Atheists Are Sometimes More Religious Than Christians

Jun 5, 2018

By Sigal Samuel

Americans are deeply religious people—and atheists are no exception. Western Europeans are deeply secular people—and Christians are no exception.

These twin statements are generalizations, but they capture the essence of a fascinating finding in a new study about Christian identity in Western Europe. By surveying almost 25,000 people in 15 countries in the region, and comparing the results with data previously gathered in the U.S., the Pew Research Center discovered three things.

First, researchers confirmed the widely known fact that, overall, Americans are much more religious than Western Europeans. They gauged religious commitment using standard questions, including “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

Second, the researchers found that American “nones”—those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular—are more religious than European nones. The notion that religiously unaffiliated people can be religious at all may seem contradictory, but if you disaffiliate from organized religion it does not necessarily mean you’ve sworn off belief in God, say, or prayer.

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8 comments on “Atheists Are Sometimes More Religious Than Christians

  • A Skeptic reads the Atlantic.

    A new study shows how poorly we understand the beliefs of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular.
    .
    Americans are deeply religious people—and atheists are no exception.

    Got it in one, well done Atlantic.

    … whereas only 23% of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty, 27% of American nones say this …

    Right, we need to be careful exactly how we define people who self-select as non-denominational.

    Atlantic journalists please note: Nones and Atheists are not the same thing. Got that?

    Consider the rise of “atheist churches,” which cater to Americans who have lost faith in supernatural deities but still crave community, enjoy singing with others, and want to think deeply about morality. It’s religion, minus all the God stuff.

    We’re not given the Atlantic’s definition of religion. Here are my dictionary’s:

    A state of life bound by religious vows; the condition of belonging to a religious order

    2(a) in a Christian Church context: A particular religious order or denomination; a religious house

    2(b) in a Christian Church context: A member of a religious order, specifically a member of the clergy

    3(a) Action or conduct indicating belief in, obedience to, and reverence for a god, gods, or similar superhuman power; the performance of religious rites or observances

    3(b) A religious duty or obligation

    4(a) A particular system of faith and worship

    4(b) figuratively: A pursuit, interest, or movement, followed with great devotion

    etc.

    Ahh, perhaps this is what the Atlantic means: That atheists can be pursue the interests of atheists with great devotion?

    Except that atheists have no such position …

    Last month, almost 1,000 people streamed into a church in San Francisco for an unprecedented event billed as “Beyoncé Mass.” … They used Queen Bey’s songs, which are replete with religious symbolism, as the basis for a communal celebration—one that had all the trappings of a religious service

    It is an observation that it’s difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between parodies of fundamentalism or other absurd beliefs and their genuine proponents, since they both seem equally insane*.

    This is a crazy mixed-up World we’re living in – and it’s way too tiring to also read the Atlantic.

    Thank you, and good night.

    *Source: RationalWiki



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  • @OP – Second, the researchers found that American “nones”—
    those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular—
    are more religious than European nones.
    The notion that religiously unaffiliated people can be religious at all may seem contradictory,

    Actually, I think the pollsters found that people self-identifying as having some form of religion or none, are using vague terminology with each to his or her own meaning of the terms!



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  • I thought this an excellent piece, but only the start of one. Usually the Atlantic do far more detail. Not enough professors with different views.

    I think language still entangles the ordinary decently godless American in the icky business of religion, too much and utterly unwittingly. It is the little narratives by which we live and decide, that project wish thinking, the importance of faith etc., that create the substrate for too many lives. And too many think by saying. No time is allowed in between for the process of editing.



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  • This is gibberish. Equating atheists with nones who only call themselves that because they don’t go to church but still believe in sky pixies is ridiculous. There are zero religious atheists by definition.



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  • @OP – They gauged religious commitment using standard questions, including “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”

    This is not a test of “religious commitment”.

    It is a test of commitment to active membership of a fundamentalist Abrahamic religion which has a named God using a capital “G”!

    It is like the assertion, “Atheists deny the existence of god”!

    When asked which god? it invariably turns out, atheists are supposed to deny the existence of whichever (assumed default) god, the questioner believes in!



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  • Alan4discussion #5
    Jun 6, 2018 at 12:06 pm

    When asked which god? it invariably turns out, atheists are supposed to deny the existence of whichever (assumed default) god, the questioner believes in!

    As I’ve mentioned a couple of times I’ve been watching Matt Dillahunty’s videos on Youtube and have found them exceptionally interesting in learning how to debate theists. A common question from phone-in callers is how can you possibly be an atheist or how can you not believe in god. When the caller is asked how much time they spend worrying about their lack of belief in every other god than the one in their own religion they tend to get the point.

    The same type of reply serves when Pascal’s Wager comes up. What if you’re wrong to be an atheist and you end up going to hell? Ok, so how much do you, as say a Christian, worry about being wrong that Islam is not in fact the true religion and you could end up in their hell?

    Theists are always astonished when someone doesn’t believe in their particular sky pixie but have no problem not believing in anyone else’s. It really stumps them when it’s pointed out that they are in fact atheists too, in respect of everyone else’s gods, just that we actual full blown atheists believe in one fewer god than they do.



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  • Arkrid #4

    American “nones”—those who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular—are more religious than European nones.

    Nones is a bizarre category perhaps devised merely to monitor the decline of organised religion. Of particular interest in the States because of its extraordinary application in politics and international politics (Cold War).

    I can’t find a reason for this comment

    This is gibberish. Equating atheists with nones who only call themselves that because they don’t go to church

    Atheists are but one of the three component groups in “nones”. This mix of the three is different on both sides of the pond.

    A separate identity of being only culturally of a religion mirrors this geographical divide, as does acting out in religious manner on a Sunday if an unbeliever. All separate stages of letting go.



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  • Also the “Atheists being religious” are those attending secular churches, as expected more common in the US. Religion of course is not necessarily about a god but etymologically is being “bound” in common belief around a Church.

    Conversely cultural Christians like Richard Dawkins are a think much more in the UK.



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