Intelligent Design

Atheism and religious belief in America: interesting trends

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I always love a good survey, and the latest Yougov survey of the religious beliefs of Americans does not disappoint. The survey of 996 adults, conducted on 17-18 October 2013, contains quite a few interesting revelations about atheism and religious belief in America. Among the highlights:

* Only 76% of Americans now claim to believe in God. (The question the survey participants were asked was, “Do you personally believe in the existence of God?”) 14% of Americans say they don’t believe in God, and an additional 10% are not sure.

Who are the atheists, in the United States?

Young people

* In the United States, people aged 18-29 are more than four times as likely to say they don’t believe in God as people aged 65 and over. Among people aged 18-29, a whopping 25% say they don’t believe in God, while an additional 12% are not sure. By comparison, 14% of people aged 30-44, 9% of people aged 45-64, and 6% of people aged 65 and over, say they do not believe in God. The percentage of people who are not sure if there is a God is fairly constant across all age groups (12% for people aged 18-29, 10% for people aged 30-44, 9% of people aged 45-64, and 11% of people aged 65 and over.) Only 63% of people aged 18-29 say they believe in God.

* If we examine the age trend, we can see the percentage of people who don’t believe in God growing by about 50% from one age bracket to the next: from 6% (65 and over) to 9% (45-64) to 14% (30-44). However, the trend toward atheism accelerates when we get to the youngest age bracket (18-29), also known as Millennials or Generation Y. Here, we find that the percentage of people who don’t believe in God leaps to 25% – a rise of roughly 80% from the figure of 14% among people aged 30-44.

The coming atheist tsunami: be prepared!

If there is a similar 80% jump from Generation Y to Generation Z (also known as the Post-Millennials or the Pluralist Generation), then disbelief in God could reach 45% among the generation of people who are currently aged 3-17. Add to that 45% another 10% who aren’t sure if there is a God, and that means that the number of people who do believe in God could fall to 45% (a minority, for the first time in history), among Generation Z, when they become adults.

If, more conservatively, we assume that there is “only” a 50% jump in the number of people who don’t believe in God from Generation Y to Generation Z, then that means the percentage of people who say they don’t believe in God among Generation Z will reach 37%. If we add on 10% who aren’t sure if there is a God or not, that makes believers in God a bare majority at 53%, for future Generation Z adults.

Of course, it is possible that the trend towards irreligiosity will come to an end with Generation Y. One hopeful sign is that the percentage of children living with two parents has finally bottomed out at 69% (see here). On the other hand, fewer of these parents are likely to be legally married, and of those who are, there’s an ever-increasing likelihood that one or both of them are not the child’s biological parents. So I’m not holding my breath.

Atheism and ethnicity

* White people in the United States are two and a half times more likely as black people to say they don’t believe in the existence of God (15% vs. 6%). The percentage among Hispanics is 10%.

According to the Pew Forum U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted in 2007 and released in 2008, African-Americans are, by many measures, considerably more religious than the overall U.S. population. Among that survey’s findings:

  • Nearly eight in 10 African-Americans (79 percent) say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 56 percent among all U.S. adults.
  • African-Americans attend religious services and pray more frequently than the general population. While 39 percent of all Americans report attending religious services at least once a week, 53 percent of blacks report the same.
  • Similarly, while 58 percent of all Americans report praying at least once a day, 76 percent of African-Americans report praying daily.
  • The vast majority of African-Americans are Protestant (78 percent), compared with 51 percent of the U.S. adult population as a whole.
  • African-Americans are more likely to interpret Scripture as the literal word of God (55% vs. 33%) and express a belief in angels and demons (83% vs. 68%).
  • African-Americans are more likely to say they are absolutely convinced that there is life after death (58% vs. 50%) and to believe in miracles (84% vs. 79%).

These differences between black and white Americans cannot be adequately accounted for in terms of differences in income or education level, as the effect of these factors on religiosity is not very strong (see here and here). The differences must therefore presumably be due to cultural factors.

Atheists are mostly men

* According to the 2013 Yougov survey, American men are twice as likely as American women to say that they don’t believe in the existence of God (18% vs. 9%).

Women are generally acknowledged to be the more religious sex: according to a 2007 survey of 35,000 adults conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which was released in 2008 by the Pew Research Center, more women than men:

  • are affiliated with a religion: (86% vs. 79%);
  • pray at least daily: (66% vs. 49%); and
  • have absolutely certain belief in a personal God: (58% vs. 45%).

One popular scientific explanation for this disparity is that women are more risk-averse than men, and religion is a way of avoiding risk.

George H. Gallup, Jr. puts forward several alternative explanations: women are more involved in child-rearing (which often includes taking the children to church); women are more likely to have time for church activities; women are more likely to have a best friend who is a regular churchgoer; and finally, women are more likely to believe on the basis of personal experience, rather than reason.

However, another explanation is provided by Rodney Stark, who turns the question, “Why are women more religious?” around, and asks, “Why are men less religious?” Stark’s answer is that “far more males than females have an underdeveloped ability to inhibit their impulses, especially those involving immediate gratification and thrills.” Some men, argues Stark, are shortsighted and don’t think ahead, and so “going to prison or going to hell just doesn’t matter to these men.”

Links between atheism and region of residence, education level and political affiliation

* According to the 2013 Yougov survey, Americans living in the Northeast are 80% more likely than Americans in the South to say that they don’t believe in the existence of God (18% vs. 10%).

* Postgraduates are about 60% more likely as people who haven’t completed high school to say they don’t believe in the existence of God (18% vs. 11%).

* Democrats are about 60% more likely than Republicans to say that they don’t believe in God (16% vs. 10%).

Members of religious groups who are atheists

* Among Americans who identify as Muslims (1.6% of the population, or about 5.1 million Americans), the percentage who say that they don’t believe in the existence of God is exactly zero. Rather obvious, one would have thought. However, among the 35% of Americans in the survey who identify as Protestants, 1% say they don’t believe in the existence of God, and for the 19.3% of Americans who identify as Catholics, that figure rises to 4%. (For the 3.9% of Americans who describe themselves as “other Christians”, the figure is 7%.) One suspects that some people identify as Christians for cultural rather than religious reasons.

* Among Americans who say they belong to the Jewish faith (2.7% of the population, or about 8.6 million Americans), only 57% say they believe in the existence of God. A whopping 22% of people who claim to belong to the Jewish faith say they don’t believe in God. (Are there lots of “cultural Jews”, I wonder?)

* Amazingly, 8% of people in the Yougov survey who claimed to be atheists or agnostics say they believe in the existence of God. (Go figure. Maybe some people don’t know what these terms mean?)

* Among born-again Americans (327 out of the sample of 996, or about one-third), 97% say they believe in God. Among Americans who are not born-again, only 67% say they believe in God, and 19% say they don’t.

How certain are believers of God’s existence?

* Among Americans who say that they do believe in God, 78% are absolutely certain that He exists. However, for believers aged 65 and over, 84% are absolutely certain, while for people aged 18-29, only 70% are absolutely certain. The percentage of male and female believers who are absolutely certain of the existence of God is identical: 78%. The percentage of postgraduate believers who are absolutely certain of the existence of God is 80%, while for people who haven’t completed high school, the percentage is actually slightly lower, at 78% (probably that’s not a statistically significant difference). However, 84% of believers in the South are absolutely certain of the existence of God, while only 66% of believers in the Northeast are.

* In the United States, only 22% of Jewish believers in God say they are absolutely certain of the existence of God. (It appears that Jews are more tolerant of religious doubt than other religious believers: see here.) For Catholic believers in God, that figure is 74%, while for Protestants, it’s 87%. For Muslims, however, it’s 96%. Among Americans who believe in God and claim to be born-again, 90% are absolutely certain of the existence of God, while for believers in God who are not born-again, only 70% are absolutely certain.

Believers who say they do things because God told them to

* Among Americans who believe in God, 10% say that they do things because God tells them to, all the time, and another 16% say they do things because God tells them to, most of the time. Surprisingly, these figures are higher for young believers aged 18-29 (14% say they do things because God tells them to, all the time and 23% say they do so, most of the time) than for elderly believers aged 65 and over (for whom the figures are 7% and 19% respectively). The figures are virtually the same for men and women, and are only slightly higher for Republican believers than for Democrats.

* Surprisingly, 13% of postgraduate believers say they do things because God tells them to, all the time, while for believers who haven’t completed high school, the figure is only 9%. However, postgraduate believers are also more likely to say that they never do things because God tells them to (34%) than people with less than high school education (28%). By region, 12% of believers in the West say they do things because God tells them to, all the time, while only 8% of believers in the Northeast do.

* In the United States, among believers who are black people, 15% say they do things because God tells them to, all the time, and an additional 29% say they do so, most of the time. For believers who are white people, the corresponding figures are 9% and 14%. Among believers who are Catholics, the figures are 4% and 8%, compared with 12% and 21% for Protestants, 30% and 7% for Muslims, and 0% and 11% respectively for Jews. These disparities between religious groups are presumably due to the fact that different religious traditions have varying beliefs regarding the role of Divine guidance in everyday life: some religious groups exhort believers to ask God for answers to life’s problems, while others encourage believers to use their God-given common sense. Even within the same religion (e.g. Christianity), different denominations place varying emphases on the need for Divine guidance.

Does God control the weather and natural disasters?

* In the United States, among people who believe in God, 31% say God controls events like the weather and disasters all the time, and 5% say He does so most of the time. Only 17% of believers say God never controls events like the weather and disasters, and an additional 8% say He very rarely does so.

* In the United States, the percentage of believers who say that God controls events like the weather and disasters all or most of the time doesn’t vary much by sex (37% for men vs. 35% for women), political party (39% for Democrats vs. 35% for Republicans, and 33% for independents), ethnicity (23% for black people, 16% for Hispanics and 15% for white people), or region (28% in the Northeast, 35% the West, 37% in the Midwest, and 39% in the South). However, it varies significantly by age (50% for people aged 18-29, 38% for people aged 30-44, 29% for people aged 45-64, and 35% for people aged 65 and over), and it also varies a lot by education level: 18% for postgraduates vs. 48% for people with less than a high school education.

* Among Christians, the percentage of believers who say that God controls events like the weather and disasters all or most of the time varies from 27% for Catholics to 41% for Protestants; for Muslims, the figure is 75%; while for Jews, the figure is only 7%. The high figure for Muslims is probably due to the Islamic belief in predestination (see also here). A significant number of Christians also believe in predestination. However, very few Jews subscribe to this doctrine.

Does God control human actions?

* In the United States, among people who believe in God, 10% say God directly controls human actions all the time and 16% say He does so most of the time. 33% say God never controls human actions.

* In the United States, the percentage of believers in God who say that God controls human actions all or most of the time doesn’t vary much by sex (18% for men vs. 14% for women), age (20% for people aged 18-29, 16% for people aged 30-44, 11% for people aged 45-64, and 20% for people aged 65 and over), political party (21% for Democrats vs. 18% for Republicans, but only 10% for independents), ethnicity (23% for black people, 16% for Hispanics and 15% for white people), or region (17% in the Northeast and the West, 16% in the South, and 13% in the Midwest). However, it varies a lot by education level: 6% for postgraduates vs. 22% for people with only a high school education, although for people with less than a high school education, the figure is only 16%).

* Among Christians, the percentage of believers who say that God controls human actions all or most of the time varies from 14% for Catholics to 17% for Protestants; for Muslims, the figure is 23%, while for Jews, the figure is 7%.

Some readers may be wondering why the figure for Muslims is only 23%, given their belief in predestination. However, considerable diversity of opinion exists among Muslims as to whether God’s foreknowledge is the cause of predestination, or vice versa (see here).

What do readers think about these trends?

Other Articles of interest

God told me to, say 38% of Americans by Peter Moore. Yougov news report, 25 October 2013.

US Religious Landscape Survey (February 2008) by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

Atheism: Contemporary Rates and Patterns by Phil Zuckerman. From The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, edited by Michael Martin, University of Cambridge Press, 2007

16 Replies to “Atheism and religious belief in America: interesting trends

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, this study/book says the percentages are staying the same while the demographics are changing:

    God Helps Us – book review
    America remains as religious as you thought. – Jul 29, 2013
    Excerpt: You may have read about the rise in the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation, making you think that we are on our way to becoming as irreligious as Europe. You may have read how religion is growing fast in Latin America, Asia, and Africa, leaving you to think religion is on the wane in the United States. Or you may have read about the popularity of the late Christopher Hitchens and other writers who championed their disavowal of God, leading you to think that the New Atheism is drowning out faith in this country.
    Each of those trends is, indeed, real. I, for one, have written quite a bit about the growth of religion across Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The spread of Christianity and Islam in those parts of the globe is influencing religious and political debates worldwide. Just look at the schism in the Anglican Communion, between churches in the northern and southern hemispheres, over issues such as the ordination of gay clergy. Or consider the challenge that militant Islam presents in places like Nigeria. But in God Is Alive and Well, Frank Newport presents page after page of data demonstrating how religion is thriving in the United States. Religious belief is taking on new shapes, mind you; but that morphing is a good thing. It keeps religious expression growing and vital.
    The data presented by Newport, who is Gallup’s editor in chief, start off showing that the percentage of Americans who say they believe in God is on par with the percentage who said they were believers back in 1944. When Gallup asked Americans in 2011 whether they believed in God, more than 90 percent said yes. Over those 67 years, the percentage of Americans who say they do not believe in God has bounced around between only 6 and 8 percent. In other words, there has been no real change.
    Newport also presents data showing that the percentage of Americans saying they attend church is about the same as in 1940. About 40 percent report attending religious services at least once a week or almost weekly. About 15 percent say they never attend church. “Overall, this is fairly indicative of a religious nation,” writes Newport, who was raised a Southern Baptist and is a Baylor graduate. He also highlights how the percentage of Americans who say that religion is very important to them remains at 55 percent. That number is not lower than it was 30 years ago: “There is no indication that there has been a continuous drop in the personal aspect of religion in recent years,” he concludes.
    What is changing is how we believe. That is the fascinating part of the religious trends working their way across America. And they are worth observing, not only for their effect in the pew but also for their influence on the larger culture.
    The first trend does not bode well for people like me, white, mainline Protestants. I am a Presbyterian, and people in my denomination as well as in the Episcopal, Methodist, and even Baptist churches continue losing market share. This is not a new trend, but its continuance suggests that the decline in influence that mainline Protestants have experienced since their heyday in the middle of the last century will continue. The likelihood of a mainline Protestant thinker such as Reinhold Niebuhr popping up and influencing the culture, particularly the political culture, is not so great. And as Newport explains, mainliners are not producing enough babies. Nor are they broadening their base through evangelism or absorbing waves of immigrants. These factors suggest their percentage decline will not reverse itself.
    I have mixed feelings about this reality. Newspapers have lost market share over time, for example, but they serve both a function and a segment of the American marketplace. Perhaps mainliners should focus on their function, which is largely to express the depth of God’s love and how it applies to this world, minister to their segment of America, and worry less about their loss of the overall religious marketplace.
    But the numbers are what they are, and growth is clearly coming in other ways. The most fascinating change is the one that’s accompanying large birthrates among Latinos. Newport reports that those growth rates are keeping Roman Catholicism growing in America. (The percentage of white Catholics is declining, but not of Latino Catholics.) Even more important is the role of Latino evangelicals. They are one of the fastest-growing parts of evangelicalism, and their churches are common in places like Dallas, where I live and where you see neighborhood churches with signs proclaiming names like Iglesia del Señor.
    Latinos could influence the way evangelicalism shapes national politics, and we’re seeing it already in the immigration debate. Latino evangelicals like Reverend Samuel Rodriguez are speaking out for a broad reform of policies, not just tighter security along the border. Look for more such influence. Look, also, for the role that baby boomers could play in religion in general. The older people get, the more likely they are to turn to some kind of faith, a point that Newport backs up with data. If those of us who are boomers follow this time-honored trend, we could become a growth industry for churches and other houses of faith. I had not thought of the possibility before reading this book, but what an irony if boomers, a generation known in part for self-absorption, should fuel religious growth on our way out.
    The part of the book that caught me most off-guard, and that is worth the cover price, is the section that deals with the link between religion and health. I was genuinely skeptical when I started reading Newport’s explanation of data that show how people of faith tend to enjoy better health. I still don’t know what to do with the point: All sorts of people could use it to create a new prosperity gospel, preaching that virtuous living leads to good health. But what would that mean to the religious person who ends up with cancer?
    Still, the research that Newport presents is compelling. There is, for example, a table that shows that Americans who consider themselves “very religious” enjoy higher rates of “well-being” than both moderately religious and nonreligious Americans. The Gallup-Healthways “Well-Being Index” shows very religious Americans reporting higher rates of emotional and physical health, as well as greater rates of healthy behaviors. The same is true of the correlation between the degree of religiousness and worry, stress, and anger. Very religious Americans experienced less of those emotions than the moderately religious or nonreligious.
    Some of these findings make me squeamish: You can almost hear the religious marketing agents hyping the connection between faith and health, promising a stress-free life. (Of course, the last time I checked, some of the greatest martyrs experienced a good deal of stress.) Still, the data show that something is going on. And that is the compelling part of God Is Alive and Well, which you would expect from a Gallup editor’s work. But Newport presents his information clearly in this easy-to-read book, a book that is important to read, as well, if you want to find out more about the state of religion in America.
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/.....?nopager=1

  2. 2
    Axel says:

    ‘These differences between black and white Americans cannot be adequately accounted for in terms of differences in income or education level, as the effect of these factors on religiosity is not very strong (see here and here). The differences must therefore presumably be due to cultural factors.’

    I don’t think so. I’m much more inclined to attribute the difference to black Americans’ possession of much keener intuition. Likewise, the next category, cited: women. In their case, however, their preponderant attendance at religious services I attribute to the essential passivity of spirituality, notably, in fact, in relation to the Christian religion. For men, that is more of an adverse factor than it is with women.

  3. 3
    TheisticEvolutionist says:

    What would you do if there was more than one God bornagain77?

  4. 4
    Mung says:

    What would you do if there was more than one God.

    I’d give up all hope of rationality. It is not possible that there be more than one God.

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    TE asks:

    What would you do if there was more than one God bornagain77?

    Although, Mung’s answer is certainly concise and directly to the point, to flesh his point out just a little bit:

    God Is Not Dead Yet – William Lane Craig – Page 4
    The ontological argument. Anselm’s famous argument has been reformulated and defended by Alvin Plantinga, Robert Maydole, Brian Leftow, and others. God, Anselm observes, is by definition the greatest being conceivable. If you could conceive of anything greater than God, then that would be God. Thus, God is the greatest conceivable being, a maximally great being. So what would such a being be like? He would be all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, and he would exist in every logically possible world. But then we can argue:

    1. It is possible that a maximally great being (God) exists.
    2. If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.
    3. If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.
    4. If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.
    5. Therefore, a maximally great being exists in the actual world.
    6. Therefore, a maximally great being exists.
    7. Therefore, God exists.

    Now it might be a surprise to learn that steps 2–7 of this argument are relatively uncontroversial. Most philosophers would agree that if God’s existence is even possible, then he must exist. So the whole question is: Is God’s existence possible? The atheist has to maintain that it’s impossible that God exists. He has to say that the concept of God is incoherent, like the concept of a married bachelor or a round square. But the problem is that the concept of God just doesn’t appear to be incoherent in that way. The idea of a being which is all-powerful, all knowing, and all-good in every possible world seems perfectly coherent. And so long as God’s existence is even possible, it follows that God must exist.
    http://www.christianitytoday.c.....ml?start=4

    i.e. It is logically impossible for there to be two infinitely powerful Beings!

    Where the ontological argument has gained purchase is in the materialist/atheist’s appeal to the multiverse (an infinity of possible worlds) to try to ‘explain away’ the extreme fine tuning we find for this universe. The materialist/atheist, without realizing it, ends up conceding the necessary premise to the ontological argument and thus guarantees the success of the argument and thus insures the 100% probability of God’s existence!

    I like the concluding comment about the ontological argument from the following Dr. Plantinga video:

    “God then is the Being that couldn’t possibly not exit.”

    Ontological Argument – Dr. Plantinga (3:50 minute mark)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCXvVcWFrGQ

    Verse and Music:

    Isaiah 44:8
    Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

    Everlasting God – Lincoln Brewster
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5zZS4QcGCo

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    There are no white people They are segregated identities in earth’s history and so the white label fails. Even blacks are different identities. Many from here or there.
    Man is not in any way identified by his pigmentation. Never ever.
    Jews are not a religion but a ethnic identity no different then Irish Catholics.
    In evangelical circles the better word to identify man is by people groups. The people in the group have the same moral, intewllectual, cultural traits in a sum and mean.
    Yes more educated and younger people are non believers as they grow up in circles not persuading them about God.
    Indeed as people become more educated they put aside the old religions and even God. So more educated kids equals more disbelief.
    They have no reason to believe in the great claims of religion.
    In all this however its historical evangelical interpretation that most people always are only lightly in this or that opinion on religion/God.
    Evangelicals always said true believers were a tiny minority in the english Speaking world and this that world had the most.
    To believe a smart person must be persuaded.
    Dumber people easily believe especially when they grow up in those circles.
    The disinterest in belief of the smarter crowd leads to disbelief in their kids. However since God/christ is true then the kids over time become believers to some extent.
    However predictions of trends can be made and its not by small percentages attrition over time. Its in leaps because everyone thinks the same almost.
    Indeed rising creationism is a persuasive influence in making numbers more pro-God.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let’s put a few things into play.

    First, Ac 17 — Paul in Athens:

    >>Ac 17: 16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols.

    17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there.

    18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”-because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

    22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

    26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

    “‘In him we live and move and have our being’;

    as even some of your own poets have said,

    “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

    29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

    32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them. [ESV] >>

    ________

    The irony is that the Athenians had to maintain a public monument to their ignorance on the root of being, but were proud enough of their opinions to dismiss the evidence of God and of their accountability before God provided by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (with 500+ eyewitnesses — cf 101 discussion here on and the introductory video here).

    However, in the end, from such small and derided (then bloodily persecuted) beginnings the gospel waxed strong and prevailed.

    I bet that the vast majority of the declared atheists of today have never seriously and soberly assessed that evidence in light of sound principles of evidence.

    Let’s see if advocates of such atheism in its various forms in and around UD can show me wrong on the point.

    KF

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 2: Let’s hear a bit more from Paul, this time on the way cultures may turn their back on materially decisive evidence pointing to God and make substitutes more fitted to where they want to go:

    >> Rom 1: 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

    17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

    [–> Faith, here means trust based on soundly arrived at conviction, not a blind leap as is so often caricatured in our day]

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

    21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

    [–> There is adequate, compelling evidence pointing to God but too often we will have none of it, and instead find ourselves claiming enlightenment when what we in reality have is en-darkenment, both intellectually and morally]

    22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

    [–> Matters not if the substitutes are in old fashioned pagan temples or modern museums and other monuments of Scientism]

    24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

    26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

    [–> Do we see signs of such a debasement of mind or of reprobation around us? Maybe, that is not a coincidence, then.]

    29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.

    32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [ESV] >>

    Does this sound familiar?

    Okay, one more, on the more philosophical side.

    KF

  9. 9
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N 3: A 101 on a worldview foundation in light of self-evident first truths and principles of right reason. KF

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    TE. it is an inherent part of the concept of what it means to be God, that we are dealing with the maximally great being. KF

  11. 11
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain77,

    Thank you very much for your post. I should mention that I do have some background in statistics – I did a couple of years of stats as part of my economics degree. (That was a long time ago, of course: I completed the degree in 1987.)

    I was deeply troubled by the discrepancy between Gallup’s figures and the Yougov survey. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something pretty bold, if not downright impertinent: I think Gallup’s methodology is wrong.

    Why do I say that?

    1. I think he’s priming his interviewees. He asks them a whole bunch of questions like, “What is your religious preference?”, “Do you happen to be a member of a church or synagogue?” and “How often do you attend church or synagogue?” (Hey, what about mosques and temples?) and THEN he pops the question, “Do you believe in God?” Of course, if you ask people like that, you’re going to get an exaggerated “Yes” response. The Yougov survey started off by asking people up-front, “Do you personally believe in the existence of God?” No priming there.

    2. Gallup has forgotten about the “chocolate Mars bar” effect. Years ago, some surveyors asked people if they’d eaten a chocolate Mars bar in the past week. They got a lot of “Yes” answers, and they tallied them up. Extrapolated over the population as a whole, the total number of Mars bars eaten would have been far greater than the number sold in stores around the country. Finally the surveyors figured out what was happening. When people are asked, “Have you done X in the past week?”, many will answer “Yes”, simply because they don’t want to be seen as “non-joiners” or people in the “out” group. So the surveyors thought up a clever way to get a more accurate figure. They asked people lots of questions like, “Have you eaten a Kit Kat in the past week?”, “Have you eaten Skittles?”, “Pop Tarts?”, “M & M’s?”, “Mars bars?” That way, people didn’t feel so bad about saying they hadn’t eaten a Mars bar. This time, they got a much more accurate answer. So, I think it’s methodologically unsound of Gallup to ask his interviewees, “How often do you attend church or synagogue?” He should ask them other questions as well, like: “How often do you pray?”, “How often do you read a spiritual book?”, “How often do you take part in church/ synagogue/ mosque/ temple activities or events?” and then ask, “How often do you attend church / synagogue / mosque / temple?” That way, he’d get a more honest answer.

    Gallup also claims that in 2012, 40% of respondents said they attended church or synagogue in the past week. I say that’s pure hogwash. Even for American Catholics, who have to go to Mass on Sunday under pain of mortal sin (in plain English, a sin that merits hell-fire, if you die with that sin on your soul), the percentage who attend Mass weekly is only 24%. See here: http://cara.georgetown.edu/car.....stats.html .

    In any case, Gallup’s own figures show a disturbing trend. The figures for 2013 show that only 87% of Americans say they believe in God, compared to 98% in 1967. 11% say they don’t believe in God, and 2% are unsure. See here: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1690/religion.aspx#2 . In 1967, only 1% said they didn’t believe in God, and even during the late 1940s, right after World War II, that percentage was never greater than 3%. So even by Gallup’s figures, atheism is growing in the USA.

    Finally, Newport suggests that people come back to belief in God later in life. I’d like to ask: how much later? Does he really think that large numbers of people return to belief in God in their fifties and sixties? I ask this because they’re the only age groups in the Yougov survey with single-digit percentages of atheists. Personally, I’m inclined to think people don’t change their religious opinions much after their late twenties. (Obvious reason: the birth of a child forces them to think, “What am I going to pass on to my child?” Most people become parents in their late twenties.)

    In short: I think Newport is looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. I wish I were wrong.

  12. 12
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, I don’t think the numbers are so easily dismissed. Thus, being pragmatic, I don’t think the situation is as dire as you have portrayed it, yet I don’t believe it is as rosy as the paper I cited portrayed it. Being an optimist, I believe the evidence will continue to mount for ID and reverse the decline, whatever it may be! 🙂

  13. 13
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Robert Byers,

    Thank you for your comment. I agree with you that ethnic labels are pretty silly, especially in this day and age, when racial inter-mixing is increasingly common. However, I do think the differences in religious attitudes between Americans who call themselves “black”, “white” and “Hispanic” are significant. Exactly what their cause is, I can’t say, except that I don’t think it’s economic.

    Regarding Jews: the figures I quoted were for people who stated their religion (not their ethnic identity) as Jewish. Once again, they stood out, so they were worthy of comment.

    Finally, I’d have to agree with your statement that more educated kids equals more disbelief. Rick Santorum was right about that: he said that university weakens faith. (He should know: he has three degrees – a B.A., an M.B.A. and a Law degree.)

  14. 14
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Torley, you may like this trailer:

    God’s Not Dead | Official Full Movie Trailer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMjo5f9eiX8

  15. 15
    vjtorley says:

    Hi bornagain77,

    Good point. It’s truly heartening that many people continue to take theistic accounts of the origin of life and of human beings seriously.

  16. 16
    Robert Byers says:

    vjtorley
    Thanks for your comment to me.
    I don’t think university lowers peoples faith. I think these kids were that way in high school. I might be wrong.
    Its a issue of identity and so the intellectual standard in that identity.
    I think these kids parents were very weakly on the God true side etc. tHey didn’t live or think in a powerful way and so their kids go one step further.
    THe only reason someone should believe in the great idea of a God(s) is from concluding nature demands this conclusion. Or they accept some revelation , for what reasons people do, or some more obscure reasonings, say in philosophy, that lead them to this conclusion.

    Otherwise kids follow their parents/neighbours without serious reflection.
    More educated people reflect more on important matters and need excellent evidence for conclusions about beings beyond our sight.
    I think the most intelligent people believe in God and the true faith.
    THe second most intelligent people believe in a God based on serious reflection on serious evidence.
    The third most intelligent people should be atheists’.
    The rest of the people draw their conclusions carelessly from life.
    The last group I think is about 75% of human population.
    The smarter you get the more you leave the last group to the third. Then to rise you got to sharpen up.

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