Is the rise of the religiously unaffiliated good or bad?

It has been established that the number of people in the US who self-identify as unaffiliated with any religion is steadily on the rise, now reaching about 20%. One would expect that those who are religious would see it as a bad thing, while the non-religious would see this as a good thing, resulting in an 80-20% split as to whether this trend was bad or good.

But a new survey has somewhat surprising results. They find that only 48% say it is a bad thing, while 11% say it is a good thing, with 39% saying it does not matter. The disaggregated results are also interesting. Among both the religious and the unaffiliated, the number of people who say it doesn’t matter is pretty sizable, varying from 30% to 50%.

One result that is not surprising is that you are more likely to think it is a bad thing if you are older, a white evangelical, or attend services regularly.

So what we have is a significant number who say ‘meh’ to this trend. What is suggests to me is that whether one is religious or not, a significant number think that religion is not such a significant factor and to me that seems like a good thing, because the less seriously we take religion, the better.


  1. raven says

    A lot of xians are just census xians, box checkers.

    That is the data.

    1. Dawkins found this in the UK with his Ipso Facto poll.

    2. Barna, the evangelical polling group found the same thing in the USA recently. 37% of the US population are “post xians”.

    Their data says we are on the way to being a post-xian society. Sounds good to me. It’s a race between that and how much damage the fundies can do as their influence dies out.

  2. kevinalexander says

    It costs nothing to say that you believe. In America it can be very costly to admit that you don’t and if you don’t care then it only takes a shrug to tick ‘yes’ on a poll.

  3. says

    I think it’s one place where “spirituality” is a big win. There are a lot of woo-woos that no longer consider themselves “religious” because they no longer have a world-view they want to enforce. It’s that which is politically damaging. So they act as a political drag on the far out creationists and wingnut elite.

  4. MNb says

    I don’t care about the rise of the nones. What I care about is how people put their convictions in practice.

  5. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    In this case, what I care about is how people put their lack of convictions in practice.

  6. scottbelyea says

    I was with you down to the final sentence, but you go off the rails there.

    “What is suggests to me is that whether one is religious or not, a significant number think that religion is not such a significant factor and to me that seems like a good thing, because the less seriously we take religion, the better.”

    The flaw here is that there are many people who take their religion seriously, but would say that it is not (and should not be) a significant factor in the political arena or anywhere else beyond their own personal belief.

  7. Frank says


    Speaking of religious affiliation, I probably see more Christian-themed ads on your site than on any other I visit. Obviously I have no reason to click on them, but does FTB raise revenue when they are clicked on? If so, I wouldn’t mind seeing how I could obtain my Doctor of Ministry degree a few times a day.

    (In either case, I would have thought that Google or whatever company selects ads would be better at targeting than this.)

  8. Mano Singham says

    The interesting thing that I learned recently is that the ads the reader sees are largely (or even exclusively) determined by the browsing history of the reader. So basically even if 10 of you are reading the same page at the same time, each one of you will see different ads.

    This can lead to some amusing results. Someone told me recently that the number of daily pushups that one should be able to do should correspond to your numerical age. This seemed implausible to me (should a 60-year old really be able to do 60 pushups?) so I searched around to see if I could find any data on this and ended up at a lot of fitness sites. Then I noticed that for some time after that I would get a lot of body builder and similar ads!

    But yes, FtB does get something for each click but it would not be ethical to click on them just to get ad money from them. So please only click on ads that you are really interested in. Thanks.

  9. aljones909 says

    A recent poll in the U.K. found among 18 – 24 year olds: ‘41% found religion a cause of evil in the world’ while 14% said it was a cause for good. 25% of young people said they believed in God, 19% believed in a non-Godlike ‘spiritual greater power’ and 38% were atheists who didn’t believe in any greater spiritual power.

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