Are atheists the new Mormons?

The first is that, by any measure, it’s hard to imagine anything more homegrown and all-American than Mormonism and organized atheism. The Latter-Day Saints, after all, have a church that mixes Protestantism with Masonic-tinged rituals, whose founding documents speak of American Christians and a New York-born prophet, and read like the bastard children of the Constitution and the King James Bible…

And, in a second rarity, it’s strange to see two groups that have received such widespread mistrust despite occupying, in almost every other way, a position of social privilege.

Both groups are overwhelmingly white—82 percent of self-identified atheists and agnostics, and 88 percent of Mormons, according to recent Pew Research Center data. (The United States is 68 percent white). Both groups comprise about 2 percent of the American population, and both tend to be a bit more affluent than the American population as a whole, with just 28 percent of self-identified Mormons and atheists living in households that make less than $30,000 per year, compared to a full 36 percent of the general population.

According to Pew, close to two-thirds of those who identify as atheist or agnostic are men. While the founder of the American Atheists is a woman (who, like Joseph Smith, was murdered), both Mormons and organized atheists have a history of heavily male-skewed leadership—in the Mormon Church, it should be noted, as a matter of policy.

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