Anytime you look at surveys about the religious beliefs of people in the U.S., people like me get lumped into this nebulous group known as the “Nones” (or the “Unaffiliated”). We’re the people who don’t belong to any organized religion. We’re atheists and Agnostics… and a whole bunch of people who believe in God but don’t like religious labels for whatever reason.
While the Nones make up 22.8% of the country, the proportion of Nones who believe in a Higher Power is about 70%. In other words, most of the Nones actually believe in God and the supernatural and other forms of nonsense.
That’s why it’s annoying to see confusing headlines like this one from LifeWay Research: “Nonreligious Americans See Evidence of Creator“:
Life didn’t just happen, most Americans say — and a surprising number of nonreligious people agree.
More than 4 in 10 of the nonreligious believe physics and humanity point to a creator, LifeWay Research finds. A third say human morality indicates a creator who defines right and wrong.And although the nonreligious are less likely than other Americans to see evidence of a creator, they are more likely to agree (46 percent) than disagree (40 percent) with the statement: “Since the universe has organization, I think there is a creator who designed it.”
This is supposed to be surprising information. It’s not. It only confirms the problem with lumping everyone who doesn’t belong to an organization religion into the same category. Ed Stetzer, the Executive Director of LifeWay, adds to that confusion by saying, “Even nonreligious people are open to the idea there is a creator.”
That’s how you lie with statistics. While atheists are always open to the idea of God, we’re firmly confident we’re not going to discover new evidence in God’s favor anytime soon. But by using the rest of the Nones as if they represent the thinking of those of us who explicitly don’t believe in God, it muddies the issue.
Make no mistake, atheists don’t believe in a Creator, we don’t think someone else created us, and we don’t think God defines morality. There are always the few atheists on the fringe who disagree, but this is overwhelmingly accurate.
All this survey tells us is that we need to eliminate this category altogether. It’s not helping.