March 21, 2006
Low Atheism Numbers in the USA: Doesn't Make Sense
I like to look at statistics. Then I like to figure out why these statistics happen.
One of the most mind bogglings stats out there, is the low percentage of Atheists/Agnostics that live in the USA.
Compared to many other countries, the USA has excellent schools, a low poverty rate, and a mainstream media that tends to shy away from the Church. They even have a "separation of Church and State." But a study by Phil Zuckerman shows determines that only 3-9% of Americans are Atheist or Agnostic. Zuckerman, who analyzed many polls and surveys to come up with his worldwide numbers, places America 44th out of fifty countries containing the largest percentage of people who identify as Atheist, Agnostic, or non-believer in god.
For example, 44-85% (depending on the poll) of Swedes are Atheist/Agnostic. 81% of the Vietnamese, 64% of the Japanese, 43-54% of the French, over 31% of the British, 15-34% of Israelis, 19-30% of us Canucks (ranked 20), and 20% of Ukrainians don't believe in God or Agnostic.
In fact, most of the countries that rank lower than the USA are Muslim states(1-5%) and/or 3rd world states. Mexico is 2-7%, very similar to the USA, yet the number is between 18 and 24% in Spain. Poland and Romania have a very low percentage of Atheists/Agnostics, as does Ireland, and I wonder why the huge difference between England and Ireland.
Even in Italy, 14% of their population don't believe in God, similar to Greece at 16%. And let's not forget the Danish who hang between 43-80%.
One general theory in Zuckerman's piece: "comes from Norris and Inglehart (2004), who argue that in societies characterized by plentiful food distribution, excellent public healthcare, and widely accessible housing, religiosity wanes. Conversely, in societies where food and shelter are scarce and life is generally less secure, religious belief is strong. This is not a new theory (Thrower, 1999). For example, Karl Marx (1843) argued that people who suffer in oppressive social conditions are apt to turn to religion for comfort. Sigmund Freud’s (1927) central thesis was that belief in God served to comfort humans in the face of earthly pain, suffering, and death."
Of course, this doesn't explain the USA, Ireland or conversely Korea. To continue, "countries containing high percentages of non-believers are among the most healthy and wealthy nations on earth."
I just don't get the States. They are removed from the Biblical Lands traditionally and physically more than almost every country in Asia and Europe, yet have such a low rate of Atheists and high rate of believers, and worse yet, bible literalists (the fools of fools). The USA foundations may be the cause. They didn't persecute the religious, no matter what the Mormons, for example, thought. And then the USA Baptists pretty much took the Fundy invention of the Rapture in the 1800's, and ran with it, and made it their own.
I was weaned on American TV. I don't remember seeing Beaver, Fred, Barney, Samantha, Gilligan, Agent 86, Greg Brady, Danny Partridge, Batman or Herman Munster ever talk about god or go to Church. There was David and Goliath, but it was so tame that my father even let me watch it. Granted, for the last 17 years, Homer Simpson has been going to Church a lot, but I think he has created more Atheists. Obviously not that many though.
The USA still has up to 26 million Atheist/Agnostics. The scary thing is that according to a recent study, Atheists are the least trusted minority group in the USA.
Where does this crapola come from?: The article about the study.
From the study: “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”
One more reason to stay in Canada.
Updated Reason: DoctorBoogaloosLunchcounter gives a pretty decent explanation in the comment section. He theorizes that America felt indebted to god for winning WW2. Then of course the Cold War happened and the godless communists were the enemy. Canada and England weren't major factors in the Cold War, so this might explain why the USA has relatively less Atheists than those countries. And then to top it off, the Pledge of Allegiance became the motto in the USA in the mid 50's. "One nation under god," and buying gobblygook.
Funny : It's still "A-OK" to hate an atheist!