Graph: What do you call an American with no religion?

Print More
How those with no religion identify themselves

Graph by Corner of Church & State, an RNS blog. Source: 2012 American National Election Study

How those with no religion identify themselves.

Support RNS

How those with no religion identify themselves

How those with no religion identify themselves.

The most dramatic change in American religion over the past two decades is the rise of the so-called “nones.” Nearly one-in-five Americans now have no connection to religion. But surveys show that many of these “nones” still hold to identities that are tied to spirituality.

In the 2012 American National Election Study, 16 percent of Americans were part of the “nones.” People in this group did not belong to any religious group, never attended church, and said religion wasn’t important in their lives.

The survey asked these “nones” how they identified themselves. They were asked to pick from a list of words that might describe them.

Of those with no religion, few considered themselves to be atheists (12 percent) or agnostic (16 percent). Instead, most saw themselves as having a spiritual life. The most common identity was “spiritual but not religious.” Another one-in-ten said they were “non-traditional believers.”

The “nones” are a growing segment of the population, but in this stubbornly religious country, even those with no religion still hold to an identity that is tied to spirituality or belief.

  • LogicGuru

    What’s most striking is the demographic gap. I’m an academic, and according to a survey only 14% of people in my profession are either “theists” or “lean to theism.” And colleagues were amazed because they thought that was high.

    Amongst the urban-coastal educated upper middle class “Nones” are surely the overwhelming majority. But apparently amongst other segments of the population religious belief and practicestill seems to be the norm. This is the origin of Culture Wars: it’s class warfare, between the educated, urban-coastal upper middle class and the lower classes.

    Personally, I don’t feel any sympathy for the whining of the “Nones”. Maybe in their subcultures they’re a minority, but their view is the prestigious view, the doctrine amongst the educated upper middle class–amongst the people that count. So even if they’re having problems in their trailer parks, they’re in tune with their social betters. And that’s what matter.

    Religion is a class issue: and we are in the middle of a culture war between the secular educated upper middle class and the religious lower classes.

  • The Great God Pan

    Gotta love RNS. On the same day, they’ve got one front-page piece saying that 50% of the Nones are atheists or agnostics, and another front-page piece saying that “few” of the Nones are atheists or agnostics. How enlightening! Choose Your Own Statistics!

  • Pingback: Graphs: Who wants to be called an atheist? (spoiler: college-educated men) | Corner of Church and State()

  • Pingback: Breaking Down the “Nones,” the Most Unhelpful Term in Religion Research()

  • To be fair, the problem here may not be RNS, but the data. It’s so indefinite that it lends itself to various interpretations and suppositions.

    For example, in the graph above, either 18 or 19% of “the Nones” are shown as “Other/No label.” It occurs to me that this is a totally useless distinction. We have no idea what these “Others” think, and the pollsters made no effort to tease it out. To have that large a proportion of a group be designated that way, renders the whole exercise suspect.

    And that, as I said, is just one example of the flaws in this data. The cold fact is that religion pollsters have, historically, done a stunningly poor job of figuring out just what it is that the various sorts of marginal believers and non-believers think.

    For a very long time they were happy to shove them into one big box (which, presently, is “the Nones”). That this box includes both religious and non-religious people, along a spectrum of shades in between and with no relationship between each end of it, doesn’t really seem to have mattered to them until recently. But even now that they’ve perceived they have some work to do in this regard, they just can’t seem to bring themselves to really do so.

    Old habits, I’m afraid, are very hard to break.

  • Pingback: Religious Belief and Non-identification—making sense of change. | Iranianredneck's Weblog()

  • Pingback: “Even those with no religion s | TWIMAGI()

  • だから精神が変な人とか(I○Mの人とか含めて)とても警戒している。
    結局こういう出会いの場で付き合い結婚する夫婦って 知らないのか愚痴と悪口のオンパレードw 結婚式 贈る言葉 名言

    なかにはハトメで丁寧な断りの返事をくれる女性もいる。 なんとなく本気でお前が1000円札5枚入れたような気がするよ 阿部寛結婚できない男
    イオンにある映画館に海猿観に行こうと思います(^o^)楽しみ~♪ 俺なんかご祝儀とかお歳暮とかが怖くて友達作らなかったよ

  • Brad

    Upper class? Upper middle class? Lower class? I have no objection to the notion that there is conflict of cultures in our society. Yet, you are quite wrong when you judge the prestigious view to be one of atheism or agnosticism. Which is truly to be more prestigious and which is a better education: A view that is out of sync with reality or that which prevails and proves true? The one that is fact, or the one that is fancy? The grand experiment that will prove that my theism or your atheism/agnosticism is justified is far from over. You are calling the final score the before the game is over. Be patient, soon life will be over and then we will know what is real wisdom, what is the dominant (prestigious) view.

    If I am wrong and in the game of life you called the right score, I will have lost nothing in the end. I will have lived an honorable life and be glad for it in my last moments as I die with hope. If I am right I will have won everything forever. If you are wrong you will have lost everything. You will (I assume) have lived an honorable life and be glad for it, but it will be for nothing and you will die with no hope. Great will be your self recrimination when Christ brings you out of your grave for your judgment and you see the reward of those who trusted in God. Eternity was offered, but betting wrong, the love of the praise and accolades of men, and the safety of running with the pack were preferred above the call of God’s love and the duty involve in submission to His will for your life.

    When I read your post it reminds me of the self assured elitism and snobbishness which I observed in high school. How interesting that many of those who considered themselves among the “upper class” in that setting went on to rather unremarkable lives. While among those of the “lower class” were those that became great. Dr. Ben Carson’s mother couldn’t read, but both of her God-fearing sons went on to accomplish much. I suspect you might hate his politics, but he and his ilk are a rebuke to your proud elitism and the undoing of your implication that educated atheists have superior wisdom.