Sunday, June 05, 2011

Gallup poll: More Americans are atheists than ever

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A new Gallup poll presents us with some expected yet heartening statistics: The number of Americans who are not only irreligious, but who actively deny the existence of any one or more god(s), is on the rise and has attained higher levels than ever before.

First, they posed the more obvious question:

Gallup poll: “Do you believe in God?” (results for 2011 May 5-8: Yes = 92%, No = 7%”)

If that “7%” seems a little low to you compared to past surveys, keep in mind that this isn’t the number of people who claim to be unaffiliated with any particular religion (ie. “religious nones”), which ranges anywhere from from 10% to 20%, depending on which survey you look at. However, it’s important to remember that even if up to a full fifth of Americans deny adhering to any particular faith, a large number them, perhaps even a majority, still believe in some supernatural entity or other, even if it’s some vague sort of “energy force” that defies all explanation or reason.

The strict, textbook definition of atheism may be a mere and simple lack of belief in any one or more god(s), but quite honestly, for someone to claim to be an atheist and retain any credibility, it entails also rejecting any superstitious concept that is functionally identical to god-belief. And so, Gallup offers us these results to a second phrasing of the question:

Gallup poll: “Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?” (results for 2011 May 5-8: Yes = 91%, No = 8%”)

This is more interesting. Not only is there still nearly 10% of Americans who outright deny any belief in any sort of deity or supernatural entity, but there actually appears to be more who deny the existence of any cosmic intelligence than those who merely deny the existence of God, specifically. My guess would be some form of bias in the questioning or answer sampling; but, even so, this is still quite a spectacular result.

Although a few previous polls gave results that matched or even exceeded these latest Gallup findings, the majority of surveys until now usually concluded that only about 1% to 6% of Americans were actually atheistic (as opposed to merely nonreligious). Assuming that this Gallup poll isn’t merely another outlier and accurately represents the current trend of secularization, it definitely gives us something to cheer over as more and more people finally decide to cast away the cognitive manacles of superstition and embrace reason.

Finally, the poll also seems to confirm the usual stereotypes: Those who deny belief in any god or gods tend to be young, educated liberals who live on the East Coast and vote Democrat. Which is utterly unsurprising, of course; funnily enough, those who are more aware of the world around them and the people in it are more likely to realize that there’s no reason to believe in some phantasm to rationalize phenomena that logic and reason already explain so well.

(via Friendly Atheist)