Subject: Demographics of Atheism
In article <1991Jun25.firstname.lastname@example.org>
email@example.com (Jeff Sicherman) asks:
> Are there any reliable figures on the demographics of atheism ?
>That is, percentages of population that classify themselves as atheist
>or the related philosophies (no arguments please) such as agnostic.
>Particularly curious as to gender, race, and familiar religious history.
Religious preference was once a question on the census, but that was
challenged and removed, as many people felt that the government had no right
to make a person state their religious preferences. I tend to agree with
that, however that has meant that there hasn't been any reliable numbers
for quite a while (over 50 years, I think). I don't have the sources in
front of me, but I think the percentages reported for atheists were between
6 and 7 percent.
There have been other surveys, notably by Gallup, which tend to couch the
questions in such a way that a militant atheist could be counsidered pious.
However, recently the ICR Survey Research Group of Media, PA was commissioned
by the Graduate School and University Center of CUNY to do a massive survey
on religious belief. From April 1989 to April 1990, 113,000 people in 48
states were asked the question "What is your religion?". 7.7% answered
"none" or "no religion". Another 2.2% refused to answer, which likely
included at least a few atheists who were afraid to admit it, among the
religious people who don't talk about their beliefs. Those who answered
"agnostic", "Unitarian", or "humanist" were counted separately. I don't
have the exact percentage breakdown for them, but they are less than the
So, at least 7.7% to possibly 10% of the population is atheist. Of the
"no religion" answers, 51.5% are married, 23.6% are college graduates,
57.9% have graduated high school and have some college, and 18.5% have not
graduated high school.
Some interesting breakdowns by state for %atheist are:
Arizona 12.2% Nevada 13.2%
California 13.0% New Mexico 10.0%
Colorado 11.4% Oregon 17.2%
Idaho 11.9% Vermont 11.4%
Maine 10.0% Washington 14.0%
Montana 10.2% Wyoming 13.5%
And, not surprisingly,
Alabama 3.9% North Dakota 1.6%
Louisiana 2.9% South Carolina 3.2%
Mississippi 2.8% South Dakota 2.5%