Are you an atheist, agnostic, or otherwise unaffiliated with a religion? Why? The number of religiously unaffiliated people in the United States continues to grow each year, and now the Pew Research Center recently conducted a poll to find why people are abandoning faith.
Becka A. Alper, a research associate at Pew, has written about the results of the recent poll. They asked 1,300 "nones" for the reasons why they choose not to affiliate with a religion. The respondents self-identified themselves as atheist, agnostic, or "nothing in particular."
The results of the poll found that 60% of religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S. say that the questioning of religious teachings was critical to their choice in dissociating with religion. 49% of the respondents said that the positions that churches take on social and political issues was a major contributing factor. That tracks with the results of a study published back in April that I wrote about. That study found accelerated loss of membership in churches wherever churches fought highly publicized political and cultural battles (like trying to ban same-sex marriage).
Other responses collected in the survey were a dislike of religious organizations (41%), do not believe in God (37%), religion is irrelevant (36%), and dislike of religious leaders (34%).
While only 37% of the overall respondents said they do not believe in God, 89% of atheists responded that they do not believe. I think the only surprise I find there is that the number is not higher.
This poll, as well as a 2016 study that Pew conducted, found a wider variance in reasons among the "nothing in particular" group of respondents. No single reason really dominated, although questioning of religious teachings had the highest response rate, with the social positions the church takes coming in second.
While the number of religiously unaffiliated people continues to grow, many of us are leaving faith for different reasons. As Alper herself writes, "Those who identify as atheist, agnostic or 'nothing in particular' tend to give different reasons for their lack of affiliation, showing that 'nones' are far from a monolithic group."
As some people try to unite these "nones" for political and social reasons in order to push back against theocratic encroachment on the government, it will be important to understand the differences among us and the various ideas to be found in this diverse group.