Atheism on the rise

Since the last Gallup poll was taken, just before the emergence of so-called New Atheism, the rate at which people call themselves atheists has risen significantly:

The poll, called “The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 (the last time the poll was conducted) to 60 percent.

At the same time, the number of Americans who say they are atheists rose, from 1 percent to 5 percent.

I don’t think this is a reflection of changing beliefs. Rather, it is a reflection of changing attitudes:

“The obvious implication is that this is a manifestation of the New Atheism movement,” said Ryan Cragun, a University of Tampa sociologist of religion who studies American and global atheism.

Still, Cragun does not believe the poll shows more people are becoming atheists, but rather that more people are willing to identify as atheists.

For a very long time, religiosity has been a central characteristic of the American identity,” he said. “But what this suggests is that is changing and people are feeling less inclined to identify as religious to comply with what it means to be a good person in the U.S.”

I’ve attributed this change in attitude to a number of facts in the past, including the Catholic Church’s rape problems, but I think a good deal of credit goes to Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, and others who have made the phrase “I am an atheist” something that is okay to say.

via The A-Unicornist