Researchers Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar released the results of a study called “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population” (PDF).
It’s possibly the most frustrating study I’ve come across. It says so much without actually saying anything.
It begins with the issue of describing who the Nones are: “The irreligious, the unreligious, the anti-religious, and the anti-clerical.”
So they’re atheists? No. In fact, more than half of them (51%) believe in a “higher power.” The Nones include atheists, agnostics, “deists,” people who are spiritual (whatever the heck that means), etc. It’s basically a mixture of all those people who don’t assign themselves a religious label.
The data tell us pretty much what you would expect from that group:
Nones are mostly male — 60% compared to 40% women.
Most Nones are 1st generation. Only about a third of “current” Nones were Nones when they were 12.
Nones are more likely to accept evolution (61%) than the general public (38%). (Though I’m still embarrassed the number is so low for us.)
No real surprises.
If anything, what I get from all this material is that we need to do a better job of linking together belief in spiritual woo and the God delusion — there’s no evidence for any of them and if you rid your mind of one of them, you might as well toss out the rest of it, too.
We also need to help atheists — real atheists — come out of the closet. They need to be motivated to do it, they need to know there is support for them, and they need to feel safe.