Atheism on the Rise in America

Posted: May 12, 2015 4:51 PM

While we are still living in a predominately Christian nation, according to a new Pew Research Center study, an increasing number of Americans now fall into the category of “nones”—people who describe themselves as agnostic, atheist, or do not identify with a particular faith.

From 2007 to 2014, the two years Pew conducted this large-scale study of American religious life, the number of “nones” jumped from 16 percent to nearly 23 percent.

Seventy percent of Americans still identify as Christians, but this number has declined.

The number of Americans who don't affiliate with a particular religion has grown to 56 million in recent years, making the faith group researchers call "nones" the second-largest in total numbers behind evangelicals, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday. […]

[Between 2007 and 2014] … Christians dropped from about 78 percent to just under 71 percent of the population. Protestants now comprise 46.5 percent of what was once a predominantly Protestant country.

Researchers have long debated whether people with no religion should be defined as secular since the category includes those who believe in God or consider themselves "spiritual." But the new Pew study found increasing signs of secularism. […]

Greg Smith, Pew's associate research director, said the findings "point to substantive changes" among the religiously unaffiliated, not just a shift in how people describe themselves. Secular groups have become increasingly organized to counter bias against them and keep religion out of public life through lawsuits and lobbying lawmakers.

While this comes as no surprise, the political significance of the change is worth noting—people who identify as “nones” tend to vote Democratic.