CNN: Unbelief More Common

… in 48 states.


  1. #1 Scott
    November 10, 2010

    Confused… I’m actually slightly proud of Texas for once.

  2. #2 Rich Wilson
    November 10, 2010

    I went looking for the original, and I can’t find it on USAToday anywhere, and the Youtube is from Mar 2009. So it’s not ancient news, but it’s not today either.

  3. #3 scidog
    November 11, 2010

    you can’t find it because the information was suppressed.

  4. #4 david
    November 11, 2010

    Just reporting the “percent change” between two timepoints, state-by-state, without giving the starting or ending values is pretty useless. She’s amazed that Texas was -20% (“and you thought that texas was the bible belt”) but that’s still probably a solid majority of self-identified christians. Typical mainstream media – out-of-context statistics and inadequate evaluation.

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2010

    David: I noticed that, I thought that was fun. Great example of how numbers befuddle the fuddlable.

  6. #6 jake
    November 11, 2010

    I just got back from a two week excursion in Japan, mostly Tokyo. I saw two churches. It was such a very, very nice change.

  7. #7 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2010

    Jake: That’s interesting, but to some extent a cultural bias on your part. You probably also went to the Emperor’s palace (all tourists do). That’s a church. Those Taoist and Buddhist temples? Churches. All that bowing people do and stuff? Might as well be genuflecting!!!!

  8. #8 jake
    November 11, 2010

    No, I recognize them for what they are, and I prefer their few shrines and temples to our many churches. (And I only went to the palace to the see the gardens.)

  9. #9 Russell
    November 11, 2010

    Does anyone know what survey was referenced by the CNN video?

    Greg, don’t forget all the Shinto shrines in Tokyo. My impression, though, was that many people treat Shinto as civic ritual rather than as something expository about gods, cosmology, etc. Yeah, yeah, I know: that still counts as a religion from a sociological perspective. But it doesn’t, from the perspective of belief.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    November 11, 2010

    Russell: I meant Shinto when I said Taoist.

    I have a funny story about what you say from a visit to the Emperor’s temple with a Japanese atheist scientist friend.

  11. #11 g724
    November 11, 2010

    What’s going on here is clearly an optimistic usage of the data by that TV story, but nonetheless it’s good news.

    The mean averages are probably closer to about 5% decrease in religion and 5% increase in nonbelief in religion. That’s nothing to sneeze at, and of course it should be encouraged and reinforced wherever possible, but it’s no 20%.

    Also, it appears to be two ways of describing or referring to the same shift in beliefs: a 5% decrease in religious belief is basically the same thing as a 5% increase in nonbelief in religion.

    Since humans tend to be herd animals, or at least tribal or pack animals, spreading the word that religion is declining will become something of a self-fulfilling prophesy (heh). We should do everything possible to encourage more news stories of this type, because they will tend to shake more people loose from organized religion.

    And let’s be clear about this: a TV commentator pointing to the top ends of the scale is hardly lying, unlike preachers who continue to spout such nonsense as the idea that the universe is 6,000 years old, or that a fetus without a brain can somehow have a mind or otherwise qualify as a person, or that God is a paranoiac who planted carbon 14 and the red shift in order to tempt us into sin so he can cast us into hell.

  12. #12 abb3w
    November 12, 2010

    USA Today coverage can be found via

    It’s about the 2008 ARIS survey; for the curious, has PDFs to download, both of the full report and various specialized sub-reports (including the one on “American Nones”).

    Note that not all “NONEs” are “Atheists”; the Pew Religious landscape survey gave a breakdown of 10-15-40-35 between Atheists, Agnostics, Secular “Nothing in particular”, and Religious/Spiritual “Nothing in particular”. The ARIS survey categorized positions on the existence of God as Atheist, Hard Agnostic, Soft Agnostic, Deist, and Theist, and ended up (excluding DK/Ref nones) with a not too dissimilar breakdown of 8-20-17-26-29.

    Either way, while NONEs are in the neighborhood of 15%, Atheists are only about a tenth of that.

    On the other hand, in the GSS data NONEs appear to be increasing by birth cohort on a long-term trend logistic curve – except in the Deep South. The national data fits about a 1% base, 27 year exponential constant, midpoint for those born in 2007, and 85% ceiling. (Pew and ARIS data show similar levels to the GSS.) Given that the trend appears to go back to at least the Silent Generation, I do not expect it to be ending abruptly.