Godless on the Rise

Religion in politics a sign of fear and dwindling numbers, not strength, says expert
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser User
Posted Oct 3, 2011 2:33 AM CDT
Lightning from a severe thunderstorm flashes behind a crucifix in Kansas.   (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

(Newser) – Evangelicals might appear to be everywhere in American politics, but the number of believers is falling, according to studies. Agnostics and atheists are among the fastest-growing segment in the US, reports the Guardian. The number of secular Americans has likely doubled in the last three decades, and has grown especially fast among the young, say experts. Exact numbers are difficult to pin down, but a Pew Research Center study has estimated some 12% of people don't believe in God, while the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford puts that figure at close to 20%. A professor there believes up to a quarter of young people in the US have no specific faith.

"The trending in American history is toward secularization," noted Prof. Barry Kosmin. He points to the days when many sporting events and shops were closed on Sundays. Now the "great secular holiday in America is Super Bowl Sunday." He believes the inroads religion is making in politics is a sign of fear, not strength. "When religion was doing well, it did not need to go into politics. Secularity of our population and culture is obviously growing and so religion is on the defensive," he said. The great secret of political life, however, is which congressional members doubt the existence of God. A spokesman for the Secular Coalition of America said his Washington group knows of 28—"but we don't 'out' people."

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