Declining Belief in God

Declining Belief in God June 20, 2022

The percentage of Americans who believe in God is declining, as a new Gallup Poll demonstrates.  And the demographic breakdown of this growing disbelief is particularly interesting.

According to the study report, the percentage of Americans who said that they believed in God held steady from the 1940s through the 1960s at 98%.  That is to say, nearly everybody.  In 2011, that number dropped to 92%.  Still a lot.  Between 2013 and 2017, the percentage dropped but held steady at 87%.

Today, though, according to these latest findings, the percentage is 81%.  That is still a big majority, but the drop–and the rate of the drop–is concerning.  Put another way, if you pick five random people, one of them is likely to be an atheist.

Gallup broke down their findings.  Looking at political affiliation, 92% of Republicans believe in God.  Among Independents, 81% do.  Democrats have the lowest percentage at only 72%.  Among self-described conservatives, 94% believe, as do 86% of moderates, and only 62% of liberals.

By age, the highest percentage of believers in God occurs among those 50-65 years of age at 88%, closely followed by those over 65 at 87%.  The number for those 30-49 is 81%.  There is a sharp drop, though, with 18-29, with only 62% believing in God.

By gender, 83% of women believe in God, compared to 80% for men.

Racially, “people of color” believe at a much higher rate, 88%, than “non-Hispanic white people” at 79%.

By education, 78% of college graduates believe, with 84% of non-college graduates.

Among married people, 88% believe in God, while 77% of the unmarried do not.  Among parents, 84% of adults with children under 18 believe in God, while 81% of parents of older children do.

Questions to think about and to discuss in the comments:

(1)  Why do you think the numbers are so low among Democrats and liberals?  It has not always been this way.  What has changed?

(2)  Why do you think the numbers are so low among young adults, between the ages of 18 and 29?  It has not always been this way.  What has changed?

(3)  Why do you think the numbers have dropped so much ?  What has happened between 2011 and now to cause the percentage of Americans who believe in God to drop by 11%?

My thoughts on the questions

I suspect that a major reason for not believing in God, especially in a climate that downplays reason in favor of  the will (“choice”), is not intellectual but volitional.  And the motivation is to avoid God’s moral claims on us.

Young adults who want to have sex without marriage, the political parties in thrall to pro-abortionists and LGBTQ activists, and the overall social mandate in elite circles that one must positively affirm gays and transexuals more or less require that God be left out of the picture.

To be sure, sinners can find God’s forgiveness, but that implies that sinners need forgiveness; that is, recognize themselves as sinners.  And this many people do not want to do.  They want to imagine that there is nothing wrong with what they do or want to do, that they are good people as they are.  Choosing to reject God makes that easier.

The LGBTQ movement has made remarkable strides in social acceptability since 2017, to the point that opposing that movement is no longer socially acceptable among liberals, young adults, and a large proportion of college-educated professionals.  Those are the groups that show the biggest jump in atheism.

And yet, the demographic with the largest percentage of believers in God is “people of color.”  They are currently part of the liberal coalition, and yet how long will that last, as the religious chasm between them and affluent white progressives keeps getting wider?

This is my theory.  Do you have a better one?


Illustration:  “Religion is Rubbish,” via Open Clipart, Public Domain.


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