From the Pew: 10 facts about atheists

On Dec. 6, the Pew Research Center published the article “10 facts about atheists,” written by Michael Lipka.

“Measuring atheism is complicated,” Lipka writes. “Some people who describe themselves as atheists also say they believe in some kind of higher power or spiritual force. At the same time, some of those who identify with a religion say they do not believe in God. One thing is for sure: Along with the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans — many of whom believe in God — there has been a corresponding increase in the number of atheists.”

Here is the edited list of the 10 facts about atheism:

1 The share of Americans who identify as atheists has increased modestly but significantly in the past decade. Four percent of American adults say they are atheists when asked about their religious identity, up from 2 percent in 2009.

2 The literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods,” according to Merriam-Webster.

3 Atheists make up a larger share of the population in many European countries than they do in the United States.

4 In the United States, atheists are mostly men and are relatively young, according to the 2014 Religious Landscape Study. The median age for atheists is 34, compared with 46 for all U.S. adults and men make up 68 percent of U.S. atheists. Atheists also are more likely to be white and highly educated.

5 The vast majority of U.S. atheists say religion is not too or not at all important in their lives (93 percent) and that they seldom or never pray (97 percent).

6 Where do atheists find meaning in life? Like a majority of Americans, most atheists mentioned “family” as a source of meaning. But atheists were far more likely than Christians to describe hobbies as meaningful or satisfying. Atheists also were more likely than Americans overall to describe finances and money, creative pursuits, travel, and leisure activities as meaningful.

7 In many cases, being an atheist isn’t just about personally rejecting religious labels and beliefs — most atheists also express negative views when asked about the role of religion in society. A majority of atheists (70 percent) also say churches and other religious organizations do more harm than good in society.

8 Atheists may not believe religious teachings, but they are quite informed about religion. In Pew Research Center’s 2019 religious knowledge survey, atheists were among the best-performing groups, answering an average of about 18 out of 32 fact-based questions correctly, while adults overall got an average of 14 questions right.

9 Most Americans (56 percent) say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral, according to a 2017 survey..

10 Americans feel less warmly toward atheists than they do toward members of most major religious groups. A 2019 Pew Research Center survey asked Americans to rate groups on a “feeling thermometer” from 0 (as cold and negative as possible) to 100 (the warmest, most positive possible rating). U.S. adults gave atheists an average rating of 49, identical to the rating they gave Muslims (49) and colder than the average given to Jews (63), Catholics (60) and evangelical Christians (56).

Atheists flocked to the Reason Rally in Washington, D.C., in 2012.