April 2, 2009
American Atheists, a group that advocates on behalf of atheists in the U.S., will hold its national convention later this month. According to the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, 5% of American adults say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit, but only about a quarter (24%) of these nonbelievers actually call themselves atheists.
I argued in a previous post that atheism as an ideological movement has not been particularly successful. While it is not clear from this data who these "non-believers" who don't identify as atheists are, it is interesting that the so called "new-atheism" has not succeeded in convincing even people who don't believe in God or a universal spirit to embrace an atheist identity. I'm also reminded of the recent survey on American Religious Identification that found that a significant percentage of Americans do not identify with any faith. Perhaps the non-believers who are rejecting the "atheist" label are similar to the people who are rejecting religious labels in the sense that they are making a distinction between "ideas" and "identity"? What all this means for religion in America remains to be seen but it is certainly interesting!
"segments of society embrace the implications of the oneness of humankind, not only as the inevitable next step in the advancement of civilization, but as the fulfilment of lesser identities of every kind that our race brings to this critical moment in our collective history."
(The Universal House of Justice, 2002 April, To the World's Religious Leaders, p. 3)