the American Religious Identification Survey, has just been released,
and the atheosphere is as giddy as a bunch of schoolgirls upon the
release of Harry Potter and the Adjective Noun.
The most significant finding, IMHO, is that the “Nones”
(atheist/agnostic/no religious preference) are up since 2001,
although nowhere near as dramatically as betwen 1990 and 2001. But
still the fastest-growing segment of the population.
One new feature is that, unlike the 1990 and 2001 ARISes, the 2008
survey asked “what do you believe?”-type questions, rather than just
“what do you call yourself?”
(p. 5) lists atheists as comprising 0.7% of the US population, and
agnostics at 0.9%. However,
(p. 8) lists people’s answers to
the question of whether there is a god: “There is no such thing”
(atheism) comes in at 2.3%, “There is no way to know” (proper
agnosticism) at 4.3%, and “I’m not sure” (common agnosticism) at 5.7%.
(IMHO it might be interesting to see how many people haven’t really
thought about it. Maybe next time.)
In other words, there are a bunch of people who are atheists and
agnostics, but don’t call themselves that. Presumably they either just
call themselves “None of the above”, “No religion”, or “Spiritual, but
not religious”; or else they’re members of religious groups that allow
that kind of latitude, such as Buddhism or Taoism.
(p. 11) shows that religion is stronger among women than men. In most
religions listed, there are more women than men. “None” is an
exception to this rule (as are “Eastern Religions”, “Muslim”, and “New
Religious Movements/Other”), but the skew is most pronounced: 60% of
Nones are male vs. 40% female.
Update, 16:14: USA Today has a nice
of the survey results.
I’m guessing that the sharp drop in “Other religions” in Wyoming, and of “Don’t know/Refuse” in Delaware represent statistical anomalies (i.e., they happened to get a bad batch of poll respondents), rather than real demographic trends.