10 Facts About Atheists – (Pew Research)

I found this article a few days ago over on Agnostic.com and thought it be interesting to take a delve into it a bit.

10 facts about atheists

Estimating the number of atheists in the U.S. is complicated. Some adults who describe themselves as atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. At the same time, some people who identify with a religion (e.g., say they are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish) also say they do not believe in God.

But one thing is for sure: Along with the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans (many of whom believe in God), there has been a corresponding increase in the number of atheists. As nonbelievers and others gather in Washington, D.C., for the “Reason Rally,” here are key facts about atheists and their beliefs:

As with many people, the first paragraph took me somewhat by surprise. However, I am unsure of how they define Atheism.

A big reason why I am a proponent of a more umbrella-esk term such as Secularism or non-believers (it doesn’t really matter) IS because of situations like this. People without religious beliefs are all over the map. Some may not have made the logical transition all the way to agnostic atheism. Some may not ever go that far. A few (like me) may be more interested in pursuing other matters than a new label and ideology.

Atheism is not one size fits all. Nor does it have to be.

Either way, atheism does not seem the right one in this case. Agnostic theist maybe. Theist could work. Maybe deism. In any case, more than just atheism.

As for the people that identify with religion yet don’t believe in god, I can also understand the sentiment. A big part of being part of a church congregation is social status and interaction. At times, being a member of this tribe is an integral part of maintaining a normal existence in many environments. A church can both be a support network and THE support network.

Whilst there is nothing inherently wrong with flocking with a group you have likely known for much of your life and otherwise have few differences with, this could serve as another wake-up call to the atheism-centric folk of the non-believers out there.
It’s not just about deconversion and rationalism. It should be about building support structures. Communities.
Places where people can interact during good times. Places where people can be lent a helping hand during bad times. And otherwise places wherein our collective humanity trumps all other factors.

There are some good examples to be had of this, I don’t deny that. Many good people are doing good things. But at the same time, many more in the space (of whom tend to have a significantly louder voice) are more interested in promoting an ideology and a brand than much else. An action plan that short changes both any long term goals AND people stuck living in situations of closeted non-belief out of necessity.

1.) The share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study found that 3.1% of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 1.6% in a similarly large survey in 2007. An additional 4.0% of Americans call themselves agnostics, up from 2.4% in 2007.

While this does not surprise me, I have to wonder if there may be a generational thing at play here.

Everyone knows that the internet has proven to be an invaluable tool for breaking the death grip of religion for millions of people around the world. Though the impact has resonated for people of all ages, Millenials and Gen Z grew up around the internet.

Basically, I wonder if more adults of all ages are truly leaving religion behind, or if the overall pool of adults is just growing larger. With the younger generations tendency towards secularist attitudes, is the pool of theists just becoming diluted?

2.) Atheists, in general, are more likely to be male and younger than the overall population68% are men, and the median age of atheist adults in the U.S. is 34 (compared with 46 for all U.S. adults). Atheists also are more likely to be white (78% are Caucasian vs. 66% for the general public) and highly educated: About four-in-ten atheists (43%) have a college degree, compared with 27% of the general public.

This seems to fit my hypothesis. Which also means that the number is likely only going to grow. Barring something unforeseen.

3.) Self-identified atheists tend to be aligned with the Democratic Party and with political liberalism. About two-thirds of atheists (69%) identify as Democrats (or lean in that direction), and a majority (56%) call themselves political liberals (compared with just one-in-ten who say they are conservatives). Atheists overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage (92%) and legal abortion (87%). In addition, three-quarters (74%) say that government aid to the poor does more good than harm.

Again, unsurprising.

Though politics is indeed separate from religiosity, I suspect that real-world dynamics contribute to this. Since many atheists face friction upon publicly disclosing their choice to deconvert, it’s hard not to gain empathy out of such an experience.

4.) Although the literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary8% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Indeed, 2% say they are “absolutely certain” about the existence of God or a universal spirit. Alternatively, there are many people who fit the dictionary definition of “atheist” but do not call themselves atheists. About three times as many Americans say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit (9%) as say they are atheists (3%).

As explored before, there could be a number of reasons for this.

They might not know the terms, having never come across such discourse. They may not care. Who knows.

It just illustrates the importance of going above atheism. The potential for a hugely influential driving force in politics exists. All that is required to get there, is more unity and less brand promotion.

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. At the same time, many do not see a contradiction between atheism and pondering their place in the world. Three-in-ten (31%) say they feel a deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being at least weekly. A similar share (35%) often thinks about the meaning and purpose of life. And roughly half of all atheists (54%) frequently feel a deep sense of wonder about the universe, up from 37% in 2007. In fact, atheists are more likely than U.S. Christians to say they often feel a sense of wonder about the universe (54% vs. 45%).

This paragraph makes me wonder about the authors understanding of the concept of atheism. It seems only skin deep. Which explains a lot.

It’s unsurprising that atheist types have so much interest in both the makeup of the world and their overall place in it because a big part of leaving religion is the loss of such clarity. If you have scripture of any kind to fall back on, the big questions are answered for you.

Who done it? God

Why am I here? God

What is my purpose? Serving God

To be outside the realm of monotheistic religion (at least the big 3) is to figure this all out for yourself. Though there are many tools available to help with the first question (after changing who to what, of course), the other 2 are more difficult. Of course, there exist many other ideologies that often times step in and fill the gaps. However, some may go there whole lives trying to figure this stuff out. Some may not ever answer that question.

I’ve been on the secular side of the fence for a good decade, and I don’t have an answer. To be perfectly honest, I’ve accepted that I may never be able to answer the final question (the 2ed is irrelevant, really).

6.) In the 2014 Religious Landscape Study, self-identified atheists were asked how often they share their views on God and religion with religious people. Only about one-in-ten atheists (9%) say they do at least weekly, while roughly two-thirds (65%) say they seldom or never discuss their views on religion with religious people. By comparison, 26% of those who have a religious affiliation share their views at least once a week with those who have other beliefs; 43% say they seldom or never do.

Not much new knowledge here.

7.) Virtually no atheists (1%) turn to religion for guidance on questions of right and wrong, but increasing numbers are turning to scienceAbout a third of atheists (32%) say they look primarily to science for guidance on questions of right and wrong, up from 20% in 2007. A plurality (44%) still cite “practical experience and common sense” as their primary guide on such questions, but that is down from 52% in 2007.

This is puzzling, possibly terrifying. It makes me wonder how this question was worded on the survey.

Back when I was an atheist, I embodied many of the common tropes that have now come to annoy me. However, I am not sure how I would have answered this question.
Science is a tool. And much like any other tool (like a knife or a pencil), it is morally and ethically neutral in nature. Which is why I question how one can turn to it as a source of right and wrong.

I am a champion of philosophy. Though it tends to get a bad rap in today’s popular discourse, it’s separation from science has almost always been problematic. If science is the hammer, philosophy is the rational mind guiding it to hit only nails. As opposed to what we have now . . . science bound for the most part, only by the morals and ethics of the scientists practising it.

Exhibit A . . . Nuclear weapons.

Back in the era of the Manhatten project, some physicists were concerned with the possibility of the nuclear blast could quite literally set the atmosphere on fire. To quote those who know a whole lot more than me:

There’s nitrogen in the air, and you can have a nuclear reaction in which two nitrogen nuclei collide and become oxygen plus carbon, and in this process you set free a lot of energy.  Couldn’t that happen?

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/bethe-teller-trinity-and-the-end-of-earth/

Of course, this was considered to be a distant possibility. Unlike how it is often recounted, the math didn’t support such a conclusion. However, to quote a Washington Post journalist:

Still. In science there are no absolutes. That’s a lot of faith to put into your equations. The belief that they could understand the workings of the atom was essential to the whole process of building the bomb. Leo Szilard conceived of a chain reaction of neutrons while crossing a London street in 1933; only a dozen years later these scientists and generals were out in the middle of the New Mexico desert to test ideas and hardware thrown together under wartime pressure. They had a decent understanding of what would probably happen — but this had never been done before. This was a new thing on the planet. And — as Oppenheimer said — the world would never be the same.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/achenblog/wp/2015/07/23/the-man-who-feared-rationally-that-hed-just-destroyed-the-world/?utm_term=.5173c91e1c64

It’s an interesting situation that isn’t uncommon in the realm of science.

The desire to push the limits of possibility. The external weight (and propaganda) of World War 2 . All that seems to missing, is any form of checks and balances. Even if we’re pretty sure that we won’t set the entire atmosphere alight by way of this explosion, is it STILL a good idea to do it anyway?

Consider the net results for humanity going forward. Since then, nuclear weapons have only become more powerful. Not just capable of ending the world as we know it in theory, but in REALITY. All it takes is 2 nation states unleashing their arsenals, and we’re in the realm of the film On The Beach.

Given that the barrier to using these weapons is mutual destruction at the hand of an enemy, is this a net positive for humanity? Does the guarantee of death and destruction keep radical entities in line? Or does it just raise the stakes a whole lot higher than they need to be?

For example, the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. Given the combative relationship of India and Pakistan, does the presence of these weapons constitute a good thing?

Consider the atheist.

There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weapons? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own . . .

How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a global genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen.”

Source: The End of Faith, by Sam Harris, p. 128–129.

https://askepticalhuman.com/miscellaneous/2017/11/26/the-truth-about-sam-harris-the-nuclear-first-strike-against-muslims

Talk about a can of worms . . . shall I rejoice in the fact that India didn’t take a page out of Sam Harris’s book and likely kill us all?

Anyway, science is a great tool for understanding (and harnessing) the world we live in. But when it comes to moral and ethical guidelines, one has to look elsewhere. Hence why I find it odd that so many apparently cite science as being their go to for such matters.

What am I missing?

8.) Americans like atheists less than they like members of most major religious groups. A 2014 Pew Research Center survey asked Americans to rate groups on a “feeling thermometer” from zero (as cold and negative as possible) to 100 (the warmest, most positive possible rating). U.S. adults gave atheists an average rating of 41, comparable to the rating they gave Muslims (40) and far colder than the average given to Jews (63), Catholics (62) and evangelical Christians (61).

One doesn’t need a study to know the reasons for this. Jews, Catholics and evangelicals are more alike to most people (religious) than misunderstood and often demonized heathens. This doesn’t account for the cold shoulder towards Muslims, but racism does.

Yes, I know that Islam isn’t a race. However, it’s all about what ignorant people think Muslims look like, and what these people think Islam is.
In reality, both run the gambit. However, since many in first world countries tend to be ignorant (sometimes proudly so) OR are listening to faux-intellectuals like Sam Harris quote Pew polls (Hello agian!), Islam often boils down to this:

1.) Muslims are anyone halfway between Caucasian and African American who wear any type of turban. This often times mistakenly encompasses Sikh’s as well, even though that belief system has origins in India.

2.) A majority of Muslims respond to a survey in favour of such barbaric practices as stoning homosexuals and murdering heathens like myself.

Notice the italics on barbaric.

That was not meant to question the morality of the practice of murdering homosexuals. It’s more meant to highlight the irony of many of these types taking THAT as barbaric, meanwhile not batting an eyelash to all manner of threatening speech aimed at a whole laundry list of their fellow citizens. Though social media greed served as the can of gas needed to rekindle this fire, the sentiment was always there.

I have heard such from people where I live. Justin Trudeau has many enemies, let me tell you that.
And I even have examples in the ecosystem that is this blog. In the comment section of a post exploring an organization called the european brotherhood. I learned of them through a sticker left on a light pole.

Some examples:

Why would you donate to a local Mosque other than you’re a terrorist? Do you choose to live under Sharia Law by Muslim rapists and terrorists? Are you a misogynist that hates his own race brainwashed by “White Guilt? Are you just a loser that’s seeking attention you’re unable to find elsewhere? Are you just some random clown SJW that believes in the false God of equality?

Fine, not exactly barbaric. More, descriptive of symptoms of the disease in which we find ourselves fighting. Also, the context is he said he would buy a T-shirt from the European Brotherhood, and I said I would donate to a local mosque. I figured it to be an amusingly triggering retort.

Whoda thought . . .  I was right!

Mate, you hit the nail on the head. These SJW’s will understand one day they’ve been played like a fiddle, by the Zionist Elite to self destruct. The true European is proud of their unique heritage, language and culture. There is nothing wrong with wanting to preserve your own race). Every race has a right to preserve their culture and to self determination (except the European man). I’m not responsible for what happened centuries ago. These Cultural Marxists should all be tied to a tree and bitch slapped back to reality like the brain dead indoctrinated useful idiots they are..


mbman “You mean innocent white Europeans? Let’s be honest here.” end quote. Are you suggesting that the 1400 British girls were not innocent and deserved to be sexually assaulted for 16 years? Are you suggesting that the European that walks home after working a long day is not innocent and deserves to get mugged and assaulted?

It is you that needs to be honest because you have absolutely no morals nor empathy for the innocent (unless of course they are non Whites). It is you that is the profound racist, racist to indigenous Europeans.

I do not know why I bother with you because you have the intelligence and empathy of a bar of soap, and for fuk sake, the soap has been debunked (you know what I mean).

You truly disgust me because you are morally corrupt, with nothing in your heart but hate, and contempt for all Europeans (even the innocent) as you have just alluded to, in your last hateful comment.

Tell me: how long were you brainwashed in the indoctrination camps, also known as the education system?

I have no patience for you anymore, the only thing you deserve is the rope, and that day will come soon for everyone like you, because you condone rape of innocent little British girls, and the murder of innocent Europeans! Shame on you!

You are a filthy disgusting pathetic mere shell of a human being, and you dare say you are Canadian. I have been to Canada 4 times, and all my family, and Canadians I know never behave like the animal you are.

Now you can do the usual Marxist nonsense, and call me a racist and Nazi for wanting to live like a civilized human being. By the way, are you still attending all those Antifa protests you love so much? I bet that “Squatting Slav” would love to interview you for youtube to highlight your stupidity.

https://mbman.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/what-on-earth-is-the-european-brotherhood/

Ordinary, supposedly civilized people can be just as barbaric as the inhuman other in which they choose to affix a target. And as for faux-intellectuals cherrypicking surveys . . . if we’re quick to make snap judgements over entire cohorts based on such responses:

1.) Should we be worried about extreme right-wing fringe Christian groups as well? Extreme right-wing groups in general?

2.) Such intellectual discourse does far more to spur on individuals like the 2 above than you realize. If commenter #2 wanted, he could easily have cited Sam Harris.

If anything on this blog were so easily fitting to fascist ideology, you can bet that I would give my head a shake and consider where I had made such a wrong turn.

Anyway, now that we are WAY in the weeds, back to facts about atheists.

9.) About half of Americans (51%) say they would be less likely to support an atheist candidate for president, more than say the same about a candidate with any other trait mentioned in a Pew Research Center survey – including being Muslim. This figure, while still high, has declined in recent years – in early 2007, 63% of U.S. adults said they would be less likely to support an atheist presidential candidate. There are currently no self-described atheists serving in Congress, although there is one House member, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who describes herself as religiously unaffiliated.

Again, we’re back to the lack of trust thing for this figure. Though it is interesting that Muslims are regarded more warmly than atheists in this category. Must be based in the moral compass of the individual . . .  Muslims obviously have one, how can an atheist have one?

Also, I also wonder if new generations entering adulthood are changing this figure as well.

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, according to a 2014 survey. In other wealthy countries, smaller shares tend to say that a belief in God is essential for good morals, including just 15% in France. But in many other parts of the world, nearly everyone says that a person must believe in God to be moral, including 99% in Indonesia and Ghana and 98% in Pakistan.

Also self-explanatory, really. Where there is a high percentage of adherence to religious ideology, people that fall outside of that paradigm are considered untrustworthy.

Though I just recently found this piece, I realize that it is potentially old news. Mostly based on data from 2016, and posted (or at least dated) June 1, 2016. Even so, however, much of the material (certainly what resides closer to the end) should have stood the test of time.

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