Newsweek reports the results of a religious identification survey they recently conducted. The bits of interest to me are:
- 91% of Americans “believe in God”.
- 82% identify themselves as Christian.
- 10% have “no religion”.
- 6% “don’t believe in a God at all”.
- 3% “self-identifies as atheist”
While I’m mindful of comments like Paul’s, the last two lines seem to indicate that 6% of Americans are atheists, but half of them don’t want to call themselves that, for whatever reason.
By contrast, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) in 2001 found that 0.4% of Americans identified themselves as “atheist”. I seriously doubt that the ranks of the godless have swelled fifteenfold in just six years, despite all the efforts by people like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Pat Robertson, and Ted Haggard, and I’m more inclined to suspect differences in methodology. After all, ARIS also found that only 0.5% of Americans identified themselves as “Evangelical”.
For the same reason, I’m not sure we can read a real rise into the fact that ARIS found that 76.5% of Americans were Christians in 2001, vs. 87% in this Newsweek poll.
The article also says,
Nearly half (47 percent) of the respondents felt the country is more accepting of atheists today that it used to be and slightly more (49 percent) reported personally knowing an atheist.
which clearly shows that atheists suck at PR. Maybe we should get some badges or club jackets or something.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the public rejects the scientific theory of evolution; one-third (34 percent) of college graduates say they accept the Biblical account of creation as fact. Seventy-three percent of Evangelical Protestants say they believe that God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years; 39 percent of non-Evangelical Protestants and 41 percent of Catholics agree with that view.
which I guess confirms what we already knew: that evangelicals are more nutsoid than Catholics are more nutsoid than non-evangelicals. And I suspect the corollary is that “Evangelical” is what the fundies started calling themselves after they tainted the word “Fundamentalist”.
Another thing to note: if you get into a discussion about the nature of God or something like that, you’re likely to run into someone who’ll say that it’s naïve to think of God as a bearded old man on a cloud, that God is an essence permeating the whole fabric of existence, or some such. But the numbers above show that a huge chunk of Americans do, if I may crudely generalize, believe in a bearded old man on a cloud.