Today I want to dig into one part of that study because I think it's widely misunderstood. And that is the alleged popularity of atheism in America. As you know, partly because of some best-selling books in recent years, there's a widespread opinion that atheism is growing in the U.S., and maybe even growing quickly. You know. Atheists. The folks who believe there is nothing above us (although they do believe in clouds above us, such as these I photographed last year on my way to California).
The newly released Baylor study confrms that the percentage of atheists in the population is not growing at all. A Baylor news release about the study put it this way:
"During the past 63 years, several polls show the percentage of atheists has not changed at all, holding steady at only 4 percent of Americans who say they do not believe in God. Not only is atheism not growing in the United States, the majority of Europeans are not atheists (Ch. 14, 'Atheism: The Godless Revolution That Never Happened'). Russia now claims 96 percent of its population believes in God, while a recent poll of China showed that atheists are outnumbered by those who believe in Gods).
"In both the 2005 and 2007 Baylor Religion Surveys, researchers found than 11 percent of the national sample reported they had 'no religion.' Although nearly a third of the 'no religion' group are atheists who reject 'anything beyond the physical world,' the Baylor Religion Survey found that two-thirds of the 'no religion' group expressed some belief in God and many of those are not 'irreligious' but are merely 'unchurched' (Ch. 17, 'The Irreligious: Simply Unchurched-Not Atheists'). Delving into the actual religiousness of those who report having no religion, the Baylor Survey found that a majority of Americans who claim to be irreligious pray (and 32 percent pray often), around a third of them profess belief in Satan, hell and demons, and around half believe in angels and ghosts."
Well, does that surprise you? It doesn't me. It reminds me of a friend who once told me he tried to be an atheist for awhile but kept having lapses of disbelief.
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As Ramadan moves toward its end, the Vatican has declared that Christians and Muslims should recognize the family values they share and work together to support them. Clearly the Catholic Church is making an effort to repair the damage Pope Benedict XVI did in his 2006 speech in Germany that angered so many Muslims.
To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here.