Our Constituency

The Secular Coalition for America represents the viewpoints of nontheistic Americans. Nontheists use a variety of terms to describe themselves: atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker, skeptic, bright, ignostic, materialist, and naturalist, among others.

Specifically, the Secular Coalition for America represents its sponsoring member organizations and their respective supporters, members, subscribers, chapters, and affiliates.

How many nontheists are there in America?

Polling and research on the number of atheists and agnostics vary dramatically based on who asks the question and how the question is asked.

In March 2009, the results of the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) were released. This survey asks over 54,000 people the question "What is your religion, if any? This survey has been conducted only three times: 1990, 2001, and 2008, and in 2008, the results of the survey were that "one out of every five Americans failed to indicate a religious identity."

The ARIS researchers labeled people who had no stated religious preference or identified as humanistic, ethical culture, agnostic, atheist and secular as "nones." The 2008 survey found that while the number of people falling into the "nones" category continues to grow,  the "nones" are growing at a slower pace than in the 1990s: from 8.2% in 1990, to 14.1% in 2001, to 15.0% in 2008. Since 1990, the "nones" grew at a rate of 38%. The overall rate of growth of those expressing no religious preference slowed after 2001, but the numbers offering a specific self-identification as atheist or agnostic rose markedly from over a million in 1990 to 2 million 2001 to 3.6 million in 2008.

A more detailed study on those identified as "nones" was released in September 2009. Click here for the report. This analysis of nones found the following:

  • 22% of Americans aged 18-29 years self-identify as Nones.
  • 60% of Nones are male
  • More than 1 in 5 people in certain regions (the West, New England) are Nones
  • Latinos have tripled their proportion among Nones from 1990-2008 from 4% to 12%
  • The ethnic/racial profile of Nones shows Asians, Irish and Jews are the most secularized ethnic origin groups.
  • One-third of the Nones claim Irish ancestry.
  • Nones are much more likely to believe in human evolution (61%) than the general American public (38%)
  • Politically, 21% of the nation's independents are Nones, as are 16% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans. In 1990, 12% of independents were Nones, as were 6% of Democrats and 6% of Republicans.
  • 73% of Nones emerged from religious homes, the vast majority of which were homogeneous. Only 18% of Nones were raised by parents of different religious identifications and 27% of Nones had a non-religious parental role model.
  • While there are many intergenerational Nones (people raised as Nones), the majority of Nones, 66%, are first-generation or (de) converts" to non-religion.
  • 55% of nones were not married in a religious ceremony
  • 66% of nones would have a non-religious funeral/burial

A report released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in June, 2008 found that the overallpercentage of survey participants with no religious affiliation, which includes atheists, agnostics, and the religiously unaffiliated, was 16.1%. This figure is nearly equal to the percentage of those surveyed who identified as being mainline Protestant (18.1%) and is the fourth largest "religious" tradition in the United States.

In addition, the survey found that there were more than twice as many atheists and agnostics (a combined 4.0 percent of all respondents) as there are Jews (1.7 percent), and about four times as many as there are Muslims (0.6 percent). The survey also found that one-quarter of all adults under age 30 are not affiliated with any particular religion, which is more than three times the number of unaffiliated adults who are age 70 and older, and nine percentage points higher than in the overall adult population.

In June 2009 a report released by the Pew Research Center found that young adults are more likely than previous generations of young adults to have no religious affiliation. This has resulted in a particularly wide gap between young and old in terms of their religiosity. Fully 25% of those under age 30 describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or nonreligious. This compares with 18% of those ages 30-49, 13% of those ages 50-64 and only 7% of those 65 and older.

 

 

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