America is rapidly losing its religiosity

December 15, 2021 • 10:00 am

We occasionally see some ignoramus claiming that religion is making a comeback everywhere. Well, that might be true in some places, but certainly not in the U.S., Britain, and continental Europe, whose residents are becoming nonbelievers at a very rapid pace.

I have no real explanation for that save that mythology is no longer tenable in an age of science, and, most probably, because as people become more well off, they become less religious. The last phenomenon has been well documented, and has been explained this way: “when you have society to take care of you, and have a place to live, money, health care, and food, you no longer need to believe in a divine being who will support you or to whom you can appeal for succor.” There’s a ton of evidence for that hypothesis, including negative correlations between happiness and well-being on one hand and religiosity on the other. These are just correlations, and not necessarily indications of causality, but they hold not just for the countries of the world, but for the states of the U.S. And there’s independent evidence for the latter hypothesis, which was first suggested by Marx. Most people just quote the bit in bold, but it becomes clearer what Marx was getting at when you read the real quote, which is from A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.

At least in that assertion, Marx pretty much got it right.

The data on reduction of religiosity are given in this summary of a recent Pew poll (click on the screenshot below to read; the pdf of the full report is here).  And here’s the methodology:

The 2021 National Public Opinion Reference Survey (NPORS), conducted online and by mail among a nationally representative group of respondents recruited using address-based sampling (ABS). The survey was conducted among 3,937 respondents from May 29 to Aug. 25, 2021. The response rate was 29%. Complete details about how the 2021 survey was conducted are available here.

The 2020 NPORS, conducted online and by mail among a nationally representative group of respondents recruited using ABS. The survey was conducted among 4,108 respondents from June 1 to Aug. 11, 2020. The response rate was 29%. Complete details about how the 2020 survey was conducted are available here.

Polls from earlier years are described in the pdf.

What has become clearer to me from this poll is that the “nones”, the fastest-rising group of “believers”, aren’t really people who believe in God and haven’t affiliated themselves with a church. Some of them may well be, but I believe they call themselves “nones” because it’s less damning than saying you’re an “atheist” or an “agnostic.” From this I take the lesson that the percentage of Americans who believe in a divine being is dropping rapidly, and about a quarter of us are nonbelievers, whether you call them “nones,” “atheists,” or “agnostics.”

First, let’s look at what the categories mean. All are by self-identification, and, in particular, “nones” are “people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or nothing in particular.”  The crucial part is what “nothing in particular” really means. Does it mean you believe in a divine being? It’s a bit ambiguous, which makes it hard to suss out the proportion of nonbelievers in America. We’ll get to that in a second. First, I’ll show data on the drop of religiosity and rise of “no religion” (atheists, agnostics, and nones) over the last 14 years. Remember, that’s not very long!

Christians, including Catholics, evangelical Protestants, and non-evangelical Protestants, have dropped 15% over the period; as we’ll see, most of this involves Protestants. People of no religion, on the other hand, have nearly doubled in proportion—from 16% to 29%. Other religions (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, etc.) haven’t changed much, but they are only 6% of the population—about a fifth of those with “no religion”. As the report says:

Currently, about three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones” – people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. Self-identified Christians of all varieties (including Protestants, Catholics, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Orthodox Christians) make up 63% of the adult population. Christians now outnumber religious “nones” by a ratio of a little more than two-to-one. In 2007, when the Center began asking its current question about religious identity, Christians outnumbered “nones” by almost five-to-one (78% vs. 16%).

Nearly all the declines are among Protestants (and, as we’ll seen, among both evangelical and non-evangelical Protestants). These graphs speak for themselves. Catholics appear to cling more tenaciously to their faith, perhaps because they fear the terrors of hell. (I’m joking!)

There’s a graph showing, surprisingly, that “born again” or evangelical Christians (Protestants) outnumber non-evangelical ones. I guess the Protestants I know are a non-random sample:

Within Protestantism, evangelicals continue to outnumber those who are not evangelical. Currently, 60% of Protestants say “yes” when asked whether they think of themselves as a “born-again or evangelical Christian,” while 40% say “no” or decline to answer the question.

This pattern exists among both White and Black Protestants. Among White Protestants, 58% now say “yes” when asked whether they think of themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, compared with 42% who say “no” (or decline to answer the question). Among Black Protestants, evangelicals outnumber non-evangelicals by two-to-one (66% vs. 33%).

The decline of religiosity is also instantiated by the following two graphs, showing a decline in Americans who pray daily (an oft-used sociological index of “religiosity”), as well of those who consider religion “important in their lives”:


I won’t show the graphs, but will just state that, in the 2020-2021 data, about 32% of Americans say that go to religious services “monthly or more”, about 67% “a few times a year or less”, and of the latter, about a quarter of adults say they never go to church, which comports with the percentage of nones (29%).

And (drum roll), what percentage of those nones self identify as “atheists”, “agnostics” or “nothing in particular”? Here are the data over the last 14 years. Note that in all three subclasses, the proportion who self-identify as godless or “nones” has risen since 2007. Atheists have doubled (though they’re at a scant 4%) agnostics have risen 2.5-fold, and the “nones”—by far the largest segment of “not religious”—have nearly doubled. The total again: 29% of Americans are either nonbelievers or not particularly religious.

That’s good news, and the trend is going to continue over all religions in the U.S. (and in the UK and Europe). As for the other faiths, here’s what the survey says:

In addition to the 63% of U.S. adults who identify as Christians, the 2021 NPORS finds that 6% of adults identify with non-Christian faiths. This includes 1% who describe themselves as Jewish, 1% who are Muslim, 1% who are Buddhist, 1% who are Hindu and 2% who identify with a wide variety of other faiths. (While 1% of NPORS respondents identify with Judaism as a religion, a larger and more comprehensive Pew Research Center survey of U.S. Jews conducted in 2020 estimates that 1.7% of U.S. adults identify as Jewish by religion.)

Only 1% Jews—I believe that used to be 2%.  We’re a rare breed!


86 thoughts on “America is rapidly losing its religiosity

  1. Religion, to some extent, is an example of loose, flawed thinking. That people are becoming less religious in the traditional sense does not mean that people are getting any better at examining their ideas. The decline in numbers is often a topic of Christian radio to which I listen from time to time. They suggest finding Christian social groups for their university-bound children 🙂

    1. “God in His Glorious Might is coming,
      Wonderful signs He is ever showing,
      Unrest, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and storms
      Are but revelations of Heavenly Forms,
      The proud white scientist thinks he is wise
      But the Black man’s God comes in true disguise
      God is sure in the rumbling earthquake,
      When He is ready, the whole world will shake”
      -Marcus Garvey
      The article is too predictable. So many that I know would refuse to respond to this survey, and for good reason. And that becomes problematic for those who take anything from these results

      1. Sorry, an article is wrong because it’s predictable from a trend that’s been doing on for years and years? The people who don’t answer are more likely to be nonbelievers anyway, so you’re doubly mistaken.

        And what is that quote from Marcus Garvey supposed to add? There’s not a whit of evidence for the God he’s touting.

    2. Apart from the obvious strategic move of “knowing what the enemy are doing”, what benefit accrues from doing this.

      often a topic of Christian radio to which I listen from time to time

      (This Q does somewhat depend on if there are other useful things to listen to on the radio, which is the case in the UK, but I don’t know which country you’re in.)

    1. That was exactly my thought as I read the story in this morning’s paper. I would also say that many church’s teachings on sexuality and the role women has also contributed significantly to the decline.

      1. To this day I’m still stumped about how any woman could be a Christian, especially a Roman Catholic. Have they ever actually listened to what the Father is saying during the wedding ceremony?

        1. That’s not “the Father.” The frocked personage in the front of the ceremony claims to be celibate, and is not the person had procreative sex with any of the attendants” mothers. Well, maybe one or two.

  2. I attribute the decline to the Internet, where religions go to die. It is easy for young people growing up in religious families to be exposed to nonbelievers these days, much more so than when I was a kid.

    Unfortunately, as more leave the faiths of their parents, those who remain will become increasingly frantic to push nonsense in public spaces.

    1. those who remain will become increasingly frantic to push nonsense in public spaces.

      But they’ll stop complaining when they’re dead, right? Or do you think they’ll finally come up with some testable evidence for this long-repeated claim of “life after death”?
      [SELF : exits stage left, not holding breath while waiting]

    2. I have to disagree with that internet thing. Same happened here in France long ago for christianity, depisite the lack of internet back then. In the same time, Islam nearly holds the line (for now), despite internet (and mainly because it’s a kind of opium for an oppressed minority, TBH)

  3. “America is rapidly losing its religiosity”

    Religion as we know it, yes.

    However, to the religious, their ideology is simply The Truth – not a religion. To wit, the new Puritanism of The Elect – a new religion (as argues, compellingly, McWhorter), possibly filling the god shaped hole, or the uncared for wound of the apostates.

    1. Unquestioned mythology can survive for centuries. I’m not sure about unquestioned ideology. I’ve heard claims about how that demographic refuses to be questioned. In my understanding, though, unquestionable ideologies don’t last longer than three or four generations, from National Socialism to Soviet Communism. It just sucks to be a dissident during those decades. I’d argue that China is a separate case; the Chinese Communist ideology survived through the 1980s; the power structure remains in force today, even without a true communist ideology. I suspect we will have gotten through this whole PC mindset before we finish with monotheism.

      Have you seen any unquestionable ideologies that have stayed in power for over a century?

      1. Capitalism seems to have lasted for a while despite the suffering it has caused. It seems to fit the definition of an unquestionable ideology where the power structure has remained in place

        1. The free market is not an ideology; it is what happens in the absence of an ideology, just like atheism is what happens in the absence of religion. I recently read something along the lines of “‘capitalism’ is a term developed by Marx to label the absence of a system, a free market.” I’ll try to chase down the original.

          1. No, this is false. Without courts to enforce contracts and governments to secure property rights, there is no free market (and, likely, very little if any of a market at all). This, you’re saying right here, *is* ideology, the ideology of free market capitalism, which insists that their system is simply the default when in fact it depends on as much artifice as every other system except that of truly primitive barter.

            1. Well, yes, capitalism does depend (as did feudalism) on such social constructs as property rights, contracts, laws that allow the King’s bailiffs to enforce contracts without resort to violence between the parties, a fiat currency that allows contracts to be settled efficiently, and a banking system to finance floats between receipts and payouts. Without those social constructs you can’t bring yourself to trust an unrelated stranger enough to trade with him, not without incurring high transaction costs. But you can have all those things with no more government than an acknowledged sovereign (himself a social construct) who will enact the necessary laws as royal decrees from time to time and provide for a judiciary. In a pinch, the sovereign himself can be the judge of civil disputes between his subjects. You pay for these sovereign functions with taxes that the King levies as he sees fit. As society becomes more complex you need public goods like lighthouses and sewers that the private market won’t provide for Econ 101 reasons. Notice how railways can be privately owned but roads generally cannot.

              There is nothing inherently ideological about this. If the sovereign could be trusted to use his power only for the common good you wouldn’t really need any other government at least to allow capitalism to flourish. It’s when you realize that you do need to limit the executive power because the sovereign is as corruptible as the rest of us — that’s when you have to develop an ideology about how best to go about setting those limits.

        2. Capitalism is better at making more people better off than any other system that has ever been tried. Yes there are winners and losers. Which incentivizes people to not be losers. But there is less suffering under capitalism than under tyranny and communism because those alternatives need to crush and starve dissenters by the millions.

          That explains its durability.

          1. Very true. That does not make it an ideology.

            It is a default proposition. The free market is what happens in the absence of artificial market constraints. Godlessness and governmentlessness are natural.

            1. “Godlessness [ is ] natural”

              Is that a fact?

              Coronavirus copies itself by infecting its victims that spread the coronavirus. That is “natural”.

              Poor eyesight is natural.

              Wounds naturally become gangrenous.

              Religion too persists by infecting its victims that spread the religion into the next generation.

              Precisely what is meant by the connection between “natural” and, really, anything?

        1. Religions have ideologies, but are propped up by mythologies. My point has been that unquestionable mythologies tend to survive longer than unquestionable ideologies alone.

          1. “unquestionable”

            Is there a more accurate term for what you are expressing than “unquestionable”?

            Just because there’s … a lot to unpack, I guess, with the questionable v. unquestionable false dilemma…

  4. Since the response rate of the NPORS was 29%, my assumption is that 71% have the attitude of “I don’t care enough about religion to even respond” and that half of those are in the “NO Religion” category.

    I couple that with the assumption that few people lie about being atheist or agnostic and that many lie about being religious because they will be ostracized if they don’t say they are.

    My opinion/conclusion is that 50%+ of Americans are “NO Religion”

    1. Since the response rate of the NPORS was 29%, my assumption is that 71% have the attitude of “I don’t care enough about religion to even respond” and that half of those are in the “NO Religion” category.

      IIUC, this survey was taken in America, and on an “address-based sampling” basis (inference – the surveyors can no longer dial phone numbers at random, because significant numbers could afford a landline telephone but don’t have one ; the survey’s customers aren’t interested in people too poor to have a phone line, but that’s been a constant for generations). So a significant number of those respondents were afraid that somehow their neighbours might find out about their irreligiosity … and then its the pitchforks, the flaming torches and the barbecue with unsettling sound effects.

      Unless you’ve got your own Tesla Coil for keeping the slack-jawed hordes at bay.

  5. This steep decline of those who identify as Christian is great news. I don’t care whether people identify as atheist, agnostic, or “none.” The important part, in my mind, is that they are no longer putting money into the collection plates on Sunday mornings. This is the real threat to the authoritarians who hold religious power in this country. And it shouldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people.

    1. Haven’t the financially important churches long-since moved to a 24*7*52 giving-by-telephone model? They’re even trying to spread onto this side of the Atlantic – I see their channel every time I re-tune my TV system.

      Now, if someone could find grounds to force Visa/ MasterCard/ PayPal and the like to stop processing payments for them – that would seriously hurt their revenue streams. Unfortunately, the payment companies probably like their 1.5-2.5% off the top quite attractive, so that’s an uphill struggle there. But between discrimination convictions and financial crimes, there are avenues to attack.

  6. Interestingly Jennifer Rubin (rapidly becoming my favorite political columnist) discusses the same data in a just-released column ( However, she raises the concern that I share, that is that, as the religious base of the GOP shrinks, it will rely more and more heavily on antidemocratic means (voter suppression, vote counting manipulation, the Bush/Trump supreme court, etc) to maintain power. We’re seeing that now, and if the GOP (as is likely) gets a majority in one or both houses of Congress next year, it will only get worse. Thus, while the long term trend may be encouraging, it may have short term effects that seriously erode our democratic institutions.

    1. i read someplace recently that one of the goals of the impending dictatorship when they suspend the Constitution is to force everyone to join a church. (Joining, of course, means having to PAY a membership fee.)

      If this comes to pass, it should be interesting to see where it leads.


    2. I have serious doubts about causation here. The RP has been industriously focused on gaining power from the county level on up via anti-democratic means for decades. Well before the relatively sharp uptick in ‘nons.’

      I think the timing is almost certainly mere coincidence.

    3. Here is Rubin’s key conclusion: “Rather than address this problem by expanding their appeal, White evangelical Republicans have panicked and doubled down on their politics of grievance and resentment. Their aim, it seems, is to attract every White evangelical they can find and disable the votes of everyone else.”

      Trumpism is the Battle of the Bulge for white supremacy, a desperate attempt to save its societal dominance. But, in contrast to Hitler’s failure, it may succeed because of the reasons you cited plus some people worried about the economy, including Latinos, are under the misguided belief that Trump and the Republicans can solve their problems.

      So, the decline of religion does not seem to correlate with an increase of rationality, considering how many Republicans blindly accept conspiracy theories, such as the election was stolen. At least for now, the decline of religion shows no sign of being a harbinger of an emerging better, more rational, society.

  7. > Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature

    I can’t help but think of how much North Americans pushed Christianity onto slaves and other disenfranchised peoples. A friend of mine attended a Canadian Residential School for indigenous youth. The forced religious indoctrination along with other abuse was horrifying. Many cultures are still saddled with the gods of their historical oppressors.

    (That may be the single most PC thing I’ve said all year.)

    Of course, I don’t know whether those populations would be better off with their own native gods. I guess it cuts both ways. I want individuals to have the freedom to question and investigate without social pressure.

    1. … of course, all of the above also applies to Roman Empire (From both Rome and Constantinople) pushing Christianity onto oppressed peoples in Europe, Asia, and Africa.

    2. I’m going to finish From Truth Comes Reconciliation, Clinton & DeWolf, 2021 before I go out on a limb here. They are among the few people who have actually read all 3000 unindexed pages of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report, instead of only its cherry-picked Summary Volume. Some of what happened to some children who attended Canadian residential schools was indeed horrifying but I am not convinced religious indoctrinationper se in the social context of the 19th and 20th Centuries was one of them. Some graduates — I refuse to call them “survivors” — credit the schools with giving them a start in life to make their way in settler society. They tell us that.

      It is too easy to blame religion for everything we did in the past, just as it is too easy to blame colonialism for everything now. Even if we settlers had not brought the Cross to the Americas, I doubt if things would have turned out much different, including at the schools. Priests are not the only people to have abused the trust of young people when they can get away with it. The claim is shaky that if only we atheists had been running the show we would have made found different solutions to the political imperatives.

      Religion ought to be discouraged because it impedes rational thought and can foment hate against non- and allo- believers. But each specific charge needs evidence.

      1. I’m looking for that now. I can’t find it on Amazon or Google. Do you have a link you would recommend?

        1. The book? The editors are Rodney A. Clifton and Mark DeWolf. Published by The Frontier Centre for Public Policy. ISBN 978-0-9878954-3-1 (soft cover)
          My wife bought it for us on Amazon Canada and her account shows it still in stock.

          (Light bulb: Maybe it’s only on the Amazon Canada site.)

          I’m going to quote from the Foreward, by Leighton Grey, Q.C. Indigenous Rights Litigator, because it partly echoes what Chris Hitchens said in his Toronto debate address cited on another of our host’s posts today. He (Grey) praises the book because:

          “First, it pays tribute to the many dedicated men and women who worked at Indian Residential Schools [IRS] throughout much of the last century, the vast majority of whom did no harm to any the children in their care [and whose service is] unjustly overshadowed by the now well-known atrocities committed against IRS students.
          “Second, the book questions binary thinking about IRS. [Grey’s grandmother who died in 2018 at 98] credited the staff at the IRS [in Brandon, Manitoba] with educating her, providing her with proper morals, and even training her to become a nurse, a vocation in which she served during World War II . . . Stories like hers are far from unique and may in fact be more representative of the reality of the IRS experience than the victimhood narrative that is foundational to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report.
          “Finally, this book is an expression of free speech that will offend people.. . .If there is to be restoration to friendly relations, of the making of one view or belief compatible with another, then we must first abandon the post-modernistic infatuation with the pretence [sic, Canadian spelling] of taking moral responsibility to make amends for the past.
          “Reconciliation is not about . . . demanding that the other side take a knee. That is capitulation. . . .[T]here must first be understanding, and a respect for a diversity of opinion and viewpoints about the legacy of the IRS. . . what occurred and why.”

  8. Catholics appear to cling more tenaciously to their faith …

    Much of that identification may be cultural rather than religious. It’s got at least as much to do with bingo night, CYO sports, and an open bar at the Knights of Columbus hall as it does with the transubstantiation of the Eucharist or the Holy Days of Obligation.

    There are quite a few nominal Catholics who qualify as functional “nones,” I suspect.

    1. Really, Ken, what would Sister Felicity (or is it Perpetua) say? I’m of a mind that Catholicism is like a country—e.g., if you’re raised American you can go live as an ex-patriot in Paris but you’re still an American. Ditto for Catholicism. When people ask me if I’m a practicing Catholic, I reply, “I don’t need to practice; I’ve got it down.” That said, I don’t identify with any religion and would probably show up in the survey as “nothing in particular” unless they had a category for pantheists.

      1. Sister Mary Perpetua, Gary, a member of the Vincentian order. After third grade, Dominican nuns took over our school (from black habits to white). The departing 8th graders warned us that the Dominican sisters would be meaner, though I had to find out for myself, the hard way.

        For me, Catholicism is a foreign country (as LP Hartley said of the past): they do things differently there. 🙂

        1. “The departing 8th graders warned us that the Dominican sisters would be meaner,”

          You’re talking to an ex-Jesuit. We consider the Dominicans a gag order.

      2. It is bad that they don’t have more categories. By the way, James Hetfield and Michio Kaku are on the Wiki list of pantheists. I don’t know how reliable the list is, but some prominent people like Einstein and I. I. Rabi are there too.

    2. I am acquainted with a number of recovering Catholics who are entirely irreligious, but occasionally
      attend mass (or a Christmas or Easter service) out of an impulse of—well, nostalgia is the best word for it. On a similar impulse, I have taken my developmentally disabled son to a few, shorter Jewish religious observances. [Come to that, I myself once attended mass in Cuernevaca and once Evensong in Salisbury Cathedral, and cannot possibly be counted among the RCs or C of Es.]

  9. My problem with these surveys is always the same – where do they get the people who take them. I would not expect the drop in percentages to be the same across the country. Maybe they do surveys for each state to compare. If you live in these bible belt places ( and that is pretty wide) you do not see religion going down much.

    1. I would not expect the drop in percentages to be the same across the country. Maybe they do surveys for each state to compare.

      That is covered in Jerry’s not that the survey was “address-based”. What that probably means is that they wrote to one address in each – is it “ZIP” codes the US uses as postal delivery districts? – postal district, and kept on adding postal districts at random until they got their desired sample size.
      In the past, they may have tried to get a uniform, random sample by using a random number generator and a phone line. But with increasing numbers of people using non-landlines for all telephony, that’s probably less representative now. With 11 digits in a phone number, and only 9 digits in the target population, exploring that address space is probably too expensive these days. (Also in some states, it may fall foul of anti-spam legislation, making it potentially a hazardous (legally) tactic.)
      Sampling a population is a very non-trivial subject, with shelves of strategies and their analyses. The details should be in their full report, but are unlikely to make it into the daily press.
      Potential difficulties I can see with “address-based sampling” are that it assumes that the average number of people at each postal address is constant across the country. I’d bet good money (TWO beers!) that the nominal religion of a household’s “head” is significantly correlated with the number of people in the household.

      [Totally irrelevant to the subject :]
      (Why did I get a “invalid security token” message on my last posting? It’s been a while since I booted Windoze, so there are pending updates … but I don’t think I’ve seen that before. Ctrl-A, Ctrl-C.)

  10. Almost half of Americans pray daily? Jumping Jehosaphat, this journey will be long… Among all the idiotic religious rituals, praying takes the prize. Anyway, at least we are moving along.

      1. When my mother was particularly exasperated, undoubtedly because of something I had done, she would utter her most serious prayer: Jesus H Christ, Mary and Joseph!

        All in the family.

        1. In Newfoundland you shout, “Lord Liftin’ Jesus!” just before a moose on the highway in the dark of the night runs into your car like a four-legged tank. (Nancy White)

      2. “I think uttering “holy shit“ or “Jesus Christ“ is considered praying.”

        When my mother was dying at Providence Hospital in Seattle and we wanted to avoid moving her to a hospice care facility, the hospice rep was very understanding and said “Let’s pray for a heavenly discharge.” When we told Mom this, she said, “Heavenly discharge? Holy shit!” This was the same woman who declined giving a urine sample on the grounds that she was Catholic and refused to pee in a Mason jar.

      3. That reminds me of a Dilbert cartoon for which Scott Adams got in “trouble” because Dilbert said, “Oh, God,” in response to some exasperating situation. Adams replied, in his defense, that Dilbert was not taking the Lord’s name in vain, he was praying. ^_^

      4. What about “By the four balls of Jesus, Mary and Joseph!”? Is that a prayer, a prayer and a half, or two prayers?

        1. That is a testament. When you swear an oath to testify truthfully you put your hand on your testicles, or on your thigh, as the KJV puts it delicately. Or maybe on the other guy’s testicles to win his heart and mind. I’m not making that up. In Court, the judge sits on a high bench so he can look down into the witness box and verify your hand is where it should be while you give your testimony.

          And of course that means both the Old and the New Testaments are really bollocks, right? Stand-ins for ‘em, anyway.

    1. Yes, that “45% of US adults pray daily” figure shocked me, too Still, at least it’s heading in the right direction…!

    2. I don’t believe in anything much really, but I still pray in a ritual fashion. Wishful thinking at the ceiling in the hope that it somehow does something just seems necessary (but it’s not the sort of thing I do publicly, because yes, that is stupid).

      1. Prepaying is to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy.
        (Ambrose Bierce).
        Art thou worthy, brother Knight?

  11. The news is not all good. The tabulation of “religious” individuals did not take into account those who
    believe that rationalism is a power-tactic of “whiteness”: for an academic example, see Likewise, the doctrine that the methods of science are just one among various various “ways of knowing”—previously concentrated in the group of postmodernist academic poseurs—has apparently diffused to a broader population of believers, not counted in these statistics.

    To tally up the prevalence of superstitions, we should add the current woke varieties to those of older faiths. We should count those who believe that police deliberately (and with Israeli training) shoot thousands of unarmed Black men every year to those who believe that Jesus rose from the dead; those who believe that Michael Brown was a child martyr to those who believe the same about little St. Hugh of Lincoln; and so on. I wonder whether adding these superstitious beliefs to the tally would make up for the roughly 15% drop of “religious affiliation” in the last decade and a half.

  12. Speaking of fearing the terrors of hell, at one time in my life, I got used to saying things like ‘Go burn in hell’ in way of humour. It was fine with the people I used to hang out with until I ran into a US Christian who took it seriously. I think he believed in a literal hell as a place to which people are sent for being bad bad bad.

    I hav seen woman at a street corner in the US asking people if they were ‘sure that they were not going to hell.’

    I had to revise my own views on the matter when the debate turned in favour of the Christians: the admirable Impes figured it out in 2001.

    1. There is a delightful little television play written in the 1960s by Canadian author W. O. Mitchell called The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon, a modern take on the Faustian bargain. Central to the comedic effect is a theological dispute about whether Hell is an actual three-dimensional place. You have to know a little about curling and the sensibilities of small-town Saskatechewan to really get the story. There is enough mocking of several Christian denominations and the Devil himself that I think it would cause great offence among believers today. Judas Iscariot even makes an appearance. Little Mosque on the Prairie it ain’t.

    2. I got used to saying things like ‘Go burn in hell’ in way of humour.

      Hell is a town in, IIRC, Bergen “County” of Norway. Near the customs hall (“Godshall”) at the railway station (which for some reason gets photographed a lot) is an infamously hot sauna house.
      Did you book sessions there for your friends? Or just give them the business cards?

  13. My experience living most of my life in the South is that most “christians” are posers. I call it “social christianity.” Anybody with a Bible (or not) who can file a 501(c) can start a church and haul in donations tax free. No doctrine required. But, nobody questions these untaxed clubs because questioning or, heaven forbid, criticizing a church is considered impolite.

    I suspect that many of the social church goers are actually NONES, but unable, socially, to admit it. After all, atheists are the very least trusted people in society, according to polls.

    1. But, nobody questions these untaxed clubs because questioning or, heaven forbid, criticizing a church is considered impolite.

      Pinker’s weekly spiel on the Beeb this week was on precisely that subject – how subjects become taboo, how taboos can be discussed.
      Worth a second listen – which is why I recorded it when it was broadcast. I assume His Ceilingcatness has a post in the pipeline with links to the iPlayer or other arena recordings. When I reboot away from Windows, I’ll d/l the MP3s. The series is half-way through, and on previous practice I’d expect the replays to disappear off the iPlayer 4 weeks after first broadcast, so getting the full set may be awkward after that.

  14. I’m always heartened by these annual Pew Research polls showing the decline of religion. And it won’t be surprising to see the percentage of “nones” accelerate as SCOTUS begins taking away long-standing rights and attempts to move the U.S. towards a theocracy. (Which I’m convinced is the GOP’s ultimate goal.)

    At the same time, as Randall pointed out above, I’m sure there is a wide geographical distinction. I doubt a sample from the south and/or the bible belt would show a decline in religion. And where religion is not declining, its adherents are becoming radicalized and even more delusional. QAnon, anyone?

  15. Since Judaism is often regarded as a “people,” or a “culture,” or even a “nation,” in addition to being a religion, it’s very possible to be an atheist and a Jew at the same time.

  16. Anyone else a bit nostalgic for days when religion was more ascendant? It’s not the belief (I’m atheist) but the social and ritual. People coming together in fellowship and, yes, worship. Many I’m sure did not believe what they recited. Yet that was ok; the true point was elsewhere. As religion declines society seems…less civilized, more impolite, looking not to God but government (Woke especially), less ready to compromise. Causation? Maybe not; who knows? Can’t go back.

    1. Anyone else a bit nostalgic for days when religion was more ascendant?

      I was not here back then. I think it depends on what you mean by going back. In the late 1960s, the Supreme Court ruled against states requiring that public school teaching and learning be tailored to the ‘principles or prohibitions’ of any religion. Some readers of WEIT may not want to go that far back in reverse gear. So that is an example of something we don’t want.

      Can’t go back.

      We can’t go back in time. However, cultural regressions are possible and have happened in other places in the world. The US is not just any other place and I don’t follow politics at all closely, but I am not that sanguine.

    2. “Anyone else a bit nostalgic for days when religion was more ascendant?”

      Not in the least, although the witch burnings did bring us together to warm ourselves.

    3. Singing together in a large group on a regular basis in an ampitheater – the congregation, the choir, the organ — especially the _Bach_ – that is definitely missing in the secular world, and there is an ethereal, spiritual feeling it brings about. Caroling too. Think how weird caroling would be now. Christianity almost owns caroling. Spiritual here is not literally of a fairy doing things in the world, but the ethereal feeling – a “high”, if you will, from feeling the vibration in the body, hearing the sound coming out and from all around, reverberating, etc.

      People can sing in the shower, the car, the loud concert and such – but it ain’t the same. It’d be nice to have weekly sing-a-longs, but that seems too weird – too creepy, too cultish.

  17. Remember to the DEI-ists, Christianity (whatever sect) is a false social construct created by the White Man to oppress. This is in contrast to all other religions who’s tenets have a genetic basis.

    That said the religion of the DEI-ists is simple, they worship the BIPOC and abjure the ‘White Devils’.

  18. I’d always gathered the arrival of the Internet had a major hand in the decline of religiousness. So much of passing a religion on involves exclusive access to the youth within a family or community – shielding them from outside information as much as disseminating the religions tenets – but children have been able to look stuff up instantly for a quarter-century or so. That isn’t going away.

    1. I’d always gathered the arrival of the Internet had a major hand in the decline of religiousness.

      If that is so, then how did countries have major declines in religiosity before the early 1970s?

      children have been able to look stuff up instantly for a quarter-century or so. That isn’t going away.

      It is not going to go away of itself, it is going to be taken away. If it isn’t taken away at the national level (Margaret Atwood didn’t mention the Great Firewall of Gilead in her Handmaid’s Instruction Manual because Handmaids weren’t “Eyes” (IIRC the terminology) ; but it was there.), it’ll be taken away at a lower level.
      If I wanted to I could take a perfectly well intentioned open source project (I’m thinking of SQUID, but whole seconds of research would lead to a dozen other targets) and use it to “protect” anyone accessing the internet from my wifi’s reach from accessing undesirable information. So, for example, “Wikipedia” would be silently redirected to Conservapedia ; any search results (I’d have to redirect Google and DDG to my own search filter) that included “whyevolutionistrue” would be re-run for a corresponding search on … on … whatever the blog of the Discovery Institute is.
      That would be a lot of work for me. But if I were providing (say) the satellite base station for a 100-strong religious community in the back end of nowhere, it would be more justifiable. I’ve made similar suggestions when having to do the on-site IT for just such a base station which was being overwhelmed by locals using it to connect their mobile phones to (whitelisting MAC addresses was easier – minutes per crew change, not hours per day).

      Definitely, the more capable God-Squaddies are already doing this.

      Ah, maybe that’s the issue. “the more capable God-Squaddies ” – {empty set}

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