Atheists have the lowest retention rate…

Atheists have the lowest retention rate… July 12, 2014

of any religious group.

You can only shout “There is no God!” and make the Sign of the Fist so many times before it gets kinda boring. The numbers tend to hover around 4% of the population. Most people don’t have the kind of personality necessary to make being a dedicated evangelical atheist like this guy personally fulfilling for them.

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  • In my area of the country, None is sitting at a solid 20%, and is likely to rise.

    • Tom

      None =/= atheist

      • Possibly. Possibly not.

        Nones in my area belong to the anti-religious Freedom From Religion Foundation or the Sunday Assembly. Both of which are Atheist organizations.

  • Scott Gifford

    If the guy in the picture is your idea of what atheists are, and a fist-pumping “there is no god” is all you think we have to say, you could stand to meet a few more atheists.

    • Catholic & loving it

      I’ve met “a few more Atheists” (a few of them are my friends, some acquaintances) & they’re pretty much all as devoutly Atheist (if not more devout) as the guy in the picture. Many constantly try to shove their Atheistic beliefs about Dawkins/Hitchens this & Carlin/Maher that & Christians are dumb, & they do this unceasingly. Also, you’re implying we’re generalizing Atheists (when you say not all Atheists are the same), but Atheists (in real life & online) ALWAYS generalize Christians. Double standard? To be perfectly honest (of my MANY encounters with disciples of Atheism), Atheism is an annoying religion that offers nothing but angry rants & empty fumes.

      • I think this is a somewhat modern phenomenon. Or more accurately it’s the revival of an older, maybe pre-WWI, phenomenon. For some reason 9/11, and George W. Bush, really freaked many atheists the heck out. Before that Bill Maher, for example and when he did “Politically Incorrect”, would occasionally say complementary things about churches. (I think he’s actually agnostic though)

        The atheists I knew before 9/11 varied, but some of them were pretty mild and tolerant. If pressed they’d say “Yes religion is a delusion”, but I think they didn’t like being pressed that way. Because mostly they had a “live and let live” philosophy. My online conversations were mostly on science fiction forums and that was a place full of atheists, but it wasn’t like the “online atheists” you see now. They might think my religion was weird, or want to bash on about the Inquisition, but they would be fairly tolerant on the whole.

        I’m kind of hoping to see those kinds of atheists online again. But “squeaky wheel gets the grease” and all maybe the more aggressive and proselytizing types are just naturally going to dominate in discussions over time.

        • Dave G.

          From what I remember, Maher only complimented churches when they fell into line with his social and political views. Like now. Likewise, I remember hardcore atheists like that well before Bush and 9/11. If anything, those only gave an excuse to those who already held such attitudes to shout them from the rooftops, and for the less than studious, given the events taking place, it may have attracted a larger following. As a former agnostic, one of the things that pushed me toward religion was hearing some of the unreal arguments made by fellow non-believers back in the day. To be honest, it hasn’t really changed. And that’s probably true in most cases with most groups, if you get right down to it.

  • Most “atheists” I encounter really aren’t atheists. They’re anti-theists who actually believe in God but are angry at Him for one reason or another. All the hate and vitriol is a prolonged tantrum. Tantrums get old, for many but not all. It’s good to love them, take their hurts seriously (because they are serious), pray for them and hope God sends what they need to return to their senses. Some do. I’ve seen it. Drusilla Barron (

  • Nathaniel

    Groups that are statistical outliers tend to drift away from population means, as can also be seen in Jews and Mormons being at the top of the chart. According to the studies own numbers, some of these atheists simply start calling themselves agnostics or unbelievers, making about 56% of those “raised” atheist still claim labels as non-believers. There is also the fact that it is unclear in the survey whether being raised with no particular religious beliefs is classified as “atheist” for the sake of the survey.

    Above all that, some concrete numbers can add some much needed perspective. Taking the survey at complete face value, around 700,000 of born atheists become Christian, while around 35 million people have stopped calling themselves Christian.

    A small addendum is that quite of a few of the atheist converts are converting to Judaism, and Reform and even many Conservative Jewish groups make no requirements when it comes to believing in God. Indeed, it is not far fetched to imagine that many such atheists are converting for the sake of being able to marry in a synagogue with their spouse and have a Jewish wedding.

  • I find atheists online have a tendency to deny that anyone abandons atheism for something else and if I give examples they cite rationalizations why “they don’t count.” (Their atheism wasn’t rational enough to be “real atheism”, they’d only claimed to be atheists to anger their parents, they were raised atheist but never really understood why atheism is correct, they were really Catholic the whole time just in denial in the case of Leah, etc)

    Granted I’m separating “atheists online” from atheists more widely because I think there’s a kind of “online atheist” that doesn’t necessarily reflect atheists more generally. “Online atheists” tend to use poorly thought out stock phrases (“Bronze age myth”, “Why aren’t limbs regrown”, “Imaginary sky fairy”), be proselytizing in their desire that others abandon theism, and/or be very driven by a belief in their own intellectual superiority. “Real life atheists” are sometimes like that, but I think they’re more likely to include “live and let live” types who view belief in God the way I might view belief in Vishnu. I’m not angry at people who believe in Vishnu, I don’t see them as stupid, and I’m not intense that I have a duty to debunk their religion. (That last might be a controversial statement, but my understanding of Evangelism doesn’t mean you’re expected to castigate or condemn deficient religions 24-7) Although the “belief in their own intellectual superiority” is maybe standard even with the “older” atheists like Asimov or the like.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      The “they weren’t real atheists” thing is just another thing modern atheists have in common with their fundamentalist cousins. I mean, if they fall, they weren’t real Christians anyway, right?

      • Yeah. Ironically or Hypocritically some who said that dismissed Christians who said stuff like that about “deconversion stories.”

  • captcrisis

    It’s in the nature of atheists to not go out and publicize or try to convert. They’ve simply lost interest in the question of whether there is a God. Most just go about their lives and in fact most “religious” people live their lives no differently than they do.

    One thing atheists have over everyone else is that they’re not hypocrites. Large majorities of Americans, for example, say they’re observing Christians. 40 or 50 years ago, Sunday mornings used to be heavy traffic times. But nowadays it’s a nice time to go for a drive because you’re practically guaranteed an open road. That is, until the mall traffic starts up.

    • This was true at one time, but I know I met an atheist online who told me he was indeed out to convert or “de-convert” as he put it as he felt all are born atheist.

      But I guess you could argue that, in his case, he wasn’t trying to convert people to atheism so much as a form of Strict Rationalism that required or leaned toward atheism. He didn’t insist that you believe there is no God of any kind, but did lean toward wanting his goal to be disbelief in a theistic God.

      • captcrisis

        A lot of people are like that, though not many actively try to convert. Most atheists respect religion in other people if it improves behavior.