Results from the huge American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) of 2000 stunned many and led to heated debates when it showed some 14 percent of Americans embracing some form of secularism. Preliminary numbers released today from the upcoming 2008 ARIS survey show that figure has held steady or even inched up a bit, to 15 percent. Barry Kosmin, the project researcher from the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society at Trinity College, broke the numbers down for participants at the annual conference of the Religion Newswriters Association being held here.
The 15 percent figure (about 32 millions adult Americans) includes a wide variety of unbelievers, non-believers, and unchurched. Just 4 percent of this cohort identify as atheist, 6 percent as agnostic, and 1 percent as secular/humanist. 89 percent identify as simply no religion, the “rejectionist” position.
A further breakdown is fascinating fodder for debate. One of the most interesting findings is that the typical member of the “Nones,” as they are known (those who identify with no religion) is an Irish (34 percent) former Catholic (25 percent) or raised with no religion (29 percent. (Jews are also overrepresented, at 5 percent, as are Asians, at 8 percent of all Nones.)
Nearly two-thirds of the Nones are men (63 percent), 42 percent ar college grads, and 30 percent live in the West–very much a portrait of Gov. Palin’s home state.
Interestingly, of these Nones, 21 percent say there is a personal God, 23 percent say there is a Higher Power that is not God, 19 percent are not sure, and 21 percent say there’s no way to know.
These Nones are increasingly independent politically, with just 30 percent identifying as Democrats, and 12 percent as republicans. That is down form 19 percent in 2000–but they are shifting into the independent category rather than to Dems.
As Kosmin notes, the portrait of these much-feared or criticized “unbelievers” is one of “a thousand shades of gray between black and white.
More to come…