Nones” climb to 19%


America’s “Nones” — the nonreligious — are at an all-time high, now comprising nearly one in five Americans (19%), according to a new study by the Pew Center for the People and the Press. The 19% count is based on aggregated surveys of 19,377 people conducted by the Pew Research Center throughout 2011 and reported by USA Today

“This means great news for progress, for reasoned debate, for the status of nonbelievers in our nation,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “The freethought movement and FFRF are growing rapidly. There is an explosion of local and campus freethought groups, activities and conferences.”

“Nones” were already the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, according to the definitive American Religious Identification Survey, whose 2008 study showed adult Nones up to 15% from 6% in 1990. ARIS, released in 2009, actually estimated “Nones” at 20% if responses to broader questions about religious practices were included.

Freethinkers have been highly marginalized, in part for being perceived as making up a small segment of the U.S. population. Actually, there have always been many more nonreligious than Jews, Muslims, Mormons or Eastern religions’ adherents, currently respectively at 1.2%, 0.6%, 1.4% and 0.9% of the U.S. population, according to ARIS. “Most minority religions, however tiny in numbers, are treated with respect, inclusion and sometimes deference. It’s time public officials and the American public wake up to the changing demographics and stop treating atheists and agnostics as outsiders,” added Annie Laurie Gaylor, who co-directs FFRF with Barker.

Written By: Freedom From Religion foundation
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  1. This is excellent news. It looks like the US of A has an optimistic future lying ahead. An increase of 4% in just three years looks impressive, compared with an 11% increase over 18 years that preceded it. Assuming, of course, those increases are directly comparable.

  2. Australian has an atheist PM, and UK has an atheist deputy PM – doesn’t make any difference. Still get plenty of pro-religious policies.

  3.  It would seem that the theists have a real ‘summat biting their arse’ problem brewing here!
    A problem they are so unprepared for because they never imagined that it could happen, seems their leaders were once again lying to them, and they are like rabbits caught in the headlights of a hurtling atheist 18 wheeler truck.

    I am sure there is more a logarithmic effect rather then linear one in the fall off of stupidity.

    I contend that when a ridiculous piece of dogma is finally challenged…like women voting…the ‘back of the bus’ farrago and so many other previously inviolable attitudes…that the length of time they have been prevalent has nothing to do with the actual  precipice plunge into obscurity and the wild fire spread of realization that they are inhuman and wrong that they all inevitably engender and suffer at the end.

    I suggest a certain tipping point has passed…the glamour is now fading so fast it is making the religious head spin.
    The 19% is almost a magic number +/_ 1 out of 5.
    The first time in certainly American history and that trend seems to be not rare in Europe.

    According to Wikistats…

    In Belgium nearly 30% have no religion according to a 2005 poll…in 1998 it was apparently under 5%…belief was expected to drop further after 2005  at a rate of between 1% and 5% year on year.
    But actual up to date figures are hard to come by because the churches, the only folks who collect such data,  do not release the figures willingly if not at all…why that is I will leave to your good judgement.

    But whatever, those are devastating figures for the deluded in what 7 years?…when it drops it fucking flies seemingly a true cascade affect.

    In Holland the RCC is truly collapsing with only 24% in 2011 down from 40% in mid 1970’s
    The loyal opposition i.e the Protestants are 12.3% of the population, down from 60% in the early 20th century.   

    So the genii is well and truly out of the bottle there is no way it will ever be tempted to go back inside it again.

    There is still apparently a ways to go…but I do not think it will take as long as some folk fear.

    I reckon that all the major  religions will metamorphose tactics and structure and schism will haunt them all.

    They will literary fragment into weirder smaller cults and globules of  ignorance …some are doing it now in the States…the Mormons recently had a schism a couple of weeks back for instance.
    The C of E will schism in about a year and the RCC will descend into vicious in fighting and Benny might well be the last pope to preside over an ostensibly united Roman Catholic Church.

    They know the end is nigh…you can tell by the fear in their eyes and the incoherent jabbering  hysteria in all of their rhetoric.

  4.  Atheist top officials are actually more prone to pro-religious policies because they are hysterical in their effort not to appear anti-religious.

  5. Australian has an atheist PM, and UK has an atheist deputy PM – doesn’t
    make any difference. Still get plenty of pro-religious policies.

    Yes that is true but they are the lowest of the low…they are politicians.
    As such votes are more important then ethics or morality.
    Just because they are atheist does not mean they are stupid…or indeed brave.

  6. This is great news! If anyone is able to locate the primary source(s) for this story (from one of the Pew websites) I would be grateful if they would share it, because I cannot find it. The USAToday article does not provide a link to the Pew report, nor does it say when the findings were released. The only links in the USAToday story are internal links to other USAToday stories/pages.

    This kind of intellectually sloppy journalism really chaps my ass (arse?) and USAToday will be getting a strongly worded comment form me.

    Edit: I found this:… just a moment ago from the The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life ( NOT the Pew Center for the People and the Press ( as told in the USAToday articles and those that linked to it. Yet another example of the dumbing down of American society (I hope it does not spread).

  7. Neodarwinian asked what we will do with all the emptying churches. I actually started a discussion thread about this some time ago – my favourite was an idea that they be turned into indoor climbing venues!

  8. Sorry to double-post – just saw the good point made by Cook@Tahiti . I think that Chamberlain-type atheist politicians try to kow-tow to a percieved religious vote that is increasingly not there. As census figures like these come in from various countries they might find some balls (or ovaries) at last. The church can still cause trouble – in a very tight race for the Australian seat of Melbourne it looks like Labor have beaten off a Green challenge by the skin of their teeth – and the Catholic church informed its faithful not to vote Green because the Greens dislike Catholic education and want to cut its funding. They craftily did this very late in the campaign to ensure that the Greens had little time to respond. Typical religious dirty tricks (they are not so fast to deal with their loathsome child-raping priests one notices), but in a very tight race it’s effective.

  9. What are we going to do with all the emptying churches?

    Art galleries, collaborative art studios, learning centers, day care center, sports centers, gyms… I just hope they don’t tear down the older ones. Some of the architecture in Catholic churches is amazing. Unfortunately, one local problem is that the upkeep of these buildings is an expensive money pit.

    Hallelujah, We now have an edit button!!

  10. When you think about it, if it were standard procedure to consider nones a group in their own right, everywhere, the numbers likely would surge. Theism still subjugates populations worldwide to be in fear of or be disrespected for what it considers “zero allegiance”. It’s preserved a covert meme for etiquette to exclude non theists ipso facto. On the world stage, just look how much theism tries to impose sanctions on secularists through laws that reinforce its intolerance of reason and education, then role plays victim as if non fiction thinkers are militant. History shows us its theism that calls for heads to roll at the very idea that educating its children might make Santa fall of his chimney: a Fred Dibnah moment if ever there was one, “Did yer like that?”

  11. America seems to become again the country I admired in my youth. Even if it was only through the medium of film and literature. A country of rational people, no Elmer Gantry’s.
    But I liked the film with Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons.

  12. A Weston, Missouri church now houses a winery

    The last sentence of the article is “According to the new PEW study, non-believers
    now outrank Baptists”.  After rubbing my eyes and re-reading that, a slow Cheshire
    grin developed.  I’m pleased as punch with this unexpected news!

  13. I see many parallels with the gay lib movement in the early 70s.  It seemed like there were no gay people because they were all so camouflaged.  Once just a handful of us went public and challenged the Christians, suddenly thousands more gays felt ready to step into the light too. There was a sudden huge shift in public attitudes. We need to focus on getting atheists to simply stand their ground — not necessarily argue, just refuse to pass as Christian. I think we need to appeal to people’s desire to see themselves as brave and honest rather than cowardly.  Atheists have a huge advantage over gays. They can potentially represent the entire population.

  14. Partly that, and partly also that politicians are accustomed to assembling coalitions of voter support in blocs. If they can bring several million voters onside by appealing to them as a bloc based on some religious identity, they will. It’s one of the reasons why atheists need to start organizing themselves so they can be identified as a bloc (whether they vote like one or not), and hence as a group with legitimate interests that need to be catered to.

  15.  “But whatever, those are devastating figures for the deluded in what 7
    years?…when it drops it fucking flies seemingly a true cascade affect.”

    Yes, and look at the situation in Quebec: in 1960 it was a bastion of Catholicism where the RCC had total control of education and only 13% of Francophone children reached grade 11. By 1970 it had reached European levels of secularization and church attendance had dropped off a cliff  —  see….

  16. What to do with the empty churches ?   Turn them into restaurants.  They often have kitchens in the basements.  At least then it would be OK to take a couple of crackers home with you.

  17. Nostalgia seems to present theism more respite than any other industry would be afforded. 

    The cathedrals of the minds of tomorrow surely are deserving of more transparency with which to observe any coloured glass inheritance? 

  18. As for Blighty…check these compendium of polls out if you have not already…

    And some preliminary analytical work in a affiliated poll involving the 2011 census in the UK regarding religiosity, I think it was a follow up poll to the Census itself anyway it has prompted this comment from an ostensibly xian website…


    All in all, these data point to a society in which religion is
    increasingly in retreat and nominal. With the principal exception of the
    older age groups, many of those who claim some religious allegiance
    fail to underpin it by a belief in God or to translate it into regular
    prayer or attendance at a place of worship. People in general are more
    inclined to see the negative than the positive aspects of religion, and
    they certainly want to keep it well out of the political arena.

    The full 2011 census report is yet to emerge it is being released in stages…but according to this snapshot it is not looking very good for Yahweh and his sycophantic minions.

    Just ploughed through the religious themed PDF of the results of that affiliated poll available on that page by link..

    Even I did not realise just how badly they were doing…a very very different reality to what the religious are trying to push!…very different indeed!

    In fact they must be absolutely devastated, I think it is a lot worse then they thought it would be!

    The final edition of the 2011 census will be an interesting kafuffle I think.
    Religious statistics released around Nov 2012…expect a fractious xmas!

  19. strangebrew:

    …….expect a fractious xmas!

    But not necessarily because of lack of religion! Maybe they won’t be showing The Godfather this Xmas? Maybe Rowan Williams will have converted to agnosticism? Maybe there’s too many bloody people in the house?

  20. Wouldn’t it be more productive to identify with a secular humanist bloc? That way, it avoids the accusation of being a baseless “not” campaign and it can show there are alternatives to religion.

  21. It’s important to distinguish between religion and belief in God.  Many people do not consider themselves religious but still profess a belief in a deity.  I suspect that most of the “nones” are in this category.  As evidence, a 2011 Gallup poll found that only 7 percent answered “no” when asked if they believed in God (… ).  So let’s not overestimate the prevalence of reason in the US by assuming the entire 19 percent are “nonbelievers.”

  22. I am curious as to why the number of people polled seems
    so small at 19,377? It seems like a drop-in-the-bucket. I also think that the numbers will vary wildly depending on where in
    the country the questions were asked. Regardless, I will remain optimistic about
    the number as it stands.

  23. Yes, sorry, I didn’t mean a specifically and exclusively atheist identity  —  I just mean anyone who’s willing to be identified as broadly non-religious.

  24.  Demolish them and turn them into roadblocks.
    After all, they’ve had a history of holding back progress for years.

  25.  Whether it is atheists or the alternatively delusioned, a strong secular state needs people who will not accept any one religion having a majority influence over all or most of the government’s policies.

  26. If I’m not mistaken, this was a study involving just under 20,000 people?

    I’m wondering what would truly happen if we had a countrywide poll on non belief.

    For instance, I’ve never stated anywhere officially that I’m an atheist and have never been asked to check a box.

    What would happen if we did this?

    30%, 40%?

    Maybe I just don’t understand pew polls. Anyone care to explain why this 19% can be extrapolated to encompass all non believers in America?


  27. You make a fair point.  A significant fraction, and probable majority, of those selecting ‘none’ are simply refusing to choose a religion or denomination, or are just denying membership in a religious organization, but would not deny belief in some sort of god or higher power if probed for details.  

    A squishy sort of “I believe in god, but I’m not religious” or “all religions have wisdom, its the humans running them that make me not join any of them,” is almost certainly more common in the US than true agnosticism or atheism.   

  28. That’s actually quite a large number of respondents.  Assuming the sample of potential respondents was properly weighted and randomized (and Pew is a reputable organization, so that is a fair assumption), 19,377 respondents is plenty large enough to draw sound conclusions.  Of course there is always a margin of error in any survey.

    To give a rough comparison, national political polls by news organizations might routinely be based on approximately 1000 respondents, and those polls typically have a margin or error of +/- 3 or 4%.  As the November elections approach, and political polling becomes a more pertinent news story, look at the fine print at what is being reported and you’ll see that those polls are sometimes based on only 500 respondents, while roughly 1000 to 1200 respondents is the norm for a poll that is considered sound and newsworthy. 

  29. Awesome! Let’s just hope Americans figure out how to nurture their new found and increasing atheism in a rational way instead of letting it pave the way for the replacement religion of political correctness, which is what happened in Europe. Godspeed, America!

    Now you just have to make more kids than the faith heads…

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