ARIS’ Other Basic Findings on Secularism

FFRF Analysis of 2008 ARIS Results ARIS found that Northern New England has overtaken the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country. Vermont, with 34% Nones, is now the least religious state by a full nine points! The percentage of American Christians has dramatically declined, from 86.2% in the early 1990s to 76% today.

Only 70% of the 54,461 adult respondents of the 2008 ARIS believe in a personal god (meaning at least 6% of self-identified “Christians” don’t accept basic Christian premises). Researchers see a continued underreporting and a reluctance by Americans to self-identify as atheist or agnostic. The investigators note that while only a tiny percentage of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic, based on their actual responses to the survey,12% are atheist (saying they believe in no god) or agnostic (“unsure”). Another 12% are deistic (believe in some higher power but not a personal deity).

A barometer of the times is revealed by the fact that 27% of Americans do not expect a religious funeral for themselves, and 30% of married responses had nonreligious ceremonies. The researchers predict “long lasting consequences for religious institutions” as these trends continue.

ARIS expressed as “remarkable” the disparity between the sexes picking None: 60% of Nones are male and 40% female. In all religious categories, women are more religious than men. “We attribute this to the use of religion to ‘ordain’ master/slave hierarchies. Religion has been spoonfed to oppressed classes as ‘pie in the sky,’ ” said Gaylor. Similarly, Blacks are the most religious racial-ethnic group, yet a remarkable 11% are not religious today.

ARIS found that 27% of Asian Americans are Nones, 12% of Hispanics, and 16% of white non-Hispanics. Roman Catholicism lost the most ground within every ethnic group between 1990 and 2008, while generally holding onto its quarter of the adult population. More than 50% of the population is some kind of Protestant. Thirty-four percent of adult Americans consider themselves “born again” or “evangelical Christians” (some of them Catholic).

Baptists at 15.8% are the next largest sector under Catholics, with Nones at a near tie at 15%. About 13% of Americans identify as “mainline Christian” (Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, or United Church of Christ). Fourteen percent simply identify as “Christian generic.”

Nones far outnumber minority religions: Mormons at 1.4%, Jews at 1.2%, Buddhists at .5%, Eastern religions at .9% and Muslim at .6%. Showing that secularism will only continue to grow is the outstanding news that 60% of Nones are under 50. Only 7% are over 70. (This diverges greatly from FFRF’s last survey in the mid-1990s, in which the average age of a member was 57 or older.)

A surprising finding by ARIS is that the Nones are “only slightly better educated than the average American,” which researchers attributed to “a wider spectrum of people” choosing “none of the above.” Historically, the better educated Americans were, the less religious.

ARIS researchers point out that overall educational attainment has improved to the point where a quarter of American adults age 25 and over are college graduates. The survey found hat 31% of Nones have a college degree.

A statistic that debunks “family values” propaganda is ARIS’ finding of little difference between the “Nones” and religious groups over marriage and divorce. Since Nones tend as a group to be younger than traditional Christians or Catholics, ARIS found the expected results that a slightly higher percentage were “single, never married.” But there is no difference, for example, in the divorce statistics between Roman Catholics and “nones” (11%–lower than mainline Christian at 14%, Pentecostal/Charismatic at 16% and the 13% national average).

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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