Hallelujah and amen-eh, atheism rising fast in the US

With all the religious babble coming from DC in the middle of an election year, it might be surprising to hear that religiosity is declining and atheism rising in the US. But that’s what a new poll says (.pdf) and the change over the last few years is quite promising:

Atheism is on the rise in the United States and elsewhere while religiosity is declining, according to a new worldwide poll. “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” conducted by WIN-Gallup International headquartered in Switzerland, found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 – when the poll was last conducted – to 60 percent.

Those who said they were “convinced” atheists rose from 1 to 5 percent. And 33 percent of the people polled said that they don’t consider themselves as a “religious person.”

Hallelujah and amen-eh! For they had eyes but could not see. Here’s hoping this trend away from the comforting fantaies of our species’ youth continues.


  1. says

    Maybe I’m just afraid of good news but I really didn’t find that poll convincing. Dropping from 73% to 60% in the U.S. – where?! Certainly not in the midwest and from what I hear not in the south. More drop in the northeast because they’re disgusted with the Deliverance crowd in the rest of U.S., maybe, but 13% is a lot. If measured by noise religion is still rising (perhaps the last gasp but I think that is wishful thinking). If anything religion has just steadily become more extreme and more powerful. They’re winning long-term and the brief respites where maybe we take something back is not enough – the score over the decades of my lifetime is they’re winning. Now the totals, not so much, because the “moderates” have disappeared, gone silent or gone crazy, but that’s the point – it’s all more polarized today. We have the Masada crowd now who will die or win. Some people have dribbled over to the side of reason, but that’s mostly because everything is so polarized there is no middle ground. Welcome the new rational people but don’t get complacent and assume that means the other side is losing. For them failure means going to hell so they’ll fight with everything they have, fair or dirty, the ends justify the means. The wars is on and it’s a very long battle, so yeah for good news, but don’t get cocky.

  2. Draken says

    I’m also surprised by the European division:

    “Question: Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you are a religious person, not a religious persons or a convinced atheist?”

    In the top-10 atheists, Denmark, Sweden and Norway are suspiciously absent, while the Netherlands is featuring. Normally NL is lagging a bit behind them.

    The poll also doesn’t measure dogmatism and orthodoxy, of course. 85% of Brazil claim to be religious, but then happily trample all over Catholic doctrine like birth control.

  3. jenny6833a says

    There is comparative value in asking the same question year after year. However, at least today, it’s a terrible question because the terms are undefined and are not exclusive.

    The answers would be very different if the asked, “Irrespective of whether you attend a place of worship or not, would you say you a) strongly believe in one or more supernatural powers and carefully follow their dictates, b) believe in one or more such powers, but do not carefully follow their dictates, or c) do not believe in supernatural powers”?

  4. brucegee1962 says

    Jenny, I’m not sure what kind of results you’re expecting to get from your question, but I suspect practically no-one would answer (a) to it. Most Christians (at least of the Protestant brand) are trained to believe that being saved has nothing to do with “following the dictates” of their religion — in fact, the dictates themselves are literally impossible to follow, since even the slightest deviation from them causes you to be damned. It’s all about whether you say you believe in Jesus or not — that’s the only thing necessary. So they’d look at your question and say “Well of COURSE I can’t follow the dictates of my religion — but I don’t have to, because Jesus died for my sins, and that’s all I need to know.” Hence answer B.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    I found it very odd that they broke it down by income, but not any other type of demographics. It would be interesting to see if there was a big upswing amongst the young. Anecdotally, I’ve heard from my son that his high school has a big upswing of self-described atheists.


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