We are growing!

There’s a sense of glee in the American atheist community over the results of a recent survey: religion is in decline. As the site summarizes, “Only 1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million. Twenty-seven percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death.” The “New Atheist” approach is working, and more people are coming out of the dark closet of faith and standing in the light.

If you want to play with maps of the data, try
USA Today’s interactive map page or this Google maps page. It’s so nice to see all the growth visually, or the declining numbers of Catholics and Baptists.

Or you can read the take of the Friendly Atheist or Rieux.

Keep it up! There is hope that this world can become a less superstitious place!


  1. #1 Jam
    March 10, 2009

    It’s that dang Obama feller and his Satanic pact doin’ it!

  2. #2 Zeno
    March 10, 2009

    While I don’t doubt that there was real growth in the ranks of nonbelievers in recent years, I strongly suspect that part of the apparent change is due to a greater willingness to admit to nonbelief. Whereas an atheist or agnostic might have felt it prudent in the past to obfuscate his or her lack of faith, less reticent role models like Dawkins and Harris make it less frightening to come out of the closet. We now care less about the delicate and easily bruised feelings of the believing majority — which is fine, since they’ve never shown much charity in return.

  3. #3 wazza
    March 10, 2009

    The google maps thing doesn’t include numbers for Hawaii and Alaska. Just a heads-up.

    It’s still less than 1% atheists… you guys have a lot of catching up to do!

  4. #4 Kathy
    March 10, 2009

    How ironic — just yesterday I was discussing this study with two self-professed Christians yesterday — after one of them tried to tell me, “You know this is a Christian country; 90% of Americans are Christian.”

    What’s funny to me is how much this hit the media — it’s as if there’s a collective gasp of horror at the numbers.

    Well, I outed myself as a proud Atheist yesterday for the first time in public, so I stand proud with my fellow 12%.

  5. #5 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    I’ve been keeping my lucky baby’s foot for years.
    Finally it’s beginning to work!

  6. #6 DrBadger
    March 10, 2009

    Very nice, but I’d like to see more Sweden-like numbers.

  7. #7 defective robot
    March 10, 2009

    Color me unsurprised, actually. I am 1 of 4 professed atheists in my office (out of about 25), and I suspect there are at least 2 others. Not a microcosm, to be sure, but it’s 5 more than I would have expected when I started there.

    Frankly, I’m not sure I like it, though. If atheism really takes hold, I might have to convert to Christianity: I like being iconoclastic…

  8. #8 maxamillion
    March 10, 2009

    A spot poll on one of my favourite forums in Oz. In response to the poll,

    I believe in God only – not religion 22- 18.1%
    Do not believe in God or religion 90- 73.8%
    Believe in God – as part of religion 10- 8.2%
    Number of voters: 122

  9. #9 Zombiwulf
    March 10, 2009

    More people actually thinking through where they stand in the spectrum – once you’ve moved over towards agnosticism, you start to realise that saying ‘no god’ & ‘I dont know if there is a god’ (or more importantly if any religion is necessary) is not such a big difference.

    I borrowed ‘The Atheists Bible’ from the library recently – the look on the librarians face was priceless!

  10. #10 SEF
    March 10, 2009

    I like being iconoclastic…

    It is a bit of a shame in one way: as atheism becomes easier, and even the default, it will no longer be only the best people who are atheists. Some of the unthinking dross will accidentally be atheist instead of nearly all of them being theist, from having that background.

    However, the benefits for society in general should outweigh the loss of that handy identifying clue. There’ll still be science (and maths).

  11. #11 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    I might have to convert to Christianity: I like being iconoclastic…

    May I suggest neo-christianity, or post-christianity? I’m sure they’ll soon be in vogue.
    I was a post-christian myself for a while, but I’m over it now.

  12. #12 DaveL
    March 10, 2009

    it will no longer be only the best people who are atheists.

    Dude, I’ve got some bad news…

  13. #13 Chris Davis
    March 10, 2009

    Encouraging; but less so, I find, than the flavour of debate on forums – even those not relating specifically to religion. I recall that just a few years ago anyone who spoke from an atheist viewpoint was instantly shouted down by hordes of angry theists. No longer.

    In particular I’ve been delighted by the Yahoo!Answers ‘Religion & Spirituality’ section, where atheists and agnostics now practically own the place! The ‘questions’ posted are usually either a) Rabid theists condemning nonbelievers to eternal damnation, and being given a good verbal kicking for their troubles; b) Atheists ridiculing the sillier theist beliefs; or c) More tentative Christians genuinely trying to find out more about non-theist views on issues like morality, evolution etc.

    The atheists present are a cheery bunch, inclined to happy cries of *Drink!* whenever someone tries to use Pascal’s Wager or ask what they’re doing in a section on religion. Good-natured arguments between the respective followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Ceiling Cat abound. Apart from those whose heads have been eaten away completely by Jebus, the theists seem to be getting the point.

  14. #14 L
    March 10, 2009

    Not sure if I dared call myself a real atheist, only recently arriving at my more scientifically-based beliefs, I was overjoyed to read that report this morning and figured it must be a good sign that I have evolved.

  15. #15 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    SEF – in a way, I hope that proper atheism is only ever reserved for clever people like ourselves *insert emoticon of preening, arrogant, smiley being roundly mocked by all the other grimacing faces – while ironic face looks on in grim fascination*
    The problem with morons becoming atheists though is that they may start to beleive the christianists when they say it means they can do anything, without fear of the consequences.

  16. #16 FTFKDad
    March 10, 2009

    If you are interested in Freethought and the growing community of Freethinkers, and you live in the Colorado Springs area, come join our growing kids group. Visit and see what we have going on!

  17. #17 BaldySlaphead
    March 10, 2009

    At #9: I imagine the librarian’s face probably had that expression because he couldn’t work out why anyone would possibly want to borrow a book by Ray Comfort…

  18. #18 SEF
    March 10, 2009

    It has already happened in the UK. I expect it’s similar in Sweden etc. The US has a massive religion disadvantage to overcome before it’s as noticeable there.

    Merely being atheist doesn’t mean you got there the right way – by intellectual honesty, critical thinking and good education. Some people are only atheist through not being indoctrinated in the first place (and possibly wanting to pretend to keep up with the intellectually cool kids).

  19. #19 Kobra
    March 10, 2009

    All this good news on and around your birthday? PZ, you must have pleased the Spaghdeity. 😛

  20. #20 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    Anyone know anything about the afterlife? I’m too busy enjoying the pre-afterlife, but how expensive will it be?
    I’m a bit broke at the moment, though I do want to make sure that the rest of eternity isn’t spend without a penny to my name.
    Although, I have to admit, the first 10 billion years or so passed without me needing any.

  21. #21 Thoughtful Guy
    March 10, 2009

    You really want people to be less superstitious? Think of the mirrors that will get broken, people just letting black cats cross their paths and cracks being walked on without care. Then there’s ladders being walked under and on and on…

  22. #22 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    It’s also bad luck to see a christian in a church.
    Stupidity will invariably ensue.

  23. #23 SEF
    March 10, 2009

    they may start to beleive the christianists when they say it means they can do anything, without fear of the consequences.

    There will still be laws in most places though. Plus all the past and present religious criminals demonstrate quite well that believing in imaginary rules, rewards and punishments doesn’t actually stop them committing sins/crimes much at all – especially when they can convince themselves their pet god will actively approve, or at least unconditionally forgive.

    It’s rather like the way it doesn’t stop teens refraining from sex. They aren’t generally thinking of that sort of thing at the time (or much at all!). Only well-grounded and informed self-respect, with education on the relevant issues, has an impact on teen pregnancy rates. They can’t make good choices if they are (a) uninformed and (b) unaware there’s even a choice to be made.

  24. #24 zaatheist
    March 10, 2009

    #43 Chris Davis

    I like have an occasional go in Yahoo answers. I see signs that the xtians are getting more and more irritated as very often my comments are objected to, deleted and then reinstated by Yahoo. Mocking the guy in the glass fish bowl on the back of a pickup truck always elicits this response.

    It all good for laughs and you never know, we may deconvert a few.

  25. #25 Diane
    March 10, 2009

    Thoughful Guy,

    …spilling salt, and not burning redheads at the stake for being witches. Sorry NofR.

  26. #26 Kaessa
    March 10, 2009

    I have to wonder (since this was a phone poll), how much higher the non-believer numbers could actually be. Phone polls notoriously miss the younger segment of the population, who are dumping landlines in favor of cell phones. Cell phones are usually not included in these polls.

  27. #27 John S. Wilkins
    March 10, 2009

    Correlation, as xkcd reminded us recently, does not imply causation. The “New Atheist” approach may itself be due to the rise in atheists, or they may be both due to a common cause. I gather this is sometimes taught to science students…

  28. #28 Jim B
    March 10, 2009

    Funny, looking at the usatoday map, for the “no religion” category, TX ranks higher than MN. PZ, you need to move to a more religiously open minded state.

    I see that VT, NH, and DE all have above 15% respondents saying “no religion.” That explains why god always smites these states with plagues of insects, famines, hurricanes, and earthquakes.

    A third interesting breakdown is that in 49 of 50 states, the number saying don’t know/refuse to answer is up. I take it to mean there is a growing segment of people who are unaffiliated but can’t quite admit their disbelief yet.

  29. #29 Vic
    March 10, 2009

    MN up 6%!

  30. #30 PZ Myers
    March 10, 2009

    Correct. But at the very least we can deduce that “New Atheists” aren’t significantly impeding the advance of rational thought.

    I suppose we could test for causality by having all the noisy atheists sit down and shut up for 20 years, and see if religiosity rises again. But that isn’t going to happen.

  31. #31 DanN
    March 10, 2009

    [quote]Most of the growth in the Christian population occurred among those who would identify only as “Christian,” “Evangelical/Born Again,” or “non-denominational Christian.” The last of these, associated with the growth of megachurches, has increased from less than 200,000 in 1990 to 2.5 million in 2001 to over 8 million today. These groups grew from 5 percent of the population in 1990 to 8.5 percent in 2001 to 11.8 percent in 2008. Significantly, 38.6 percent of mainline Protestants now also identify themselves as evangelical or born again. [/quote]

    That’s the part that scares me. Fundes are on the rise.

  32. #32 Tulse
    March 10, 2009

    Take that, Nisbet!

  33. #33 SEF
    March 10, 2009

    It’s rather like the way it doesn’t stop teens refraining from sex.

    Oops, that sentence didn’t quite come out right! 😀

  34. #34 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    What we really want is a new religion! One that gets right all the things the others got wrong!
    I’m thinking of starting one. For obscure, but vital reasons, I will need a great deal of money. Can anyone help out?
    They do say that atheists aren’t gullible, which seems right to me.

  35. #35 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    And of course, the word “gullible” isn’t listed in the current OED.

  36. #36 windy
    March 10, 2009

    Correlation, as xkcd reminded us recently, does not imply causation.

    Did you read the alt text?

    (“Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing ‘look over there’.”)

  37. #37 Sastra
    March 10, 2009

    John S. Wilkins #27 wrote:

    Correlation, as xkcd reminded us recently, does not imply causation. The “New Atheist” approach may itself be due to the rise in atheists, or they may be both due to a common cause.

    True — it would be interesting to find out the reasons behind the increase in numbers. I remember reading an essay a while back which had done surveys of nonbelief over the last century, and the slow but steady rise was attributed to the sudden burst of family mobility in the early 1900’s. These families often failed to re-connect with a church. Thus, children raised without religion — who in turn raised their children without religion, who in turn do the same.

    Like SEF, though, I’m more comfortable with those who arrived at atheism as an individual conclusion: method, method, method. I sometimes wonder where I fall: I’m secular humanist (method method method), but was also raised without religion. Though I like to think that my background gave me a blank slate to start my inquiry from, it’s also possible that it influenced me more than I realized: when I used to go to churches to ‘try them out,’ they always felt a bit awkward and contrived to me.

    If nothing else, though, the rise of the non-religious suggests that the so-called New Atheism isn’t fatal to public acceptance of atheism. I’ve always been suspicious of those believers who insisted that they and everyone else would be just fine with atheists being part of the community — if only atheists would shut up about why they don’t believe in God and act respectful and nice around religion (blending in whenever possible.)

  38. #38 Sastra
    March 10, 2009

    Dan #31:

    I’ve read that megachurches are having an interesting secularizing effect on religion. Although they often preach conservative theology, they are so chock-full of secular activities — which have only a nominal connection to belief itself — that those who attend are more or less becoming “cultural Christians.” From the point of view of strengthening faith, there are advantages and disadvantages to being heavily involved in a strong, active community. Apparently, you can enjoy the many benefits of McChurch even if you’re an atheist.

  39. #39 Rieux
    March 10, 2009

    Hey, wow–e-mailing the Head Cephalopod gets results!

    Zeno @ #2:

    While I don’t doubt that there was real growth in the ranks of nonbelievers in recent years, I strongly suspect that part of the apparent change is due to a greater willingness to admit to nonbelief.

    That may be true, but even if so, that’s still a very significant (and, from the perspective of us uppity atheists, a very positive) development, no? Higher levels of “coming out” are very nice in themselves, I’d say.

    wazza @ #3:

    The google maps thing doesn’t include numbers for Hawaii and Alaska. Just a heads-up.

    For some reason, the ARIS studies (1990, 2001, 2008) have never gathered data on Hawaii or Alaska. I presume that that consistent omission probably has something to do with finances or something; still, I think it’s dumb. How can you state conclusions about the entire nation, and extrapolate your numerical conclusions to the entire national population, when you leave out the two states that (I would guess) are likely to yield the most anomalous results? Phooey.

  40. #40 SEF
    March 10, 2009

    Fundes are on the rise.

    Fundies look to be on the rise that way because the best people have already left the religions. It’s like removing the moderating rods from a nuclear reactor. What’s left behind tends to be rather excitable and start chain reactions, with those who were too scared to leave also being those who are too scared to oppose the worst people and more inclined to pretend to be among their number (“evangelical” being one of those glittering generalities in the right, ie wrong, circles).

    What hasn’t happened, and would need to happen in order for safe removal of further “moderates” from religion into atheism, is the installation of decent education for everyone. Education which emphasises things like critical thought, intellectual honesty, knowledge and the value of actually taking the trouble to get things right instead of slacking, cheating, forming gangs and covering up wrongs – which is what follows from religions making vices such as ignorance, blind faith and loyalty into virtues.

    There are huge numbers of people now who either have no self-respect at all or have the bad kind of self-respect/pride (uncritical and unconditional on doing right). Religions are about the worst institutions for promoting this (though some ill-considered “PC” stuff has recently contributed to it). Even when a religion professes to be anti-pride it does so pridefully(!) and without distinguishing between good and bad pride.

    Good pride is what will make someone go out of their way to fix things (including admitting their fault and seeking assistance from others) and ensuring it won’t happen again (to/by them or others) because they would be appalled at themselves if they didn’t make things better.

    Bad pride is what makes people lie to cover up their (and friends’ / gang’s) errors/crimes, because they don’t want their unmerited reputation rightly damaged but don’t want to go to the trouble of actually being good / right / competent.

  41. #41 Pierce R. Butler
    March 10, 2009

    Aw shucks – so far M. Nesbit has yet to post any observations on this report. How can we properly frame this without expert guidance?

  42. #42 Rasmus Holm
    March 10, 2009

    Great news, although for a Dane it is a bit hard to relate to the fact that it takes courage to come out as an atheist, or that you have to come out at all.

  43. #43 GregB
    March 10, 2009

    Ladies and Gentlemen I herby come out of the closet. I am an atheist.

    That’s actually a pretty good analogy. As more atheist make it known that we exist and that it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to live your life based on rationality and evidence more people will feel comfrotable expressing their religious doubt.

    We’re Here! We’re Smart! Get Use To It!

    I think the happiest part of that graph is that there is not a single state where the percentage of atheist is going down. This is a wonderful thing indeed.

  44. #44 rodiel
    March 10, 2009

    Yeah! We discussed the results on today’s American Culture 101 class – it was quite uplifting, except for the attitude of the teacher (a devout Orthodox Christian guy), who interpreted the whole thing as “the number of actual atheists stayed the same, but more people have become non-denominationally ‘spiritual’, which means religious without organization”. He is DEAD WRONG, and I’m glad about that.

    Reason’s on the rise!

  45. #45 Free Lunch
    March 10, 2009

    I grew up in an extremely religious environment. It didn’t take any rebellion on my part — not from my point of view — but I was rejecting what I grew up with going through slow steps to get there. I haven’t talked about religion with my family for a long time.

  46. #46 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    Anyone here ever done the “speaking in tongues” thing?
    Was it fun – or did you just feel stupid afterwards?

  47. #47 raven
    March 10, 2009

    “You know this is a Christian country; 90% of Americans are Christian.”

    The actual number is 76%. It is down over 10% in the last decade or two and trending lower.

    The number of Americans who despise fundies who claim the USA is a “christian country” is over 50% of the population. Most of that 50% are…other christians.

    Old saying. “When you start believing your own lies and bullcrap, you are in big trouble.” There is a backlash against the fundies, no doubt about it.

  48. #48 K
    March 10, 2009
  49. #49 Tulse
    March 10, 2009

    Anyone here ever done the “speaking in tongues” thing?

    I’ve found myself uncontrollably chanting “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh C’thulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” — does that count?

    Was it fun – or did you just feel stupid afterwards?

    It filled me with cosmic dread, so I’d go with a “no” on fun…

  50. #50 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    Lovecraft? Lovecraft fans might enjoy this Onion parody:

  51. #51 RayB
    March 10, 2009

    Dan @ 31: Don’t confuse fundies with evangelicals. As Sastra (#38) points out, the evangelicals are much more relaxed in their interpretations of scripture. They’ll accept almost any believe as long as you put your dollars in the collection plate. They are more about building community than condemning others for not believing exactly as they do. It is encouraging that their ranks are growing while the fundies are declining. Small steps…

  52. #52 raven
    March 10, 2009

    Three important reasons why xianity is going down in the USA.

    1. The fundies. Their leaders like Dobson, Robertson, Falwell, Kennedy, Hagee, Donohue (RCC fundie), Parsley, etc. are universally humanoid toads, unpleasant power hungry men full of hate and evil.

    2. The fundies. When xianity becomes synonymous with the Liars, Hater, and Killers for jesus crowd, who would want to be one.

    3. The fundies. They had considerable influence in the last 8 years. The result was an unbelievably inept and corrupt regime that destroyed the US and world economies while leaving piles of bodies in Iraq in a pointless war. That is why Obama was elected president.

    4. A minor reason is the horrific sectarian warfare in Iraq and the routine atrocities in theocracies like Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iran. We supposedly left all that behind centuries ago. The difference between a xian fanatic with a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other and a moslem terrorist is….nothing at all.

    I’ve maintained that the fundies and their repulsive, evil leaders have created more anti-xians and atheists than Dawkins and PZ by orders of magnitude. A recent poll, the data is there in black and white.

    The Voters are also blaming the Death Cult fundies for destroying the USA and its economy.

    50% – More Conservatives Now Say Churches Should Stay Out of Politics Wed Sep 24, 12:00 AM ET
    Half of self-described conservatives now express the view that churches and other houses of worship should stay out of politics; four years ago, only 30% of conservatives expressed this view. Overall, a new national survey by the Pew Research Center finds a narrow majority of the public (52%) now says that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues. The survey also finds that most of the reconsideration of the desirability of religious involvement in politics has occurred among conservatives. As a result, conservatives’ views on this issue are much more in line with the views of moderates and liberals than was previously the case. Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared. There are other signs in the new poll about a potential change in the climate of opinion about mixing religion and politics. First, the survey finds a small but significant increase since 2004 in the percentage of respondents saying that they are uncomfortable when they hear politicians talk about how religious they are — from 40% to 46%. Again, the increase in negative sentiment about religion and politics is much more apparent among Republicans than among Democrats.

    Looks like there is a backlash against the Death Cults. These are nihilists who have only brought death and destruction during their time in power. Their latest victim is the US economy, the largest in the world at one time. Palin is one, a hardcore religious kook.

  53. #53 Northfieldgunn
    March 10, 2009

    This is great news for ALL reasoned and rational people. But we need to keep moving forward. The next time you read an editorial letter in your local paper, write a response. Don’t be angry in your letter(it won’t be printed), but use rational arguments in your response. I have had many letters printed in my local paper. At first I was surprised at how many people said they appreciated and agreed with my letter. What wasn’t surprising was the angry letters, from fundies, being sent to my house.

  54. #54 heddle
    March 10, 2009

    I think the number of “believers” is still greatly exaggerated. I strongly encourage the new atheists to keep up the good work. Lowering the out-of-the-closet threshold means cleansing from the ranks of “believers” those who were previously too pusillanimous to admit their atheism. You are improving the churches. It is a tremendous public and ecclesiastic service.

  55. #55 Glen Davidson
    March 10, 2009

    They warned you all about thinking. Look what happened.

    Glen D

  56. #56 bc23.5
    March 10, 2009

    SEF @ #18
    Thank you for showing how fucking pretentious you are! I’m not stupid and neither were my parents.

  57. #57 GodlessHeathen
    March 10, 2009

    Greetings from the most godless county in the nation, Benton County, Oregon! In 2003, a study showed that only 25% of Benton County residents are affiliated (afflicted?) with any religion. We do have our share of woo, although most of it is fairly benign, and most of the Christians are relatively liberal.
    But I’ve noticed that we seem to get more than our share of proselytizers here. I wonder if missionaries scrutinize the results of surveys like this and determine where the most unsaved souls are.

  58. #58 Ryan
    March 10, 2009

    I blame the Christian Right. I wonder what percent are going down an objectivist path after leaving their beliefs behind. I know some that have done that and I’d honestly rather they were religious nutjobs than that nonsense.

  59. #59 noahpoah
    March 10, 2009

    There is hope that this world can become a less superstitious place!

    Just as soon as the federal government is done spending our way out of this recession!

  60. #60 Ben
    March 10, 2009

    Anthony @46

    I’ve mentioned on here before that I spent a couple of years in Abilene, TX, and for some reason, my mother (normally a rational person) decided we should try going to church. She picked a nearby Methodist church.

    It was my first, and only, period of churchgoing, and I thought it was all hogwash right from the start.

    I don’t know much about Methodists, but this group was a speaking-in-tongues kind of congregation.

    At one point, the pastor’s wife took about four of us kids (all about ten or eleven years old) into a room and told us what it meant to speak in tongues. I stood there thinking it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard. She then started a prayer session, after encouraging us to speak in tongues if we felt the spirit move us.

    All the other kids eventually started babbling, so yeah, I did too. Peer pressure sucks, doesn’t it? The funny thing is, I was smiling inside at how easy it was to fool everybody. I just wanted to get it over with and get out of there.

    I told my mom about it afterward and we never went to church again. I still have the bible they gave me in the youth group, and I use it sometime to look up silly verses in Deuteronomy or Leviticus.

  61. #61 Freidenker
    March 10, 2009

    Minor detail: the Jewish decline is probably not a result of the decline of belief, pertaining to a Synagogue or whatever – the most likely cause for Jewish decline is simply because Jews increasingly emigrate to Israel, or, in the case of secular Jews, don’t see themselves as “Jewish” anyway. But the emigration thing is much more unique for Jews, because the “A’lia”, the emigration to Israel as a semi-religious undertaking sheds some contrasting light on this survey.

    Overall, though, it’s a wonderfully optimistic review, seems like Americans are slowly waking up from the nightmare of religion.

  62. #62 Logicel
    March 10, 2009

    #54 Heddle, go see a psychiatrist, it would do humanity much good in general.

    If I had come out as an atheist when growing up, I would have been disowned like my older sister was. I lived in fear that the nutty religious aholes like you would be able to read my mind and unearth my atheism anyway and throw me out in the street. You are a vicious, unsympathetic, moronic creep referring to such reticence and I would even call wisdom as being cowardly and timid.

  63. #63 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    fucking pretentious

    Pretension? Ici? Not according to the succinct definition in Horace’s ode 32,
    Ben – fascinating. I tell you what, one thing that amazes me is that all those christianist fuckwits who come here succeed in learning nothing. Not that that’s what they’re seeking of course.
    I remember reading a wonderful true story somewhere about a kid brought up in a Pentecostal or some-such shit-for-brains religion. She said that all her friends loved the Sunday services because the adults all went insane crazy for Jesus and would fall on the floor writhing wildly. They particularly liked seeing a woman who wore various different animal knickers, and betting on which ones she had on. They all found the whole thing hilarious.
    I don’t suppose many groups of fundie kids are quite so wise, however. Poor little fuckers – and a lifetime of misery to come :(

  64. #64 Pip
    March 10, 2009

    Uhm, moving from 14.2% to 15.0% in seven years? Not that great. Indeed, I strongly suspect that people aren’t actually becoming more likely to reject religion – it’s just that older people who were very unlikely to do so have died since 2001, and young people today, just as young people seven years ago, sometimes reject religion.

    Unfortunately, ARIS 2001 doesn’t use the same age categories as ARIS 2008; even ARIS 2008 provides only very low-resolution data. What might be relevant is the college-graduates 25-or-over table, which shows no significant change between 1990 and 2008.

    In other words, it’s hard to see anything like real progress in the ARIS data. Education helps, but not as much as it should, and not more in 2008 than in 1990.

  65. #65 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    Heddle – if you think christianism has ever had a problem with unbelievers, think again.
    It’s always been the christians who have torn their faith apart.
    Remind me – how many official christian churches are there?

  66. #66 Ben
    March 10, 2009

    Anthony @ 63

    The whole episode reminded me of a time, when I was about eight, that I got an obscene phone call. The man tried to get me to stick my hand down my pants. The speaking-in-tongues episode made me feel the same way–that an adult was trying to get me to do something strange, creepy, and wrong.

  67. #67 raven
    March 10, 2009

    Remind me – how many official christian churches are there?

    According to wikipedia, there are 32,000 different sects.

    With more being added all the time. Schisms are a natural part of the religion.

    They used to fight wars with each other all the time until everyone got fed up and took their armies and heavy weapons away.

  68. #68 Paul Sunstone
    March 10, 2009

    I doubt religion will ever entirely disappear. Probably the best we can do is get it down to manageable levels.

  69. #69 Bubba
    March 10, 2009

    @52 raven

    The difference between a xian fanatic with a bible in one hand and a rifle in the other and a moslem terrorist is….nothing at all.

    I would classify John Brown as more of a freedom fighter than a terrorist.

  70. #70 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 10, 2009

    At one point, the pastor’s wife took about four of us kids (all about ten or eleven years old) into a room and told us what it meant to speak in tongues.

    I still don’t understand why those people don’t simply read Acts 2:1-12. I just don’t get it.

  71. #71 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 10, 2009

    I would classify John Brown as more of a freedom fighter than a terrorist.

    This is one of the sillier false dichotomies out there. “Freedom fighter” describes a goal; “terrorist” describes a method. The goal and the method have nothing to do with each other. All four combinations — freedom fighters who are terrorists, and so on — occur.

  72. #72 Patricia, OM
    March 10, 2009

    GodlessHeathen – Greetings from the deepest, darkest, gawd infested corner of fundie land, Wasco County, Oregon. The only place in the state with more fundies than pot plants.

  73. #73 Endor
    March 10, 2009

    “Wasco County, Oregon”

    Is this indicative of the state as a whole, or just an unfortunate fundie nexus? I’ve been aiming to move to Oregon in the next year and want to know what I’m in for.

  74. #74 GodlessHeathen
    March 10, 2009

    I sympathize…I grew up in SW Oregon, another bastion of evangelical idiocy. It was a potent mix of pot plants, guns & Jesus.

  75. #75 Silver Fox
    March 10, 2009

    “It’s so nice to see all the growth visually, or the declining numbers of Catholics and Baptists.”

    I think you’re getting a little delusional there, PZ.
    Think of it this way: the weak sisters are being weeded out. As the true believers toughen up, the pew religionists are dropping out. They have no stomach for battle. With this New Atheism (about which there is nothing new by the way – how many ways can you say “I don’t believe in God”), which, at last, has found a few boisterous voices, a new apologetics and a new evangelization is necessary. It’s just a question of finding out who you can count on in the disputation and who will be sitting in the pews. Looked at this way, they are fewer but better.

    These are just my observations and should not be interpreted as an indication of where I stand in this disputation. I don’t want to be accused of godbotting.

  76. #76 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 10, 2009

    SF, you godbotting? When don’t you? Your analysis is ignored, like the rest of your posts. Stupid in, stupid out.

  77. #77 Patricia, OM
    March 10, 2009

    Endor – The Willamette valley (Portland) is pretty godless. Their favorite woo now is paganism, I have several pagan friends there.

    Eastern Oregon is like Texas. Were I live is between the two extremes. Hood River is the breaking point from the fundies, but it’s very expensive to live there.

    As an example of how bad it is here, the fundies have been picketing the porno shop for three years! On Easter half of downtown is shut down for the fuckwits to watch jebus drag a cross passed the courthouse.

  78. #78 Steve_C
    March 10, 2009

    Haha. Yes SIlver Fox it takes the truly committed and delusional to hang on to their mythologies so tightly.

    Just as we would want. And those numbers are dwindling. So we both see that as a positive.

  79. #79 SLW13
    March 10, 2009

    Whenever I see those statistics, I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

    *Cue Journey re-write!* We’ve stopped belieeeevin’…

  80. #80 Patricia, OM
    March 10, 2009

    Godless Heathen, Yep, we have a lot of those too. My towns newspaper has two pages on religion every Saturday.

  81. #81 CJO
    March 10, 2009

    You’re not godbotting, you’re just stupid:

    It’s just a question of finding out who you can count on in the disputation

    What does that even mean? Disputation? Do you just mean dispute? Do you characterize religious observance primarily as a fight against atheism?

    These are just my observations and should not be interpreted as an indication of where I stand in this disputation.

    Again with the ‘disputation.’ Do you just add syllables to words in order to sound smart? If so, epic fail. And how could the militant tone of your ‘observations’ fail to indicate ‘where you stand’? Why do you add this disclaimer at all?

    I hate you, I hate you, I hate you! But please don’t take my words as any sort of indication that I hate you.

    It doesn’t work that way.

  82. #82 Josh
    March 10, 2009

    …a new apologetics and a new evangelization is necessary. It’s just a question of finding out who you can count on in the disputation and who will be sitting in the pews. Looked at this way, they are fewer but better.

    Oh. You mean you guys are evolving.

  83. #83 Patricia, OM
    March 10, 2009

    Silver Fox – If you’re not a godbot, then just what are you?
    Feel free to answer, I haven’t had my morning helping of weasel yet.

  84. #84 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    I don’t want to be accused of godbotting.


    Looked at this way, they are fewer but better

    Oh my Myers: A new Argument
    No, no….I can’t see our way through this one..we’re all doomed!

    how many ways can you say “I don’t believe in God”

    How long have you got?

  85. #85 Tuna Fish
    March 10, 2009


    Your comment reminds me of an incident from my childhood.

    My best friend and I formed a club called “The Hornets”. It included 10-12 of our friends. My best friend and I of course were the leaders, and we called ourselves “Stingers”. We instituted increasingly draconian rules and initiation rites. Our friends slowly began dropping out, with comments like “This club sucks!” and “This is bullshit!” My best friend and I reassured ourselves that those guys weren’t worthy of being “True Hornets” and that the club was better off without them, stronger even. It wasn’t long before “The Hornets” consisted of… you guessed it… only my best friend and me.

    I’m chortling as I type this. Thanks for the kneeslapper, heddle.

  86. #86 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    Zeus, for one, is in a much stronger postion since the “weak sisters” left him. Only the “seven-day” brothers to go, and the universe is his again!

  87. #87 AnthonyK
    March 10, 2009

    And the Republicans – they must be thanking their lucky stars and stripes now that those wavering voters have left the fold.
    Say what you like, this neo-faiblessism is the death of us!

  88. #88 Endor
    March 10, 2009

    “The Willamette valley (Portland) is pretty godless.”

    Good. The Portland area is where we are likely to be headed. Thanks for the info.

  89. #89 Paul
    March 10, 2009

    David, I see your Acts 2:1-12 and call you Acts 2:17. Because obviously it refers to the current church as living in the end times, and thus they have the power to speak in tongues and prophesy. It’s totally impossible that Peter was referring to his own generation as living in the end times. That would mean that SIWITB.

    Did I mention I’ve talked with a lot with Christian apologetics?

  90. #90 Tulse
    March 10, 2009

    Looked at this way, they are fewer but better.

    And I for one don’t have a problem with that, as long as they have correspondingly less political influence. If the True Believers want to form a hard core of a handful of the faithful, then I’m all for it, as such handful should have practically no impact on public policy.

    I think religious belief is silly, but I’m willing for others to have them, just as I think people dressing up in furry animal suits is silly, but I’m willing for others to do so. But I am no more willing to have the public policy determined solely by the beliefs of and for the benefit of the religious, any more than I am to have it determined solely by the beliefs of and for the benefit of furries. (And I am far more willing to have the furries in charge, as they seem a far more tolerant lot than the religious.)

  91. #91 jt512
    March 10, 2009

    In #30 PZ wrote:

    But at the very least we can deduce that “New Atheists” aren’t significantly impeding the advance of rational thought.

    We can’t even deduce that. Maybe in the absence of a “New Atheist” approach, the increase in atheism would have been even greater.

    I think we should be careful, especially in a science blog, about how we interpret data. Posting an easily refuted, subjective conclusion in a highly visible blog doesn’t help our credibility when we claim to be objective scientists.


  92. #92 Jyotsana
    March 10, 2009

    Endor – Patricia is absolutely right. I’m in Washington County just outside of Portland, and we’ve got an interesting mix of godless, pagans and assorted flavors of theists. I’ve lived here all my life, and in my experience we’re a pretty laid back, live-and-let-live crowd.

  93. #93 Tulse
    March 10, 2009

    Maybe in the absence of a “New Atheist” approach, the increase in atheism would have been even greater.

    It seems rather unlikely, since the Old Atheism didn’t seem to put a dent into the religious numbers.

  94. #94 Sintesi
    March 10, 2009

    Protestant Christians in TEXAS down 20%?? Can that be right? I’m feeling skeptical.

    Anyone from TX want to verify this secular zeitgeist?

  95. #95 Vestrati
    March 10, 2009

    For one time in my life I can say I’m almost ‘proud’ to be from NH. I think this whole increase in non-religion is likely due to the fact that there is so little to do in NH/VT, that many more people are actually opening their bibles and giving em a read.

  96. #96 nick nick bobick
    March 10, 2009

    I would have liked to have seen a correlation of stated beliefs with actual behavior. The survey asked about church/synagogue, etc. attendance but I could not find a table in the report that showed responses. Is there one?

    I think this correlation is an important one that is often overlooked in such surveys.

  97. #97 DLC
    March 10, 2009

    By happenstance, I was flipping channels last night and came across this story on CNN, during the segment hosted by Lou Dobbs. I rarely bother with any news channel’s talking heads shows, but I just happened to catch the teaser, which was something like “Lou Dobbs talks to two leading experts on religion.” His two experts ? Long-time Pharyngula pal and defender of crackers everywhere, Bill Donohue; and Equally craptacular religious nut Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. If you insist on reading a transcript, you can find one at
    It isn’t worth it, really.
    An honest discussion of the issue would have included someone from the Atheist camp as well as one of those two dweebs. I applaud the good news, however.

  98. #98 Paliban Mom
    March 10, 2009

    What a pleasant surprise, Mr. Meyers!

    You honestly reported what the study said, instead of spinning it to meet your own vile ends like the American Atheists group.

    Did you overlook the part where 45% of American Christians, or 34% of the entire adult population, now identify as Evangelical, having spread from the Bible Belt since 2000 and growing rapidly amongst mainline Protestant and also Catholic churches?

    “What is significant is the recent spread of Evangelicalism well beyond Christians affiliated with those groups that are members of the National Evangelical Association so that millions of Mainliners and Catholics now identify with this trend. ”


  99. #99 debg
    March 11, 2009

    Oh, what a wonderful surprise! Living in Wyoming I really thought I was surrounded by bible thumpers and yet people claiming “No Religion” have gone up by 14%!! Ah, truly wonderful. Thank you PZ for sharing this!

  100. #100 Patricia, OM
    March 11, 2009

    Jyotsana & Endor – I could drive to Cascade Locks or Troutdale for a Pharyngula meet up. Maybe Danio could go that far too. It has to be in daylight hours, because I have to be home to coop up the pullets at dusk. Saturdays I work the farmers market in Hood River, which is filled with local atheist artists and farmers. But don’t tell anyone. *smirk*

  101. #101 Patricia, OM
    March 11, 2009

    Paliban Mom – Shove your glory where you last saw jezus. Cow.

  102. #102 Twin-Skies
    March 11, 2009


    Isn’t Paliban a Poe?

  103. #103 Janine, Insulting Sinner
    March 11, 2009

    Yes, Paliban Mom is a very elaborate and well done Poe.

  104. #104 Patricia, OM
    March 11, 2009

    Is Paliban Mom a Poe? I don’t know.

    Damn it, I just love telling people to shove their glory.

    In fact, I wish I still had some glory to shove.

  105. #105 Ariel
    March 11, 2009

    From what I know of the US evangelical movement, don’t most of those folks homeschool their kids? Getting their children a real education would probably stop the movement in its tracks. Who can believe that nonsense if their not soon fed it from birth?

  106. #106 Jyotsana
    March 11, 2009

    Patricia, OM #100 – A meet-up sounds like a blast! Looking at my schedule, though, I’m not sure how soon I’d be able to slip away :( I might be able to crash the Hood River market sometime this summer on my way out to see family in eastern Oregon. And I promise not to tape a piece of paper with the word “atheist” on anyone’s back 😉

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