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← 29% of Americans say religion ‘out of date’

29% of Americans say religion ‘out of date’ - Comments

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 1 by robotaholic

That is a large amount of people - 29 percent of 304,059,724 people- something like 88 million people! We need to start flexing our political muscle.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 18:53:00 UTC | #426256

j.mills's Avatar Comment 2 by j.mills

That 'out of date' thing is strange. Do eternal truths have a 'best before' date then?

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's ox!" [Expires end 1200AD.]

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 19:00:00 UTC | #426257

Aztek's Avatar Comment 3 by Aztek

"Out of date"? Can around 2000-year-old religions with fixed dogmas be anything else but "out of date"?

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 19:04:00 UTC | #426258

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 4 by aquilacane

71% of Americans are out of their minds

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 19:20:00 UTC | #426262

black wolf's Avatar Comment 5 by black wolf

The backlash has already begun with vandalism and censorship against display of non-believer sponsored opinions and facts. I don't envy all the thinking people of the USA who are going to face some very nasty events in the near future. There's going to be more than just stolen signs I'm afraid.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 19:22:00 UTC | #426263

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 6 by Rich Wiltshir

This is really great stuff, but we need to analyse possible outcomes to such a trend;

We sometimes forget that religiosity is inherently a follower's mindset; once the "Tipping Point*" is reached there'll be a huge shift toward (not necessarilly TO) atheism.

It's at this point that we'll be able to help these folk learn to think again, before any imagination that resides in the godsquad camp can be mustered to dupe the poor sods back to bleating again.

*"Tipping Point" is an excellent book by Malcolm Gladwell (the first 70 percent is anyway).

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 19:43:00 UTC | #426265

TranshumanAtheist's Avatar Comment 7 by TranshumanAtheist

[quote]That 'out of date' thing is strange. Do eternal truths have a 'best before' date then?[/quote]

Well, many christians say that their religion made Judaism "out of date."

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 20:22:00 UTC | #426269

AfraidToDie's Avatar Comment 8 by AfraidToDie

while 57% still say religion has answers to most of the world's problems

And 100% of the rest of us are still waiting to hear what those answers are.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 20:46:00 UTC | #426272

Mitch Kahle's Avatar Comment 9 by Mitch Kahle

I think the atheist population can be pleased with these emerging numbers and the trend toward a society based on secular (i.e., justifiable and universal) ethics and values.

We must, however, continue to be diligent in opposing theism (especially at the extremes) until the fundamentalist ilk are pushed deeper into the margin or preferably over the edge and into oblivion.

I've been atheist for nearly half a century and can easily recall (less than 20 years ago) when Madalyn Murray O'Hair was the only voice of reason in America.

Many hated her, including many atheists; but can she be blamed for being angry and "strident" (sound familiar?) when nearly all other voices were silent and state-church separation was a mere ideal?

I believe the argument is won. Atheism has a bright future and we secular humanists have a new obligation to lead by working to elect progressive-minded politicians.

So here's to the year 2010 and a future where science and reason will guide humanity (unimpeded by religion and superstition) to new heights of achievement, equality, justice, and happiness.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 21:49:00 UTC | #426282

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 10 by Laurie Fraser

This is encouraging news, if the poll is to be believed. Numbers do translate into political muscle, as long as those of that (non) belief exercise their voices, and there lies the rub: enough must be sufficiently pissed off with the massive over-insinuation of religious beliefs into public life to actually, rather than supinely, oppose.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 21:54:00 UTC | #426283

decius's Avatar Comment 11 by decius

Comment #444895 by Laurie Fraser

I was just trying to find out how reliable the polls mentioned are. I followed a couple of links, but nowhere was the sample size mentioned.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 21:59:00 UTC | #426285

decius's Avatar Comment 12 by decius

Found, partially.

I'm not an expert in stats, but the accuracy seems overstated to me, given the small sample size.

Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,008 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 12-14, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 22:06:00 UTC | #426287

andrew.trapp's Avatar Comment 13 by andrew.trapp

In response to comments here about calls to flex our political muscle, good luck with that. The old saying about uniting atheists being akin to herding cats is still true. The secular movement has done an adequate (not great) job at fighting for separation of church and state, but to win the hearts and (more importantly) minds of the masses I don't think is something that can be accomplished through the political system.

Besides which, all politicians are inherently populist. Even if xtianity fell to less than half the population here, you'd still have politicians tripping over themselves to show who most prominently wears his religion on his sleeve. And they do it because with voters, it works. Remember that atheism is still the most despised quality a politician can have. I don't think that's going to change until we get not just one or two, but quite a few politicians who are of a Dawkins or Hitchens attitude, who won't take any guff from the religious establishment. And I sure don't see that happening any time soon, though I'd love to be proven wrong.

I think our #1 priority needs to be the educational system. Our public schools are barely even teaching the facts about science, never mind the "how" and the "why" behind it. I just don't see most people as coming away with the mental tools needed to look at the world in a rational, non-ideological manner. Critical thinking seems to be at best just touched upon in schools. We need to be graduating people from high school, not just college, with a full mental toolkit that includes a strong study of logic and logical fallacies, the scientific method and the epistemology of science (i.e. why science is our best tool for discovering and verifying new knowledge), and how to critically and rationally analyze claims. Otherwise, even if religion continues to decline, it will merely be replaced with mysticism, pseudoscience, and other forms of magical thinking. This is already apparent in several low-religion European countries, where there is substantial belief in things like faeries and homeopathy.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 22:11:00 UTC | #426288

Laurie Fraser's Avatar Comment 14 by Laurie Fraser

Comment #444899 by decius

Thanks, decius - a standard kind of sample, and probably good to within an error margin of 7 - 8%, rather than the optimistic 3% quoted. Still, even if only 20% think religion is nuts, that's a sizeable minority.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 22:12:00 UTC | #426289

Logicel's Avatar Comment 15 by Logicel

Rich Wiltshir: We sometimes forget that religiosity is inherently a follower's mindset; once the "Tipping Point*" is reached there'll be a huge shift toward (not necessarilly TO) atheism.

A new study reveals some potentially interesting insights into the 'tipping point' angle. Though influential people can attract more followers, they don't necessarily initiate trends, that is, change. Ordinary folks are the more frequent initiators. So don't give up on the grass roots approach. I regard the intellectually honest discourse that many blogs and websites are contributing to rationalism are part of those grass roots with its accompanying initiation of trends and change.

Several years ago, when this web site was started, several commenters just could not grasp the power of the net in doing this.

Here's a brief review of the study in question (with a link to more info about it):

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 22:25:00 UTC | #426290

Mr Jaguar's Avatar Comment 16 by Mr Jaguar

This is my prediction of what will happen in the future:
50 years from now, The Christian religion will be squeezed down to a mere 25% or less in the USA. And these 25% will be the most devout and maybe a little finatical. I think new extreamist Christain groups will emerge and modern day Muslim extreamists will pale by comparison. An assasinated secular president and evolutionary professors shot as they leave campus'. Desperation will occur.
Grim, but possible.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 22:38:00 UTC | #426291

rod-the-farmer's Avatar Comment 17 by rod-the-farmer

The link above has a further link, to the Gallup site, where there are multiple survey results on the question of religion. Some of them had a very large number of respondents - into the six figures. So they would seem to have some serious credibility, plus they point out they have been doing these religion surveys for 50 years.

All in all, interesting reading, if you have the time.

Sun, 27 Dec 2009 22:43:00 UTC | #426292

InYourFaceNewYorker's Avatar Comment 18 by InYourFaceNewYorker

This is encouraging. I wonder what this poll will look like in another decade or two?

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 00:10:00 UTC | #426304

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 19 by Alternative Carpark

"Out of date"

That's putting it mildly.
And if one was feeling paranoid, could be construed as saying that some sort of modern equivalent should take its place.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 02:21:00 UTC | #426314

DocWebster's Avatar Comment 20 by DocWebster

Maybe we should let Texas secede, that would up the average 3 points or so but we already have a technical advantage over religious belief in that non-belief is just that while belief has all kinds of loop holes and hoops and with many claiming superiority over all. Ockham's Razor always wins in the end, the more you add to the pile the less sense it makes.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 02:40:00 UTC | #426316

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 21 by SaintStephen

9. Comment #444894 by Mitch Kahle on December 27, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Post marked as Excellent.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 03:29:00 UTC | #426320

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 22 by SaintStephen

13. Comment #444900 by andrew.trapp on December 27, 2009 at 10:11 pm

True that. Thanks for a great post. Marked as such.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 03:34:00 UTC | #426322

j.mills's Avatar Comment 23 by j.mills

Alternative Carpark comments:

could be construed as saying that some sort of modern equivalent should take its place.
Larkin's gently mocking poem Water 'springs' to mind (geddit?):
If I were called in
To construct a religion
I should make use of water.

Going to church
Would entail a fording
To dry, different clothes;

My liturgy would employ
Images of sousing,
A furious devout drench,

And I should raise in the east
A glass of water
Where any-angled light
Would congregate endlessly.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 03:37:00 UTC | #426323

Chrysippus_Maximus's Avatar Comment 24 by Chrysippus_Maximus

Uh, I don't think these polls represent babies, the enfeebled, etc., so it can't possibly represent 29% of 304 million.. more like 29% of whatever the adult population with IQs over 65 is.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 04:27:00 UTC | #426326

Alternative Carpark's Avatar Comment 25 by Alternative Carpark


Indeed. Sad but true.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 06:48:00 UTC | #426335

MattHunX's Avatar Comment 26 by MattHunX

Nice. The U.S. still has a long way to go, but at least it's heading in the right direction, with religion, anyway.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 09:04:00 UTC | #426353

Nairb's Avatar Comment 27 by Nairb

Decius, Laurie,
The /- of 3% is surely correct in this case.

See below confidence intervals when estimating a proportion from Wiki

So, (n= sample size, B= accuracy at 95% connfidence interval)
n = 100 <=> B = 10%,
n = 400 <=> B = 5%,
n = 1000 <=> B = ~3%, and
n = 10000 <=> B = 1%.

One sees these numbers quoted often in news reports of opinion polls and other sample surveys.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 11:41:00 UTC | #426381

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 28 by Dr. Strangegod

I'm not sure how Gallup collects their data... (EDIT: Thanks to Decius and Laurie, I now see it was much as I feared, and I am very skeptical that these numbers have any meaning at all.) I do suggest clicking though to the graphs on the Gallup page beyond the RAW article to cut through some of the crap. Just hit the first "Gallup poll" link. At least then you get the numbers without verbal interpretation. Now, how those numbers came about is a different problem.

black wolf - Don't worry, some of us have a lot of experience with firearms.

Mon, 28 Dec 2009 15:31:00 UTC | #426438

SaganTheCat's Avatar Comment 29 by SaganTheCat

while 57% still say religion has answers to most of the world's problems

I almost agree with them, shoud read "yet to answer to..."

Tue, 29 Dec 2009 13:16:00 UTC | #426606

Roger Stanyard's Avatar Comment 30 by Roger Stanyard

MattHunX says

.Nice. The U.S. still has a long way to go, but at least it's heading in the right direction, with religion, anyway.

I doubt it. What's happening is only at the margins. relgion and jingoism are throughly mixed up together in the USA and the extremists/fundamentalists have been on the rise for years.

I'm afraid that vast numbers of Americans still believe that they country is specially favoured and/or chosen by god.

It remains the only developed nation riddled with religious extremism, bigotry and stupidity.

Worse still, you basically can't be a non-believer (the norm in the developed world) in the USA without facing considerable hostility. Try standing for political office if you are an atheist.

The only thing that may look positive is that many Americans lie through their back teeth about religion. The claim that 40% 9f Americans go to church on a Sunday 9as they claim in opinion polls) has long been shown to be fiction.

I never believe an American politician when they stand up and start claiming they are religious. In all probility they are lying.

Tue, 29 Dec 2009 13:37:00 UTC | #426616