The Pew Forum Religion Survey

This was in the Star Tribune on Monday and there was also a story on NPR about it yesterday.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has released a survey of The Religious Landscape of the United States.

They have some good tools there for drilling down into the data, but I question their findings in regards to atheism.

16.1% of respondents claim no religious affiliation, yet only 1.6% claim to be atheists.

I know many, many people who are atheists.

I think we are under-represented, and I’m not sure if it’s due to the survey sample, the survey questions or the reticence of atheists to stand up and be counted.

Maybe I think there is a higher incidence of atheists because I prefer to associate with atheists?

But it does make me wonder something: If people feel religions are so interchangeable, why are there so many?

Of course PZ Myers has some things to say about it:

16.1% is still a minority, but keep in mind that Catholics are 24% of the population — we could pass them by in a few years. Look at that table on the right. We’re huge (but not at all organized or unified, of course) and growing fast. It’s worth looking at past assesments: in 1990, the nonreligious were about 7.5% of the population; in 2001, 13.2%; now, 16.1%.

The Pew people break down the “unaffiliateds” a bit more, and it looks like a significant number of them do still have considerable affection or perhaps dependency on religion — they just don’t seem to like the existing sects. I suspect we can blame that not on the attraction of atheism, but the repulsion from overreaching, grasping American religion.

Thank you PZ for giving me hope.

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