A serious atheist survey

This one will take a little effort to respond to responsibly: no just clicking a button and going on! A sociologist is asking a lot of questions:

What do we know about the make-up of the atheist community both here in the United States and around the world? What are the perceptions of atheists about the state of atheism-related organizations and what these entities can or should do for them? What are the perceptions of atheists about believers? What types of atheists are there? How does being an atheist impact how one navigates in the social world? What is the demographic makeup of the atheist community both in the United States and around the world? What similarities and differences are there among atheists of different genders, ages, and geographical locations?

Take a half hour and answer the survey. There’s also a blog where the data is being discussed.


  1. wilsim says

    I was mislead – this survey took less than 30 minutes. Now what am I going to do with the next 7 minutes that I had set aside? ;)

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    I’ve been to the blog. The data ain’t being discussed. Instead the discussion is about the survey.

  3. says

    If you type fast it is only about 15 minutes. 140 wpm yaaaaaa.

    I am interested in seeing the results and such. And to see if they are used in any constructive way.

  4. says

    I was disappointed that the survey had some unstated assumptions about the nature of atheism which led to limited choices. I was thus prevented from fully expressing my views.

  5. stevenbrown says

    Done. Reading those questions makes me realize, not for the first time as I do read a fair amount of atheist blogs, how lucky I am to be an atheist in New Zealand. I have never felt any discrimination on account of my lack of belief. This might have something to do with being raised by atheist parents so I didn’t have to deal with any drama on that front.

    Are there any NZ atheists around here who have had problems? If there are I’d feel more motivated to get involved in some sort of atheist organization.

  6. says

    What types of atheists are there?

    1.Plus or minus. 2.Strong or weak.

    How does being an atheist impact how one navigates in the social world?

    Have you stopped beating your wife?

  7. John Morales says

    jenny6833a, there certainly were questions to which I could not respond because of none of the options applied, e.g. this one:

    5. Do you feel that there would be any social impacts if people in your family found out that you were an atheist?
    * There would be major positive social impacts
    * There would be moderate positive social impacts
    * There would be no social impacts at all
    * There would be moderate negative social impacts
    * There would be major negative social impacts

    (The people in my family have long known I am an atheist, so the subjunctive mood cannot possibly apply)

  8. Tony ∞The Queer Shoop∞ says

    I will be taking it when I can use my laptop later. I do know that being an atheist *has * had an impact on my navigation of the social world. Being a POC in the Bible Belt is hard enough. Adding atheist to that is doubly worse.

  9. stevenbrown says

    I also struggled to answer a few of them accurately. It seems a shame they did not add the text boxes to more of the questions to allow for people who don’t quite fit any of the options.

    Out of interest has anyone ever taken a survey that is free from annoying underlying assumptions that made them feel like they couldn’t answer in an accurate manner? I can’t think of any myself.

  10. 3zebras says

    I agree that there are big problems with the survey design. The question along the lines of ‘to what degree are religious believers stigmatised in your country.’ Well, the answer is not at all for Christians in Australia, but a sliding scale of a little bit to a very great deal for everyone else.

    The one thing that the survey did make me realise though, was that while I am perpetually incensed by examples of religious privilege, I don’t actually do anything useful with this frustration. I’m not a member of any atheist / sceptical / rationalist organisation. I don’t write write to my MP. I don’t even comment on the blogs I subscribe to (often).

    This laziness cannot stand. So what group can I join? What action can I take?

  11. John Morales says

    stevenbrown, yeah, I think I have — most recently, the Australian census.

    (How hard is it to add ‘none of the above’ to every single multiple-choice questionnaire, anyway?)

  12. John Morales says


    3zebras, if you are in Oz, you might consider joining the Secular Party of Australia, if you don’t find their platform objectionable, but they only operate in the political sphere.

    (Merely being a member helps them)

  13. stevenbrown says

    John: True, I didn’t think of the NZ census. And yes adding a none of the above or an ‘other’ with a text box like on some of the other questions would solve most of the problems.

  14. says

    Shit. I didn’t get the website they alluded to on the survey. And I can’t get back to it. P.Z. do you know the name of the website. And where is that book.

  15. Suido says


    Great comment. I blithely answered zero stigmatisation for religious believers, but was thinking only of christianity.

    I’m also pretty lazy with regard to secular advocacy beyond my immediate social circles, and that’s something I can definitely improve upon. Currently my federal and state members are both Liberal, so I’m sure any letters to them won’t be preaching to the choir…

    @JM: Thanks for the idea, I hadn’t encountered them before. Just read through their website, it seems nice, but I don’t see what they’re doing to achieve their aims. Will send them an email though.

  16. chigau (違う) says

    I did it but I’m now unsatisfied with my responses.
    I’d like to do it again using a less annoying computer.
    Would that be bad?

  17. crayzz says

    For the first question, I had to add this bit:

    “You’re asking the wrong question. It should be, “Is is moral to be irrational?” As far as I’m concerned, the answer is no. Irrationality leads to false ideas, and false ideas can harm people, sometimes in very bad ways (like children becoming sick because their parents refused to vaccinate them for whatever bad reason they had). To be religious, you must be irrational. Since my actions affect others, I feel I cannot risk harming another through my potentially false ideas. From this, it follows that being religious is immoral, but you’ve started at a symptom of the problem, rather than the cause. Especially since atheists are not always entirely rational people either.”

    A bit long winded, yeah, but I’m a little tired of people missing the point I’m trying to make.

  18. evilDoug says

    “What is your view of the comparative psychological health of believers in God and atheists”

    Three questions in an they are asking for major conjecture.

    I’m not a serious atheist, I am a flippant atheist. I flipped them the bird and hit the Exit button.

  19. says

    Out of interest has anyone ever taken a survey that is free from annoying underlying assumptions that made them feel like they couldn’t answer in an accurate manner? I can’t think of any myself.

    Me neither. Another thing that leaped out at me was that the gender options were Male, Female, or Transgender, which bugged the shit out of me.

  20. Charlie Foxtrot says

    Done. An interesting exercise. Made me think a bit more about local atheist groups.

    Also, I opined that both atheism and religiosity were ‘slightly stigmatized’ here in Australia – since it feels to me that there is a lot of ‘it’s not ‘Aussie” to offer a strong opinion either way about anything religious.

  21. ilex says

    3zebras, I had that same realization. It makes me glad that I took the time for the survey (even though it, like this comment, takes time away from dissertation-writing).

    crayzz, I tried to make a similar point. I’m not sure if it was clear, though, the little teensy text boxes make it really hard to edit.

    I’m looking forward to seeing the results. Even with the inevitable assumptions that guide question-writing, I’m really curious to see how non-believers handle a survey like this.

  22. Suido says

    I also struggled with questions 1 and 3. I opted for religious = non-religious, and explained that both groups exhibit wide ranges of morality/psychology and I can’t honestly say that one heterogeneous group is better than another heterogeneous group.

  23. John Morales says

    Well, that’s another peeve about this survey: the implied assumption that ‘nones’ and atheists are equivalent.

    (For that matter, I hold that atheists can be religious — not all religions are theistic)

  24. StevoR, fallible human being says

    Survey taken by this Aussie -cheers PZ.

    Thinking for a lot of the question how much it depends on the specifics and how inadequate some of the simple boxes are. For instance I check on atheist sites (such as this blog) most days of the week but not all every other day and will have maybe a day or two in a week where I don’t turn the computer on at all. Only boxes tho’ are daily or weekly or a few others even less applicable to me. Survey could’ve done with some extra options or allowed multiple responses for more questions I reckon. For many of the questions my answer would be depends – eg. atheist groups organised how and for what exactly? How uncomfortable would I be with public religious ceremonies would depend very much on specifics of how and what and where eg. a mild prayer at a memorial versus a full on Creationist sermon at a friends wedding and for one set questions 4-6 assumed that my (and everyones) atheism wasn’t already widely known. Interesting exercise anyhow, hope the results are useful.

  25. StevoR, fallible human being says

    That’s :

    For instance, I check on atheist sites (such as this blog) most days of the week but not all week, every week. Some weeks it may be only every other day if that and I will often have maybe a day or two in a week where I don’t turn the computer on at all.

    Also for religion being stigmatised or not – again very much depends on which religion we’re talking about as some are widely accepted and others stigmatised to varying extents depending on how ordinary or esoteric they appear to the “mainstream” society they are.