Number of Unchurched in USA Increases to One in Five

According to a recent Pew Forum poll, one in five American adults say they do not have a religious affiliation. This is up from 15% of those polled five years ago and reflects a strong trend in religious affiliation in the United States.

I think this trend is at least in part a result of the increasingly aggressive evangelism by secularists and atheists in our society.

This secularist/atheist evangelism is probably most effective in the enclosed environments of  our college campuses.

Late adolescents who yearn to hear their professors say they are brilliant are easy marks for lecture hall propaganda. The atheist pose becomes even more wish-fulfilling when the other students adopt it, giving them the chance to use it to fit in. It also fits neatly with the late adolescent’s need to find to stage a cost-free rebellion. In short, going atheist gives them the cachet of brilliance they want, the acceptance from their peers they need and the pose of being a rebel in a trendy and safe way. It’s a social win-win-win for them.

Evidently, insulting Christians and verbally harassing them and then bragging about it to one another is part of the social culture of their newfound unbelief. I read a lot of blogs, including a few atheist blogs. One thing that impresses me is the derivative quality of the thinking on the atheist blogs.

They quote from very popular books as if the thought was their own and advance arguments that are at least a hundred years old and then high-five one another for their cleverness. There is such a lot of bragging on these blogs, including obvious lying, about verbal jousts they claim to have had with “faith heads”

This might be funny. It is funny. But when this adolescent boorishness is multiplied by thousands of individuals, all trying to outdo one another in insulting and verbally assaulting a group of people, it becomes verbal harassment, hate speech and the fuel that can run the engine of legal and social discrimination.

Verbal attacks on people of faith are ubiquitous in our society. You see them very time you turn on the tv or listen to the radio. I’ve had to delete and ban to keep this blog from being overrun by them.

It doesn’t surprise me that the number of people who do not chose to identify themselves as part of any particular church is climbing at a time when verbal attacks on people of faith and faith itself are so rampant in our society. People are running away from religious affiliation to keep from being labeled and harassed. They are avoiding any consideration of faith so that they can appear cool and trendy.

I’ve been aware of this trend for some time. My work as an elected official has made me the target of the verbal harassment and hate speech unbelievers feel free to dump on people of faith. I not only saw the harbingers of what was coming, I lived through some of them.

I knew there was a constant agitation through the courts to limit the freedom of speech and expression of religious people, as well as remove any vestiges of Christianity from our public monuments and art. But the HHS Mandate took even me by surprise. I did not expect legal discrimination against people of faith to move so far, so fast.

These things are why I began Public Catholic. Christians must take their blinders off and allow themselves to see this. We need to stop running away from these bullies and begin standing up for Jesus.

The Pew Report underlines that we also need to do a much better job of talking about the wonderful things that Christianity has given and continues to give civilization. The attacks on Christianity that I’ve seen and read are based on biased, bogus scholarship that is basically propaganda used to justify hate speech. All we have to do to counter that is stop letting them badger us into silence and begin telling the truth.

As Bob Dylan said, the times, they are achangin’. It’s up to us to decide what part we’ll play in shaping those changes.

The Pew Forum article describing their report says in part:

The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).3

No religious affiliation in America has grown to 19.6%

This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.


The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans – sometimes called the rise of the “nones” – is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones.4 A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation (32%), compared with just one-in-ten who are 65 and older (9%). And young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives.


These generational differences are consistent with other signs of a gradual softening of religious commitment among some (though by no means all) Americans in recent decades. Pew Research Center surveys conducted over the last 10 years, for example, find modest growth in the number of people who say they seldom or never attend religious services, as well as a declining number who say they never doubt the existence of God. (Read more here.)

  • Mr. V.

    I think a great part of it is that we are a nation obsessed with entertainment. Yes, there is poverty, and homelessness, as there is in every time period, but largely, this is an opulent time for America. All too many of us are sluggish and apathetic and tend to be more interested in trying out the new XBOX game, or catching the new movie, or partying, than going to Church or having to live their faith.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think you’re right. I’ve never read 1984 (need to do it) but I’ve seen the old movie. There are some parallels between that and what you say. Also Fahrenheit 451, which I have read. The point is that we have allowed our entertainments to shut off our critical thinking abilities. The time we spend on these chirpy things uses up most of our lives. I’m guilty of this, too. I spend a LOT of time, gazing at the computer screen. (May be part of my weight problem, now that I think about it. :-) )

  • Arkenaten

    “Verbal attacks on people of faith are ubiquitous in our society.”

    Didn’t someone high up in your government once state openly that atheists weren’t patriots?
    I could spend some time trawling the internet (maybe Bob would know? Bet he would) to find out who it was, but I have a strong feeling it was George Bush. Apologies if I’m off base, George.

    The more strident the religious call from some the more strident the response from some others.
    Human nature.
    You may have been called to spread the faith but there’s nothing to stop you doing it gently and with a smile, is there?
    It might say witches must not be suffered to live in the Bible but people don’t have to be burnt at the stake any more, you know?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Douglas, even if this is true, and it may be, we elect all sorts of idiots in this country (I’m not necessarily excepting myself here :-) ) it proves little. I am not talking about one person who says something and then is either ignored or slapped down. I am talking about the widespread, constant, rude, hateful hazing of a whole group of people. That is what is being done to Christians.

      As for burning people at the stake, I haven’t done that lately. Although, if you keep on annoying me, I may reconsider! :-)

      • Arkenaten

        While I acknowledge the humour I stand by what I have said.
        Bash the atheists and some will bash back…and vica versa of course.

        I occasionally google some of the stuff you write about and I wont deny it doesn’t happen but
        it appears not to be as vitriolic as the picture you paint and certainly not in the States.

        Just because Peter hacked off someone’s ear, doesn’t mean you all have to follow suit, even in the metaphorical sense.

        It was that good ol’ boy, George Bush snr. I googled it. Came up right away which surprised me a bit. And when a Head of State opens his mouth, even if he has his big fat foot in it, people still listen. Usually the wrong type, but they do. And remember, a country gets the government it deserves.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          I think that to some extent you are right when you say a country getS the government it deserves. However, like most statements, it can be taken too far. Did South Africa deserve the apartheid government? Does China deserve what it’s got? We all inherit our governments to a great extent.

          One thing I’ve seen with all people who abuse others is that they always deny that they are doing it, and they usually blame the person they are abusing for “forcing” them to it. The hazing I’m talking about happens every day; on our college campuses, in government actions which infringe on freedom of speech where religion is concerned, in vague threats, etc. You should see my emails. It verges on hate speech directed at Christians and Christian beliefs all the time.

          Also, it happens right here on this blog. I read atheist blogs. I don’t see Christians coming on them to hijack conversations, start arguments and insult the people there. However that behavior is a constant problem with Christian-based blogs. You might be surprised by the number of arrogant comments I’ve deleted over this particular post.

          One comment I’ve heard a lot is that if I want to criticize atheists, then I’m fair game for whatever they might post on my blog. However, I repeat, the atheist blogs are full to the top with constant yammering about Christ, Christianity and belief. I do not feel that because people who post there are saying things about my faith that this gives me some sort of fiat to go on those boards and attack either them or their beliefs. Evidently, other Christians agree with me.

          When I say that these atheists who keep doing this are boors, I am going easy. There are a lot of names for people who go around attacking others in this manner. None of them I know of are flattering.

          I let you talk here Douglas, but I wonder sometimes if you are capable of talking about anything else besides atheism. I think if I posted a cooking recipe for shrimp creole, you would find a way to turn the discussion to an argument about your atheist beliefs.

          • Arkenaten

            Every nation gets the government it deserves, ultimately. Even South Africa and China.
            And if you examine the statement thoroughly you will understand why.
            “I read atheist blogs. I don’t see Christians coming on them to hijack conversations, start arguments and insult the people there.”
            lol! Then you don’t visit too many blogs perhaps” Pop over to Bob’s blog and read some of his posts. Two commenters, Bob Calven and Joe Clark are relentless.

            You should occasionally go visit some of the more righteous fundamentalist Christian blogs. Sheesh, you don’t want to know what some of them think of atheists, never mind Catholics. According to these dear folk you and I are toast!

            For the record. The US still has a very high persentage of religious adherants – certainly far highter than much of Europe- and has one of ,if not the lowest percentage of atheists in the top 50 countries in the world, around 6% according to a 2005 report by Zukkerberg.

            And…..I will never discuss religion on a cooking blog, however, I will always stand up for atheist shrimps no matter which post they pop up on.

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  • Dan C

    Late to this conversation, I find the children (often late-twenty somethings and thirty-somethings) listing as “nones” to have experienced, like me, aggressive right wing evangelicalistic politics.

    This is a huge turn-off and the fact that religion is losing after the excessive religionists of Reagan/Bush/Falwell/Reed/Robertson who were active when this cohort was born and in school (and then had their church lady moment with Clinton) is telling.

    Maybe the problem isn’t the atheists, but the believers, or, as I see these conservative evangelicals the perversion of the believers.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think this is a real factor as well Dan. These people are making false idols of their politics and that does great harm.