Atheism: rom Greek atheos,
a disbelie in the existence o a deity. Atheist: one who denies the existence o God. Agnostic: rom Greek
unknown, one who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.
(Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary)
theists and Agnostics are ringe populations in U.S. society. Considered by many to be deviant,
Atheists are a distrusted group. According to a GallupPoll rom September 2006, a vast majority o the public (84 percent) thinks that Americans are not ready to elect an Atheist as president.
Although Atheists and Agnostics are tiny minority groups, the attention they attract, particularly romthe religious right, warrants a better understanding o exactly who they are interms o social characteristics such as gender, age, educational level, ethnicity and political preerences.This chapter provides a demographic and social prole o three distinctgroups: sel-identied Atheists, sel-identied Agnostics, and those whoanswered “none” to a survey question, “
What is your religion, i any?
” The rsttwo groups are quite small, together amounting to about 1 percent o the U.S.adult population. The third group, called the no-religion group, is about 13percent o the population. All are growing. Together, the three groups increased rom about 14 millionin 1990 to over 29 million in 2001, according to
Religion in a Free Market: Religious and Non-Religious Americans, Who, What, Why, Where.
It takes a very large sample o the population to develop a reliable portraito minority groups as small as Atheists and Agnostics. The American ReligiousIdentication Survey (ARIS) 2001 is perhaps the only survey large enough.