Americans Turning Away From Organized Religion in Record Numbers

Mar 3, 2015

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

By Lynn Stuart Parramore

With fire-breathing religion figuring anew in global conflicts, and political discussions at home often dominated by the nuttery of the Christian right, you might get the sense that somebody’s god is ready to mug you around every street corner. But if you’re the type who doesn’t like to hang your hat on organized religion, here’s a bit of good news: n America, your numbers are growing.

There are more religiously unaffiliated people in the U.S. today than ever before. Starting in the 1980s, a variety of polls using different methodologies have come to the same conclusion: people who do not identify with religious labels are on the rise, perhaps even doubling in that time frame.

Some call them “nones”: agnostics, atheists, deists, secular humanists, general humanists, and people who just don’t care to identify with any religious group. It’s not exactly correct to call them nonbelievers, because some still have faith and spirituality in some sense or another. A 2012 Pew study noted that 30 percent of these people believe in “God or universal spirit” and around 20 percent even pray every day. But according to the latest research, Americans checking the “none of the above” box will make up an increasingly important force in the country. Other groups, like born-again evangelicals, have grown more percentage-wise, but the nones have them beat in absolute numbers.

The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute has documented this sea change in its American Values Atlas, which it released last Wednesday. The fascinating study provides demographic, religious and political data based on surveys conducted throughout 2014. According to PRRI director of research Dan Cox, “The U.S. religious landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation that is fundamentally reshaping American politics and culture.”


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40 comments on “Americans Turning Away From Organized Religion in Record Numbers

  • OH yes ! God bless religion ! The rich and powerful have always reaped its benefits. Keep the workers’ minds numbed with fear, jealousy and respect for their “betters”. Fox News etc does its best, but there are other ways of keeping workers’ minds off their dire predicament, football, celebrities, pop music, who’s sleeping with whom, etc. – but none of those has quite the allure of a dinner with Jesus every bloody night for ever !

    Like the British Christians, I’m quite sure that many of the US Christians don’t believe in the bullshit that the preachers tell them ! However in the USA, religion is a business. There are profits to be milked from the meek.

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  • Mr DArcy Mar 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    However in the USA, religion is a business. There are profits to be milked from the meek.

    And as we know Xtians say, “The meek shall inherit the earth”. – (When they can retrieve bits of it from a garbage skip without being arrested for vagrancy!)

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  • Only sheep require a shepherd.

    Fortunately, the Good Shepherd is also the Bread of Life for those who are hungry, the Light of the World for those in darkness, the Way, the Truth, the Life for those who are lost and the True Vine for those who fancy a taste of the grape.

    Baa…

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  • Ewan Mar 3, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Only sheep require a shepherd.

    Fortunately, the Good Shepherd is also the Bread of Life for those who are hungry,

    It sounds like it’s crackers to me!

    and the True Vine for those who fancy a taste of the grape.

    Washed down with communion wine!

    But our local pub does it rather better, and the bands are much livelier!

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  • Hang on ! Is this shepherd the same one who is the vine ? (John 15. 5)

    How nice of Jesus to give us such a delicious offer, believe in Him or burn in hell forever ! I’ll take my chances Ewan, the veiled threats mean nothing to me.

    Well I suppose no-one can trump Superman in a card game, unless he has a kryptonite Jack !

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  • Well I suppose no-one can trump Superman in a card game, unless he has a kryptonite Jack !

    Both trumped by love, I think (like the rest of us!)

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  • The Republican Party decided to tie itself to the religious right. This is like tying itself to a millstone.

    In every war between science and religion, science eventually prevailed. Religion did so well in the past because people were illiterate and the church was the only source of information. Today even primary school children know how to Google. Home schooling is religion’s last ditch attempt to keep kids ignorant.

    It is all over but the shouting, and we have to admit, creationists are very good shouters.

    To see the inevitability of what is happening, you have to stand back and see the big picture in time.

    Though he has been dead for over three years, Christopher Hitchens nightly patiently dissects the false claim that religion is necessary for morality on YouTube. He is grinding away at lies made acceptable by repeated assertion.

    Religion is so much about peer pressure, trying to gain acceptability in the eyes of others. One could once smugly pronounce one’s Catholicism. Now one has to defend supporting child rape. As people flee the religions, that changes the dynamics of peer pressure to encourage even more to flee.

    Remember Hans Christian Anderson’s parable about Christianity, the Emperor’s New Clothes. It took but one boy to have the “courage” to notice the emperor was naked. Then the crowd joined in. At this stage in time, think how many “boys” there are on the Internet. We are doing much better than we think.

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  • @Olgun
    The Yahoo in USA.
    Two speeches, one to AIPAC (very secular?) with few religious references. The other to Congress with many Christian Right Republicans, so Moses and God got the full treatment.

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  • LOVED this—

    On her radio show, Dr. Laura said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22, and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following response is an open letter to Dr. Schlesinger, written by a US man, and posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as quite informative:

    Dear Dr. Laura:
    Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Lev.15: 19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
    5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination, Lev.11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?
    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev.24:10-16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)
    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I’m confident you can help.
    Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

    Your adoring fan,
    James M. Kauffman,
    Ed.D. Professor Emeritus,
    Dept. Of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education University of Virginia

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  • 19
    Lorenzo says:

    the Good Shepherd

    No, not good. By any means, no.

    is also the Bread of Life

    No. We have novels, stories and… bards for that.
    Or the bakery.

    the Light of the World

    No. That’s the Sun. For those in darkness we have the light bulb, now.

    the Way

    No. The way is the blue path on Google Maps.

    the Truth

    No. The Earth goes around the Sun and not vice versa. And he got that wrong three times -duh.
    And that’s just one of the very many.

    the Life for those who are lost

    No: have you tried a map? Anyhow, we do have an hippocampus.
    By the way, if you’re lost you need directions not a life.

    the True Vine for those who fancy a taste of the grape

    No. There are 40-60 species in the genus Vitis and the one from which you get your grapes is Vitis vinifera.

    Baa…

    Yes, exactly.

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  • Religion is so much about peer pressure, trying to gain acceptability in the eyes of others.

    That’s fairly common in life generally, isn’t it? It’s certainly true in the world of science. But I think it’s important to be able to step out of your peer group and consider your own views as an individual.

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  • Nice try Ewan,
    Peer review is the exact opposite of peer pressure in that it is trying to find fault in what is presented, and it is not so much interested in group views as evidence, which is why you should pay attention when both the data and the scientists agree on something (it’s rare except when we are dealing in facts – or as near as science or anyone can get to facts). A little peer review would go a long way to tidying up religious nonsense. We wouldn’t have to even go as far as the scientific peer review process. If the bible was made into a wiki and even if only the religious were allowed to edit it (keep only what you can all agree on), it would not take long before almost none of it was left.

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  • phil rimmer Mar 4, 2015 at 3:52 pm + rationalmind Mar 4, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    This is fun, but in the interests of the truth…

    Perhaps the storyline of the video has been mis-attributed to the wrong author, by someone’s shaky memory!

    It is nevertheless a gem!

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  • In every war between science and religion, science eventually prevailed. Religion did so well in the past because people were illiterate and the church was the only source of information. Today even primary school children know how to Google. Home schooling is religion’s last ditch attempt to keep kids ignorant.

    I just have to give credit to a remarkably incisive comment. Thanks, Roedy.

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  • Ewan Mar 7, 2015 at 3:39 am

    In every war between science and religion

    Is it a matter of wars?

    Yes! Thinking by “faith” (belief without evidence or proof), is the very opposite of evidence based scientific rational methodology!
    Until religions acquire respect for scientific evidence and scientific methods and stop pretending that dogmas trump science, there will be conflicts.

    Science has always informed religious understanding.

    It has – eventually when the religious have finally understood after centuries of arguing the contrary, and pretended that the science agreed with them all along.

    The RCC have finally caught up with Galileo and heliocntricism, (but are still stuck with homocentricism), they are only half way to accepting the scientific theory of evolution, but are still trying to fudge the science with insertions of theistic purposes, and”god fiddled with it”, they are trotting out utterly clueless fudge about embryology, and are still ignoring the science and claiming supernatural miracles and exorcisms! –
    There is a lot of very basic learning of science still to be worked on, before the RCC catch up with even present levels of understanding.

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  • Is it a matter of wars?

    Maybe the expression “a continuous battle” is more appropriate. People are obviously susceptible to believing in tribal myths and superstitions. Religions prey on that and their leaders don’t want science coming along and exposing those myths for what they are.

    In a modern secular society it’s very difficult for religions to impose their will in the way they had in the past (Bruno, Galileo, inquisition, witch burning etc), so they are forced to evolve or die. But they will still do all they can to replenish their numbers by the indoctrination of their children.

    And where science informs them too much (eg. evolution) they will attempt to prevent that science being taught to their children and other children. If they can’t prevent the science teaching they will attempt to undermine it or have myths taught as alternatives.

    Science has always informed religious understanding.

    Science has always exposed religious understanding. That’s why it’s a threat and that’s why it’s a continuous battle.

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  • Ewan, if you ever find the time to view Robert Sapolsky’s lecture as recommended to you by Phil, and understand it, then you’d realize that science understands religious belief these days.
    Education cures religion.

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  • Science has always exposed religious understanding. That’s why it’s a threat and that’s why it’s a continuous battle.

    I wonder if that’s the view from the world of professional science where competing for success is the norm. Perhaps the world of religion is less naturally bellicose.

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  • I wonder if that’s the view from the world of professional science where competing for success is the norm. Perhaps the world of religion is less naturally bellicose.

    The world of professional science probably spends little time worrying about how their latest discoveries expose faulty religious understanding.

    Perhaps the world of religion is less naturally bellicose.

    As is often the case with the religious, you have got it completely backwards. Science has to spend more time than it should countering attacks from the naturally bellicose religious.

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  • In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king.

    Luckily science has developed other ways of ‘seeing’ the universe.

    Even the Catholic priest Georges Lemaitre, father of the “Big Bang” theory, as Fred Hoyle contemtuousy named it later, and also a scientist, was dismayed when the then Pope tried to claim the theory for the RCC.

    By 1951, Pope Pius XII declared that Lemaître’s theory provided a scientific validation for Catholicism. However, Lemaître resented the Pope’s proclamation, stating that the theory was neutral and there was neither a connection nor a contradiction between his religion and his theory.

    Georges Lemaitre

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  • Ewan Mar 7, 2015 at 8:03 am

    The RCC have finally caught up with Galileo and heliocntricism, (but are still stuck with homocentricism), they are only half way to accepting the scientific theory of evolution, but are still trying to fudge the science with insertions of theistic purposes, and”god fiddled with it”, they are trotting out utterly clueless fudge about embryology, and are still ignoring the science and claiming supernatural miracles and exorcisms! –
    There is a lot of very basic learning of science still to be worked on, before the RCC catch up with even present levels of understanding.

    I’m glad that we agree on something, Alan!

    In posts on this site, you have been far from clear, and reticent to answer questions.

    If you agree to this, this is in direct conflict with Vatican pronouncements, (not that conflicting with Vatican views seems to be a problem for many Catholics).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_evolution#Catholic_teaching_and_evolution
    159. Faith and science: “… methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” (Vatican II GS 36:1)

    This is a pure Vatican Humpty-Dumpytist attempt to redefine evidence-based scientific methodology, claiming it is trumped by faith-based dogmatic assumptions.
    Ludicrous claims like this, are certain to be challenged by scientists (or linguists) as utter self-contradictory semantic nonsense.

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  • Peter Mar 4, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Profits to be milked from the meek–there must be a hymn in those words.

    Milking the meek and starving, is a long standing religious tradition!

    http://www.discovershropshire.org.uk/html/search/verb/GetRecord/theme:20070423150250

    By the beginning of the 15th century monasteries owned more than a quarter of all cultivated lands in England. However, with the accession of Henry VIII to the throne the days of the monks were numbered.

    As the Pope wouldn’t grant permission Henry took a drastic step and claimed jurisdiction (control) over the Church of England. In 1534, he issued the Act of Royal Supremacy, which stated that the English Crown was reclaiming powers that it had always possessed but that had been commandeered by Rome.

    As the monks were still loyal to the Pope they posed a problem for Henry and he decided to get rid of them. The monks were some of the wealthiest people at the time and they not only appeared to live quite comfortable lives but also owned large areas of land, which provided them with additional income as they could rent it out or farm it.

    Cognitive dissonance is a “wonderful thing”, wealth and gluttony arising from vows of poverty!

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  • Peter Mar 4, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Profits to be milked from the meek–

    Here’s a second article and video:-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b054fmzl
    In the final episode of the series, Dr Janina Ramirez discovers how the immensely rich and powerful monasteries, that had dominated British society for a thousand years, were annihilated in less than five years.

    In the 15th century, eight hundred monasteries in England owned one third of the nation’s land. Many monks were living in palatial monasteries and were patrons of the finest art and architecture. Janina examines monastery kitchen records and the bones of a medieval monk to discover the truth behind accusations of monastic gluttony and vice. She also explores how the arrival of the printing press put paid to the monasteries’ monopoly of publishing and education.

    Janina then traces the story of the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell. She explores whether the dissolution was the violent action of a greedy and overbearing monarch or if it was the inevitable ‘end of days’ for a rotten and outmoded institution.

    She uncovers stories of shocking corruption alongside examples of extraordinary pious sacrifice

    Religion appears to have cycles of corruption (paedophile priests?) where eventually even believers and civil authorities recognise its flaws and deceptions!

    BTW:- The archaeological examination of the monk’s skeleton showed he had lived well beyond a peasant’s life span, and was suffering from obesity and syphilis!

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  • 40
    NoKiddingMan says:

    I have friends who never missed Sunday mass in the past. In the recent years, they still claim to be Christians, but never attend their Church (except for weddings and the like). They keep talking about spirituality to me, and keep preaching to me that mind and brain are separate (as if a ghost/spirit is driving our brains). I demand evidence, but they keep repeating the same nonsense and evade my questions as usual.

    In addition, I personally do not like the word spirit… Yes, I know, it depends how one interprets it too. I simply consider myself an atheist/secular humanist. This is what I am.

    I do respect anyone whose actions are humane regardless of his/her beliefs. The only problem I have is their continuous attempt/preaching to convert me to a spiritual supernatural believer without any evidence of the supernatural. It is annoying. I have been through this for the past more than 40 years now. Enough is enough.

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