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The Nones are Multiplying! Is the US Going Secular?

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Nones in USA

Nones in USA

Maybe the US is belatedly leaving behind the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of belief in Luther and Calvin, and joining the modern world of science, in short, beginning to reject superstitions like religion. A survey analysed by Barry A Kosmin, Ariela Keysar, Ryan Cragun and Juhem Navarro Rivera called American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population, published by Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, suggests it. The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) 2008 is a survey of a nationally representative sample of 54,461 adults. 7,407 are Nones, people who responded to the question: “What is your religion, if any?” with none, atheist, agnostic, secular, or humanist.

The Nones are growing. They increased from 8.1% of the US adult population in 1990 to 15% in 2008, an increase in numbers from 14 million to 34 million adults. Nones are mainly younger than the US population: 30% are under age 30 and only 5% are 70 years or older. 60% of Nones are male, though males are a slight minority of the the general US population, 49%.

Blacks, who are the most religious racial/ethnic group in the US, make up 8% of the None population. Hispanics, in 1990, comprised 6% of US adults and 4% of adult Nones. In 2008 Hispanics had doubled their percentage of the US adult population to 13% and tripled their proportion among adult Nones to 12%. A large percentage of Asians are Nones, 29%.

32% of Nones were Nones by the age of 12, whereas only 9% of people in the US generally were. But the majority of Nones (73%) came from religious homes. 24% of them are former Catholics, though Catholics make up about a quarter of the US population anyway. Since they were 12 years of age, 4% of Americans switched from None to religious, but 11% of Americans switched from religious to None, a 7% imbalance favoring Nones.

Men are more likely to remain Nones than women: 66% of men Nones at age 12 were Nones at the time of their participation in ARIS 2008, but only 47% of women Nones at age 12 remained Nones. American women are more religious than men, men more secular than women.

Nones are less likely to believe in a personal God, only 27% of Nones compared to 70% of all adults, but not many Nones are atheists, just 7%, but Nones are more happy to call themselves atheist or agnostic than all US adults. Most Nones are theists, but hard and soft agnostics together account for 35% of them, compared with 10% of the US population. A notable proportion of both populations believe in a higher power but not a personal God (Deists). Nones do not seem interested in religious rites of passage, like baptisms, religious marriage, or religious funerals.

Nones Table

Nones Table

Nones differ from most Americans in accepting human evolution. 36% of the US population say humans definitely did not evolve but only 17% of Nones, whereas 17% of the population of the US definitely accept human evolution, compared with 33% of Nones.

The percentage of Democratic Nones is similar to their percentage among the US population, but Nones are over represented among independents—over one in five in 2008—and under represented among Republicans—less than one sixteenth. 42% of Nones consider themselves independents. In the US population, 29% consider themselves independents.

Nones are growing in every geographic region in the US, unlike most religious groups. 36% of the US population was in the Southern states in 2008, but only 29% of Nones. The West has 30% of Nones but has 23% of the US population. In 2001, the states with the highest percentage of Nones were the Pacific Northwestern states (Oregon, Washington, Idaho). They are still among the top 10, but states in New England are now at the top, including Vermont (34% Nones) and New Hampshire (29%). There are now three geographic divisions in the US which are particularly none religious: the Pacific Northwest, New England, and the Mountain States.

American Nones embrace philosophical and theological beliefs that reflect skepticism rather than overt antagonism toward religion. Only 15% of Nones with a college degree are theists while 11% are atheists. Nones over 25 with a college degree are the most secular. Young people who are Nones have doubled since 1990 to 22%. In their commitment to reason and science they also continue the tradition of the late 18th Century American Enlightenment. Such views and opinions echo those held by many of the founding fathers and leaders of the American Revolution such as Franklin, Jefferson, and Paine.

Nones are the invisible minority in the US today. In the future we can expect more American Nones given that 22% of the youngest adults self identify as Nones and will become tomorrow’s parents. In two decades the Nones could account for around one quarter of the American population.

Proportion of Nones

Proportion of Nones


Written by mikemagee

25 September, 2009 at 7:00 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Where can I find a group who are nones in the Albany, New York area.

    Walter Crosby

    22 November, 2010 at 12:43 am

  2. Where can I find a group of nones in the Albany, New York area?

    Walter Crosby

    22 November, 2010 at 12:56 am

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