New Study Shows Breakdown of People Who Believe You Need God to be Good

A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution has a couple of notable results (PDF) regarding religious demographics in America and whether you need God to be moral.

First, the demographics:

A couple of things stand out there, neither of which is particularly shocking but both of which are still worth celebrating:

You’re seeing the demise of religious conservatism; it’s 47% of the Silent Generation and only 17% of the Millennials.

Non-religious people (which admittedly include those who believe in a “higher power”) make up a larger proportion of each successive generation. Nearly a quarter of Millennials are non-religious.

Then there’s this breakdown of how various groups of people respond to the idea that you must “believe in God in order to be moral and have good values.” It’s going underreported in both accounts of the study and PRRI’s own press release (perhaps for good reason), but it’s really fascinating to see:

This may not be newsworthy only because it confirms everything we already thought we knew.

When it comes to the idea that belief in God is synonymous with morality, the list of people who disagree include: the young, educated, politically independent, liberal, religiously unaffiliated, and rich.

What do those groups have in common? My first thought was: They’re all people who are often surrounded by non-religious individuals. They have more exposure to people who are good without God.

When God is a big part of your life and you’re in a bubble that doesn’t allow you to fathom any other way to live, it’s not surprisingly that you think God is needed to be moral.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.