Among the Unbelievers: New poll shows secularist strength

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…

Comments read comments(4)
post a comment

posted September 20, 2008 at 3:49 am

Thanks for an interesting article which pretty much sums up my current position! I really didn’t know there were so many Americans, like myself, who have no religious affiliation.

report abuse


posted September 20, 2008 at 6:10 am

It never fails to amaze me that the number is actually so small, considering the supposed education and cosmopolitan modernity of America. We have always been taught as individuals and as a nation to question. Yet religion remains the exception.

report abuse

Jeffrey Weiss

posted September 20, 2008 at 8:38 pm

Secular? That seems like an odd term to use about a population where significant majorities say they believe in stuff like heaven, angels, and other items found in religions. What most of them refuse, as you point out, is to be pigeonholed. Which is very interesting. But not secular.

report abuse


posted September 22, 2008 at 10:27 am

Thinkers instead of followers. Not bad at all.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More blogs to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Pontifications. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Faith, Media and Culture Prayer, Plain and Simple Happy Blogging!!!   ...

posted 2:38:01pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Moving on, and many, many thanks... recent vacation and related absences also coincided with an offer from to cover religion for them, as editor Melinda Henneberger announces here in her roundup on the site's very successful first 100 days. That ...

posted 8:29:24pm Aug. 02, 2009 | read full post »

Calvin at 500, Calvinism 2.0
If you thought you knew John Calvin--who turned 500 last week--you probably don't know enough. For example, that he was French, born Jean Cauvin. And if he was in fact scandalized by dancing, he was also a lot more complex than that. I explored ...

posted 11:53:35am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

Apologia pro vita sua...Kinda
 In my defense, I've had computer outages and family reunions and a few days of single-parenthood, which is always a bracing reminder of what many parents go through all the time. And this weekend it's off for a week's vacation. Anyway, ...

posted 10:51:36am Jul. 16, 2009 | read full post »

When Benny met Barry: "I'll pray for you!"
The first word via Vatican Radio and first image (that I saw) via Rocco: Speaking to Vatican Radio, Press Office Director Fr. Federico Lombardi said "moral values in international politics, immigration and the Catholic Church's ...

posted 12:54:28pm Jul. 10, 2009 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.