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Who Are America’s Atheists and Agnostics?

Who Are America’s Atheists and Agnostics?

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Who Are America’s Atheists and Agnostics?

Author: Ariela Keysar
Who Are America’s Atheists and Agnostics?

Author: Ariela Keysar

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 Ariela Keysar 
 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 preerences.This chapter provides a demographic and social prole o three distinctgroups: sel-identied Atheists, sel-identied 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 ReligiousIdentication Survey (ARIS) 2001 is perhaps the only survey large enough.
& S
 With its random sample o 50,281 adult respondents, it estimated the numbero American adult Atheists as 900,000 and adult Agnostics as 990,000.This data set presents a unique opportunity to distinguish between threegroups previously lumped together—Atheists, Agnostics, and those proessingno religion. Drawing on the ne detail available rom the ARIS, this chapteris the rst to show the dierences as well as the similarities among these threedistinct groups.
Both Agnostics and Atheists are predominantly male. In the U.S. population asa whole, 48 percent o adults are male, as are 47 percent o Catholic adults. By comparison, males account or 56 percent o the no-religion group, 70 percento Atheists, and 75 percent o Agnostics, as shown in
Figure 3-1
. This may refectmen’s greater tendency to disbelieve and reject authority.
 Atheists are young. Fully 55 percent are under age 35. Only 20 percent are 50and over, as opposed to 37 percent o all Americans. Interestingly, Agnostics areolder than Atheists, though still younger than the general population, as shownin
Figure 3-2 
Beyond the numbers shown here, ARIS data show that one-third o Atheistsare under age 25. Hal o them are age 30 or under. This age structure has majordemographic consequences. It helps explains their marital status—41 percentare singles never married and only 40 percent are married. Among Agnosticsand “no religion” adults, about 30 percent are singles never married and about50 percent are married. Once again, the Agnostic and “no religion” are similar toone another while the Atheists’ marital status is more distinct.Comparing this 2001 data with the 1990 National Survey o ReligiousIdentication (NSRI)
provides clear evidence o a recent trend towardssecularization among the younger American population. The diusion o secularmessages aimed at young people on TV and over the Internet may explain thecorrelations between popular youth culture and the demographic characteristicsrevealed by the ARIS. O course, it is possible that this is an “age” rather thana “generational” eect, so that some o these young people may “convert” andbecome believers as they get older, and thus reassert the belie patterns o theirparents and grandparents.
Figure 3-1
Percent Male Among Atheist, Agnostic and No Religion Adults
U.S. TotalNo ReligionAthiestAgnostic
Source: American Religious Identifcation Survey (ARIS) 2001Source: American Religious Identifcation Survey (ARIS) 2001
     p     e     r     c     e     n      t
Atheist Agnostic No Religion U.S. Total
Figure 3-2 
Age Composition of Atheist, Agnostic and No Religion

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Greetings, I am an atheist for among other reasons, and in no particular order of importance, because I just don't see the Christ guy Christians repeatedly describe, and SHOULD emulate, as supporting ANY group whose symbol is a man NAILED to two pieces of wood.
Meagan Cooney liked this
Shahzad Shameem liked this
Adelaide Dupont added this note
I was interested to see the relatively low educational level among Atheists, and the bimodal distribution. "Gnosis" = knowledge. And this was back in 2001. I would be very interested to see the census for this year! And figure 3-5: the Democrats seem to be around the US total for the non-theists but they are less likely to prefer Republican and very much more likely to prefer Independents.
tsupasat added this note
In other words, America's atheists generally cocky young white guys who think they know everything. Having grown slightly older, they realize they don't know everything and self-identify as agnostic.

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