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90% of Americans Believe in Space Fairies

June 3, 2011 3 comments

by Noah Lugeons

In surveying the national tenor, one could be forgiven for believing that the atheists are gaining ground. While it might seem in some areas that reason is outweighing superstition and secularism is encroaching on stupidity, the numbers would like to respectfully disagree.

In a recent Gallup Poll, more than 90% of Americans still believe in god despite the fact that in the same survey, 100% of them had no evidence upon which to base this asinine assumption.  What’s worse is that among the remaining 9% or so, only about a third were willing to go as far as to say they were “convinced that god did not exist”.  4% of the total took the fence-riding position of an agnostic atheist (“I don’t believe in god but I don’t have the guts to own it”) and 2 % actually said they had “no opinion” on the existence of god.

Gallup has been running these religion surveys for upwards of 70 years now and the total number of non-believers has been remarkably flat in that time. It looked for a time like atheists were gaining ground, but in truth this was a surveying error.  When Gallup recently amended their survey to include a question about belief in a “universal spirit”, a solid eighth of all Americans are willing to sign on to that option.

So is this good news or bad news?

Well, the trend lines are a bit tricky but one thing is certain: organized religion is losing ground.  The number of people who express an actual “belief in god” has been in steady decline for more than a decade. But not all of these gains are going to the atheist camp. Many choose to reject bullshit specifically but not in general. This growth of the “spiritual” movement has been rapid enough to all but wipe out any gains atheists might have seen in the past 50 years.  In fact, as recently as 2008, Gallup’s research showed a reversing trend line.  The number of professed atheists actually dropped by almost a full percent which, perhaps coincidentally, was almost exactly the same percent gained by the more Unitarian belief.

The saddest finding is under a category where Gallup asks respondents about the certitude with which they accept god. They allow for 5 potential answers:

  1. Convinced that god exists
  2. God probably exists, but I have some doubt
  3. God probably exists, but I have a lot of doubt
  4. God probably doesn’t exist, but I’m not sure
  5. Convinced God doesn’t exist.

In the results of this question we find that as many as three-quarters of Americans are unwilling to even entertain doubt that god exists. Officially, 73% were counted in that 1st category with only 3% selecting the correct answer offered at the bottom.

Of course, our perception of this is often colored by where in the country we live.  Those in the West (where atheism and “spiritualism” are at their highest) might be tempted to dismiss the findings altogether while those in the South are likely shocked to find so much rationality in the country.

The issue, of course, is a lack of devangelism. Atheists are too damn nice and too willing to pretend to be “agnostic” about the existence of god. Hell, 2% of respondents were so on the fence that they couldn’t even call themselves agnostic and instead chose “no opinion”. It’s hard for me to imagine that anyone more sentient than a potato could have no opinion on the existence of god, but nobody ever went broke overestimating the vacuousness of Americans.