Belief in Gods and Other Religious Concepts Has Declined Since 2001

Opinion poll

There's a bit of good news to report from a recent Gallup poll. Their strange title gives most of it away: Belief in Five Spiritual Entities Edges Down to New Lows. But what are the five entities?

  1. "God" (I'm unsure which one this is supposed to refer to)
  2. Angels
  3. Heaven (how is this an entity?)
  4. Hell (again, how is this an entity?)
  5. The Devil

It should not surprise (but may disappoint) you that 74% of their respondents profess belief in some sort of god. Sadly, the United States continues to be an outlier here. Still, this number has dropped quite a bit since 2001. And while only 12% of those surveyed say they don't believe in gods, that number has increased.

According to Gallup:

As the percentage of believers has dropped over the past two decades, the corresponding increases have occurred mostly in nonbelief, with much smaller increases in uncertainty. This is true for all but belief in God, which has seen nearly equal increases in uncertainty and nonbelief.

Those of us who don't believe in these things should find this news encouraging. Perhaps more of our neighbors are beginning to come around. Caution seems wise, though, since some religious believers will see this as a reason to clamp down and push their beliefs with more force.

Gallup's results also show that belief in these entities (or concepts) breaks down as you'd expect on political lines. Belief is much higher among Republicans than Independents or Democrats. This is consistent with most of what we've heard from leading Republican presidential candidates, and it is cause for concern. Electing such people would be bad for secularism and those of us who value it.

There are plenty of issues where Americans are divided. Religious belief seems like a big one. I watched an interview with several Republican voters recently where they were asked a number of thought-provoking questions. They agreed that nobody who supported reproductive rights was really a Christian. If nobody on the "other side" is Christian, we should not be surprised when we hear rhetoric about crusades or spiritual warfare.

"Christian" continues to be used as a proxy for moral goodness. If none of my political opponents are Christian, none of them are good people. These beliefs are harmful. They bleeds over to how I view my neighbors, and it affects how I treat them. This goes beyond division and ends up as hatred.

Image by Andreas Breitling from Pixabay