loves the godless.

natasha333 on October 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM

If He didn’t, we would all be lost.

tom daschle concerned on October 10, 2012 at 12:07 PM

Um, all of those that said they were “Unaffiliated” are, by definition, Agnostics.

Haldol on October 10, 2012 at 12:21 PM

Um, all of those that said they were “Unaffiliated” are, by definition, Agnostics.
Haldol on October 10, 2012 at 12:21 PM

How do you figure?

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:24 PM

As I said to another commenter who also had difficulty accepting the mountain of historical evidence, you’re most welcome to offer up evidence to the contrary.
Or, you can – as he did – write off all of ancient history. As I told that poor soul before he ran off:
Aristotle lived approx 350 BC. However, the earliest copy of his writings that we have comes from A.D.1100, over 1,400 years after his death. It’s simply a matter of dated and documented history.
Your evidence to the contrary should be interesting. Shooting messengers only lowers your grade. Good luck.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 8:54 AM

There isn’t a single shred of historical evidence, let alone mountains of historical evidence. I don’t think you know what historical evidence is. We’re not talking about Aristotle; that’s a red herring.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 12:36 PM

The fact is provides absolutely no objective basis for morals, ethics or values would be a major negative in my books. The ascendency of post-modern deconstructionism in our society and the effects that has wrought confirms this concern.

tommyboy on October 10, 2012 at 11:01 AM

You are confusing opinion for fact.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Grindstone, as a small example, consider how it has come about that, in 1939 society was aghast at an actor using the word “damn” in a major motion picture (Gone With The Wind) and where we find ourselves today as regards our cultural markers.

Something has changed and it should be accounted for and it’s implications for the future weighed carefully.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Have you ever read Chaucer or Shakespeare?

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Oh dear!

tom daschle concerned on October 10, 2012 at 12:44 PM

We’re not talking about Aristotle; that’s a red herring.
Dante on October 10, 2012 at 12:36 PM

According to your criteria , Aristotle – along with a multitude of other historical figures – did not exist.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:48 PM

According to your criteria , Aristotle – along with a multitude of other historical figures – did not exist.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:48 PM

what about chaucer and shakespeare?

LMFAO!

tom daschle concerned on October 10, 2012 at 12:50 PM

According to your criteria , Aristotle – along with a multitude of other historical figures – did not exist.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:48 PM

I didn’t say that Jesus didn’t exist; I said that there is no evidence for his existence.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I see you are jumping to your usual conclusion – Having no religious affiliation does not mean the person has no religion. Having no religious affiliation does not make anyone an atheist (unless you are a member of a fundamentalist sect).

Old Country Boy on October 10, 2012 at 12:55 PM

Have you ever read Chaucer or Shakespeare?

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Both Chaucer AND Shakespeare wrote from within a Biblical, that is Christian, milieu. In fact, all of the Enlightenment philosophes, from Descartes devout Roman Catholicism to Kant’s lapsed Pietism, did as well. It is a curiosity that if it hadn’t been FOR Christianity, there wouldn’t have BEEN an “Enlightenment”.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 12:58 PM

I forgot to finish the post. Having no religious affiliation, merely means you aren’t Catholic, baptist, Methodist, Hindu, Muslim, Holy Roller, etc. Lack of affiliation has nothing directly to do with belief in a Deity.

Old Country Boy on October 10, 2012 at 12:58 PM

According to your criteria , Aristotle – along with a multitude of other historical figures – did not exist.
whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:48 PM

I didn’t say that Jesus didn’t exist; I said that there is no evidence for his existence.
Dante on October 10, 2012 at 12:52 PM

Alrighty then – then by your own odd, uniquely personal criteria “there is no evidence for the existence” of Aristotle along with a multitude of other historical figures, including Jesus.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:59 PM

Both Chaucer AND Shakespeare wrote from within a Biblical, that is Christian, milieu. In fact, all of the Enlightenment philosophes, from Descartes devout Roman Catholicism to Kant’s lapsed Pietism, did as well. It is a curiosity that if it hadn’t been FOR Christianity, there wouldn’t have BEEN an “Enlightenment”.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 12:58 PM

You’re missing the point and going off on an unrelated tangent.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Alrighty then – then by your own odd, uniquely personal criteria “there is no evidence for the existence” of Aristotle along with a multitude of other historical figures, including Jesus.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:59 PM

It’s not an odd criteria nor unique; it is an common scientific criteria, especially used by archaeologists. There is no historical evidence that Jesus existed.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Our country needs to get back to God. It’s the reason for the decay of our society and the culture of death.

nazo311 on October 10, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Does a belief in God tell us right from wrong or is it our own moral codes? I dont belive that a belief in God is needed to get people to behave properly, I think a teaching of “treat others how you want to be treated” would sum it up perfectly. I dont subscribe to any religion but I also dont lie, rob, cheat, steal, etc.

Politricks on October 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Alrighty then – then by your own odd, uniquely personal criteria “there is no evidence for the existence” of Aristotle along with a multitude of other historical figures, including Jesus.
whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 12:59 PM

It’s not an odd criteria nor unique; it is an common scientific criteria, especially used by archaeologists. There is no historical evidence that Jesus existed.
Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:06 PM

Then you’ll have to tell that to the historians, archeologists and other scientists. As others have noted above, they beg to differ with you. Yours is a singular take based on Solipsism, not on recorded history. It’s not objective or fact based but if it helps you make it through, more power to ya. Good luck.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

nazo311 on October 10, 2012 at 1:13 PM

You look at God and see peace. I look at God and see war. Bosinans vs Serbs. Muslims vs Christans. Israeli–Palestinian conflict to name a few.

Politricks on October 10, 2012 at 1:23 PM

I dont belive that a belief in God is needed to get people to behave properly, I think a teaching of “treat others how you want to be treated” would sum it up perfectly.
Politricks on October 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

How will telling people that make them “behave properly”?

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 1:24 PM

I think a teaching of “treat others how you want to be treated” would sum it up perfectly.

Works wonders for moral reprobates…like democrats.

tom daschle concerned on October 10, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Then you’ll have to tell that to the historians, archeologists and other scientists. As others have noted above, they beg to differ with you. Yours is a singular take based on Solipsism, not on recorded history. It’s not objective or fact based but if it helps you make it through, more power to ya. Good luck.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

They do not. I am an archaeologist by education and profession. There is no historical evidence that Jesus existed.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:26 PM

You’re missing the point and going off on an unrelated tangent.
Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:05 PM

No, I got your point but chose to ignore it since you’re not here to dialog but contend.

Did you get mine?

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 1:42 PM

Does a belief in God tell us right from wrong or is it our own moral codes? I dont belive that a belief in God is needed to get people to behave properly, I think a teaching of “treat others how you want to be treated” would sum it up perfectly. I dont subscribe to any religion but I also dont lie, rob, cheat, steal, etc.
Politricks on October 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

No, a belief in God does not get people to behave properly but it is the premise upon which all other incentives to do so are built.

Cleombrotus on October 10, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Then you’ll have to tell that to the historians, archeologists and other scientists. As others have noted above, they beg to differ with you. Yours is a singular take based on Solipsism, not on recorded history. It’s not objective or fact based but if it helps you make it through, more power to ya. Good luck.
whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 1:22 PM

They do not.

Too easy. Try reading it again:
“Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.”

I am an archaeologist by education and profession.

I’m a brain surgeon and a five star general. In my free time I volunteer at a leper colony.

There is no historical evidence that Jesus existed.
Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:26 PM

I think you really need to tap your heels together 3 times when you say it to make it so.
Sorry – but you’re just swimming so deep in De Nile for me to take you seriously. But, as I said, good luck anyway.

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 1:45 PM

Too easy. Try reading it again:
“Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed, and biblical scholars and classical historians regard theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.”

whatcat on October 10, 2012 at 1:45 PM

LOL. Theologians, ministers, chaplains, pastors, and seminarians. That is too funny.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:55 PM

They do not. I am an archaeologist by education and profession. There is no historical evidence that Jesus existed.

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 1:26 PM

.
In spite of the fact that wikipedia isn’t esteemed as a credible source by you, I’m post this link anyway.

listens2glenn on October 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

listens2glenn on October 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Read the thread. What do you think we’ve been talking about the past few posts?

Dante on October 10, 2012 at 2:10 PM

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