State of Atheism in America
Barna Research just released a report entitled, “2015 State of Atheism in America.” The study interviewed 23,000 adults, of which 8,220 were unchurched. For the purposes of this study, Barna combined atheists and agnostics into one group and called this group, “skeptics.”
The research revealed that there have been some demographic shifts among skeptics in America over the past 20 years. Today:
- Skeptics are younger. Today, 34 percent of skeptics are under 30 years old. This is nearly double the percentage from 20 years ago. Additionally, the percentage of skeptics that are 65 years old or older has shrunken by half, to 7 percent today.
- Skeptics are educated. 20 years ago, one third of skeptics were college educated. Today, half of skeptics have a college degree.
- Skeptics include more women. The percentage of women that are skeptics is 43 percent, nearly triple the 16 percent of women skeptics in 1993.
- Skeptics are more diverse. 20 years ago, whites comprised 80 percent of skeptics. Today, whites represent 74 percent of skeptics. There has been an increasing percentage of Hispanic and Asian skeptics.
- Skeptics are more regionally diverse. In 1993, 43 percent of skeptics lived in the West. Today, that percent has shrunk to 30 percent, indicating that skeptics are dispersed more evenly across America.
- It seems that skeptics are becoming increasingly representative of America—better educated and more diverse. This makes sense. Today, it is more difficult to “peg” atheists and agnostics into a preconceived hole. Skeptics represent every race, gender, and economic status.
- There is a rising tide of younger skeptics. Although the percentage of the Millennial generation in America accounts for some of the rise in skeptics under 30, it does not adequately describe why the percentage of skeptics in this age group has doubled. On average, younger Americans are simply becoming more skeptical of Christianity.
- The large increase among women skeptics is a surprise. It used to be that more women attended church than men by a ratio of 9 to 1, but that ratio is rapidly decreasing.
What can we do to address the state of atheism in America?