On Wedsnday, Pew Research published an updated 10 facts about atheists in which they put 10 mostly known facts about atheists, what they believe, and how they often align politically among other factors. These facts pair well with my own 10 myths about atheists.
However, I felt some of the facts needed to be further examined, so here they are:
1. The share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years.
The number of adults who claim to be atheists has risen from 1.6% in 2007 to 3.1% in 2014. Interestingly, 4% say they are agnostic. Obviously, this number is going to be low as many people who don’t believe in God do still avoid saying so for many reasons or often avoid saying they are atheist because they don’t understand exactly what the word means.
2. Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population.
68% of atheists polled were men and 78% were white. This is not shocking either as atheism has long struggled with inclusiveness. Historically, atheism has been seen as a boys club, but that is obviously changing and I believe it is changing quickly. This change cannot come without a conscious effort, though.
3. Self-identified atheists tend to be aligned with the Democratic Party and with political liberalism.
This one is not surprising at all. Speaking anecdotally I rarely come across non-liberal atheists. There is a high number of Libertarians as far as I can tell but still tend to be on the socially-liberal side of politics. Republican atheists most certainly exist, but they are quite rare as Republican social issues tend to be very theocratic.
4. Although the literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who believes that God does not exist,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, 8% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit.While it may be true some people who claim to be atheists say they believe in God, they are not atheists. I can say I am a centaur, but if I am not half-horse, my statement is simply false. If you claim that you know God exists, but you’re an atheist, you are either misinformed on the meaning of words, or you’re a liar. I have previously written about this silly statistic, here.
5. Unsurprisingly, more than nine-in-ten self-identified atheists say religion is not too or not at all important in their lives, and nearly all (97%) say they seldom or never pray.
Wait, why are 3% of atheists saying they pray? See #4.
6. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they [share their religious views] at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people.
This makes sense to me. Unless you’re vocally speaking out against religion, I would say you have very little reason to make your views known. The same is true for many religious people who don’t just announce their beliefs for no reason. For many, atheism is simply personal.
7. Virtually no atheists (1%) turn to religion for guidance on questions of right and wrong, but increasing numbers are turning to science.
Again, 1%? Who are these people? See #4 again. And yes, science can help us determine right from wrong, and it is a much better source for answering moral questions than religion will ever be.
8. Americans like atheists less than they like members of most major religious groups.
This is well known and is a reason many people still won’t admit to being atheists. We are simply one of the most hated groups on the planet.
9. About half of Americans (51%) say they would be less likely to support an atheist candidate for president.
This is why someone like Bernie Sanders, who is more than obviously an atheist, cannot say it. This is why President Obama has to overcompensate for his lack of religious beliefs and remind everyone he is a Christian.
10. About half of Americans (53%) say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral, while 45% say belief in God is necessary to have good values.
This is a really good stat and shows the progress groups like the American Humanist Association are making with their campaigns such as “Good Without A God” and showing the world that atheists don’t need religion to be good people.