Atheists are not as much of a minority as you might think.
While atheists are certainly the minority in the United States, that is not necessarily the case worldwide. For now, we will stick to the United States.
Recent studies by several research foundations have concluded that 14.3% (14.1% and 13.9% in other studies) of Americans are non-religious. Non-religion is the fastest growing “religion” in the world.
Over the past 30 years, Christianity in the United States has only grown 1.2%. Non-religion in that same period has grown 127% (using the 14.3% total).
One thing that the 14.3% does not take into account is the religious atheist. One third of all the world’s religions are atheistic in nature, meaning they worship no deity (Taoists, Buddhists). Many spiritualists do not worship a god or believe in any deity (New Age, Confucians).
Taking only the 14.3% that means there are twenty-seven million non-religious people in the United States.
My personal view is that the combination of increased scientific awareness and human evolution are driving the rapid increase in non-religion. America seems to be the last bastion of religiosity (except in areas where scientific awareness is limited or access to information is restricted by theocratic societies) – especially in the South where religion permeates everything. It is no coincidence that the eight dumbest states in the nation (Department of Education, 1999) are all in the Bible Belt?
Barna (A Christian-based research organization) advises that the 14.3% is probably too low, because they concluded that an average of 7% of all churchgoers are non-believers that only go as “show” or in order to prevent family from knowing they have “left the fold.”
“Non-religious”, in the terms of the study, indicated individuals that described themselves as non-religious. This included self-described atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhists, Freethinkers and others.
If you take into account the non-believers that are hiding in the pews in fear of retaliation or discrimination that brings the figure to around 21% of the population of the United States claiming to be non-religious or no belief in a god.
If you start throwing in the figures of non-Christian religions in the United States then it becomes obvious that Christianity, still the majority religion, is not as predominant as it used to be.
America is becoming more and more pluralistic in religious beliefs and non-beliefs. It used to be rare to see a Sikh walking around in the local mall – now we see them all the time. It used to be rare to see a family of Hindus walking around Disney World in their religious dress – now we see them all the time.
The beauty of religious freedom allows pluralism to thrive in the United States. The foreknowledge of our Founding Fathers ensured we did not have a theocracy that all these religions can prosper in the United States.
We are not a Christian Nation – we are a religiously diverse nation – a nation of religious freedom.