Religious “Nones” Second-Largest Group in US; CFI Heralds “Tectonic Shift”

For Immediate Release: May 12, 2015
Contact: Paul Fidalgo, Communications Director - (207) 358-9785

The Center for Inquiry hailed new survey data on Americans’ religious affiliation from Pew showing that those who do not identify with any religion are now the second-largest group in the United States, at almost 23% of the population. CFI, an organization that advocates for science and secularism, declared that the results are a sign of the nation’s increasing secularization and of religion’s waning influence in the lives of many Americans.

In survey results released today, the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life reports that the religiously unaffiliated, which includes atheists, agnostics, and those who claim “nothing in particular,” now make up 22.8% of the American population, up from 16.1% in 2007. This is second only to Evangelical Protestants at 25.4% and greater than the number of Catholics, Mainline Protestants, and all other religious groups in the country.

“America is transforming before our eyes,” said Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. “We are witnessing a tectonic shift from a nation nearly unified in its religiousness a generation ago, to an America where increasing numbers of Americans are rejecting religious doctrines and are living lives largely free of religious influence.”

“While it’s important to acknowledge that not all of the ‘Nones’ are nonbelievers, this sharp decline in religious affiliation points to a growing embrace of religious doubt among Americans,” said Lindsay. “Whether they consider themselves spiritual or atheist, the willingness to inquire and question religious assumptions is a promising sign for our nation’s future. We need critical thinkers, not followers.” 

Added Lindsay, “Millennials make up the most secular generation America has ever known, which means that year by year, the grip of religion on American policy and culture will only continue to loosen. And a more secular America will be one that is closer to the America envisioned in our founding documents: a nation governed by reason, whose policies are not influenced by religious beliefs.”

Lindsay registered one note of disappointment. “In a nation with 23% of the population unaffiliated, with many of these individuals atheists or agnostics, it is striking and regrettable that so few politicians are openly nonreligious. This is a testament to the stigma still attached to atheism. In time, however, that too should change, as Americans become more accepting of their many neighbors, friends, and relatives who are not religious.”

The Pew report is available here

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at