1 in 5 Americans Admit to Choosing No Religion

It looks like Hell is going to get mighty crowded. According to the Pew Research Center, 19 percent of Americans identify as either atheist, agnostic, or believe in nothing in particular.

Come to the dark side, my idolatrous brothers and sisters. We have cookies and great sex.

The uptick in “the Nones” has been kind of staggering. In 1990, only 6 percent of adults in the United States did not identify with a religion. That number jumped to 15 percent in 2008. It’s conventional wisdom that young people are the godless heathens who are destroying society, but it looks like the picture is more complicated than that. According to USA Today:

Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, theorizes why None has become the “default category.” He says, “Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before.”

So it’s young people, yes. But it’s also older people and a general disinterest over all. Hey Boomers! Stop making God hate us! You just can’t let your kids do anything on their own, can you?

The growth of the Nones could well be mitigated by immigration from religious countries. (Soon we may discover who conservative Republicans hate the most: brown people or atheists.) What is really interesting, though, is the number of people who are brought up in a religious tradition who then leave. This is the primary way the Nones grow, and the number is surprisingly large.

But the chief way the category grows is by “switchers.” A 2009 Pew Forum look at “switching” found more than 10% of American adults became Nones after growing up within a religious group.

I had to do a double-take. Ten percent of American adults leave a religious faith and become Nones. Where were all those adults when I left my faith in high school? They could have been helpful.

But no matter. There is a growing opportunity for children who question the existence of God to get the support they need. For example, the Secular Student Alliance is an organization that has been growing at a staggering speed.

This trend toward the irreligious is a definite win for society at large. Religion is one of the more obvious examples of uncritical thinking in society today. Worse yet, this type of unquestioning acceptance of ancient stories fosters a culture of ignorance that bleeds into other aspects of our lives.  Abandoning religion isn’t sufficient to combat all of combat all non-evidence based beliefs we are bombarded with on a regular basis, but it’s a start. If we can abandon a particular irrationality that was previously so important, then surely we can dismiss the ridiculous claims made by anti-vaccination activists and psychics.

I’m especially encouraged by the number of “switchers.” People are not simply accepting the atheism of their parents. They are thinking for themselves, and thinking is something I can have faith in.

Related posts:

Pastor Compares Atheists to “Terrorists, Sex Offenders,” Suggests National Registry

Americans Losing Confidence in Religious Institutions

Will Too Much Thinking Make You an Atheist?

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


Lynn D.
Lynn D5 years ago


Roger M.
Past Member 5 years ago

So just the 81 % believing in children's fairy stories then.

Zelda Penzel
Zelda Penzel5 years ago

This is an outrage, a blatant attempt at voter suppression that must be made illegal if not already illegal. Right-wingnut governors must be held accountable and impeached for making this the law in their states.

F W.
F Wilson5 years ago


Jim W.
Mark S5 years ago

Speaking as someone who has a christian
fundamentalist (aka evangelical, charismatic, etc)
family and who opted out at 16 or 17, I can say
when Christopher Hitchens said "Religion poisons
everything", never a truer word spoken.

My family are zombies, unable to reason and unable
to accept me for who I am, leading to nasty
aggression towards me. I tried over the years,
but sadly, such people have no understanding of taking
responsibility for their actions. No choice for me but estrangement
and ultimately no more contact.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson5 years ago

Success! medieval times may be ending! it's about time fairytales took their rightful place... in story books.

Glenn Byrnes
Glenn Byrnes5 years ago

If this keeps up, Heaven will become a ghost town.

Richard Zane Smith

charles b. said:
"We happily develop the most outrageous explanations for the world's existence because we refuse to believe that humans, so important to themselves, must be the center of the universe."

didn't you mean to say outrageous claims exist because we INSIST on believing we are the center of the universe?
Assuming the existence of a "supreme being" in and above the universe(s) I think its safe to say WHATEVER explanation we have been give to define IT would be very shallow and contrived at best. EVERY human answer I've EVER been given is riddled with problems and inconsistencies. We barely know what a human is, let alone something that's more possibly inconceivable to any earth bound human experience.
Then to assume that one teacher(or teachers) somehow have the correct belief, is to even further stretch faith beyond reason. And we can't even talk about faith without using reason.

charles b.
charles barnard5 years ago

For those who question the existence of themselves and the Universe.

'I don't know.' is a far better answer than 'I believe without reason.'

Martin Luther said "Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding."

Believe whatever you want, just don't try and enforce it upon everyone else...or force them to pay for your beliefs.

The most bitter fights are family fights, and the constant state of conflict between the religions of Abraham (Judism, Christianity, Muslim) who all believe in the same mono-multi-theistic god says a lot about how 'good' religion is for society.

We are driven to come up with reasons for everything around us...this doesn't mean that reasons actually exist. We happily develop the most outrageous explanations for the world's existence because we refuse to believe that humans, so important to themselves, must be the center of the universe.

Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin5 years ago


I rest my case.