Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pew Forum: 21 percent of atheists believe in God

Okay. Now I've heard everything: According to a Pew Forum report 21 percent of atheists believe in God. Not only that, but, as the blog "Hot Air" has pointed out, the same report indicates that, in addition, 12 percent of atheists believe in heaven and 10 percent pray at least once a week.

I'm trying to imagine what an atheist prayer would sound like, but nothing is coming to me. Obviously these are not very good atheists, and are in need of some remedial atheist training, in Lesson 1 of which would be instruction on the concept that atheists don't believe in God and so it's probably not too terribly useful to pray to him.

Thanks to Polysemy, a great little blog, for spotting this. Here are the numbers from the Pew Forum:


Anonymous said...

Have you considered that there are such a varity of opinions that some people who don't think there is a personal god or gods would not want to pick "atheist", "agnostic", or the various "secular" choices? Perhaps the folks at Pew just dumped a spectrum of people into one catagory? If you have a copy of Dawkins book look at the chapter early on about the views of Einstein on religion -- not exactly secular but also denying a personal god as is traditionally thought to exist by Christians and most Jews.

This a really sloppy use of the word "atheist".

Anonymous said...

Even more astounding, and presumably not noticed by the others, is that 1% of Evangelical Protestants and 5% of Orthodox Christians (and some of others) do not believe in God. The atheist response I don't understand; perhaps due to how the survey was conducted. But how can someone be an active member of an evangelical movement and not believe in God? That is much more absurd than the atheist case.


Anonymous said...

Depending on how semantic you want to be, Christians can easily fall outside the category of "theistic", and thus be a-theists.

Anonymous said...

The actual question asked was: Question: Do you believe in God or a universal spirit? [IF YES, ASK:] How certain are you about this belief? Are you absolutely certain, fairly certain, not too certain, or not
at all certain?

So, presumably some of the atheists believe in some sort of "universal spirit", whatever that might mean.

Note that the full report reveals that only 73% of mainline church Protestants are absolutely certain there is a God.


Geoffrey said...

If you look at the survey chart, anonymous, you will see that the question actually did make the clarifications you've requested.

Look at the column. 6% of atheists believe in a personal God. 12% believe in an impersonal one.

Please read carefully before commenting.

"Note that the full report reveals that only 73% of mainline church Protestants are absolutely certain there is a God."

Only 73%? Last time I checked, any percentage in the 70s represents an overwhelming majority.

I find it absolutely astounding that such a large portion of Evangelicals don't have any doubts.

73%! That's amazing!

Anonymous said...

"Please read carefully before commenting?"

Are you moderating this blog now?

Anonymous said...

Yes, 73% is a pretty good majority. What does that have to do with anything? What definition is eo numine using for mainline Protestant(me)/Evangelical(reply) which allows 27% to not be too certain there is a God?
Example: If 73% of registered voters said the Republican party is the best political party, that is an overwhelming majority and pretty good. On the other hand, if only 73% of registered Republicans said the Republican party is the best political party, that is pretty pathetic, despite being an overwhelming majority. Is it clear that there are different expectations for different subsets being polled?

Yes, even the short form does include universal spirit. Perhaps eo numine meant to direct the "please read carefully" remark to those various people who reported "21% of atheists believe in God" and not "21% of atheists believe in God or universal spirit?" [I still don't see how an atheist can believe in a personal God.] Perhaps someone can supply the definition of atheist which allows this?


Anonymous said...

Greg Smith sent me this link:

Washington, D.C.: How is it possible that "one in five atheists" proclaim a belief in God, according to your article? Doesn't that contradict the definition of the word "atheist"?

Greg Smith: The thing to remember is that this survey sorts people into religious groups based solely on their self-described religious affiliation. Overall, we found slightly less than two percent of adults describing their religion as "atheist."

As you correctly note, however, some of these people later told us that they believe in God. This could indicate that some people identify with the term atheist without fully understanding the definition of that term. It could also mean that they identify culturally with atheists, or that they have a negative view of organized religion, even though they themselves believe in God.

This point also illustrates the great diversity that exists within every religious tradition in the United States. Just as there are some self-identified atheists who say they believe in God, the "converse," so to speak, is also true -- there are members of many religious traditions who say that they do not believe in God.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

in THIS debate, the bible has the says people BELEVE IN a form of GODLINESS, BUT BELEIVE FALSE TO ITS POWER..