Comments about ‘Survey: Many Americans believe rise in number of non-religious is bad’

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Published: Friday, July 5 2013 10:55 p.m. MDT

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Another way to write "Almost half of all Americans say recent growth in the number of non-religious people is a bad thing for society" is

More than half of all Americans say recent growth in the number of non-religious people is NOT a bad thing for society.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY


Science has less been at odds with religion than it has with religious institutions (not to pick on them, but often it was the catholic church simply by virtue of history). But there have been many very religious scientists. Newton is my favorite. I don’t give much credence to speculation about the time of the second coming and right now I just don’t have a lot of time. But someday I will read his examination of the topic with great interest.

Reference the church and homosexuality, I think there are certain clear limits. There was an understanding that the priesthood would be extended (the timeframe was unknown). Gender roles have been clearly mapped out via the Proclamation and other statements.

Kings Court
Alpine, UT

So, not believing in something that nobody can prove with empirical evidence is a bad thing? Really? You have got to be kidding me. To me, worrying about the beliefs of others rather than keeping it a personal matter is "bad." When it comes to religion, it is an exercise in group participation and validation because it is hard to truly believe in the unseeable on your own, but somehow, if you can get someone else to believe in the same things, it gives it the illusion of reality.

American Fork, UT

George of the jungle, it's pretty simple. I experience evidence of gravity.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Twin Lights – “The concept that science and logic somehow "belong" to the non-religious is simply irrational.”

I think what frustrates many non-believers is the propensity of believers to insert God into the gaps (of what science has not yet figured out). And this has been going on since recorded history and the success rate for religion is not good, while for science it is stellar.

At some point I think it quite rational for people to question the entire religious enterprise based on this historical competition between two ways of knowing.


When organized religion stops secretly buying up the best farmland in America I'll feel better. I think all religions (and all charities for that matter) should disclose their financial affairs so we can see what is really important to their leaders.

Salt Lake City, UT

Modern organized religions walk, talk and quack more like big businesses devoted to market share, long term growth and the income statement bottom line than to actual worship. They have accounting, HR and marketing departments just like any other large business.

For many, I think they are deciding to retain their beliefs and faith but do so away from the modern church meetinghouses. People realize they can be a good, moral person without some spiritual leader showing the way.


A March 2009 academic article by Phil Zuckerman of Pitzer College, is entitled "Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions" cites detailed studies of the areas in question.
Zuckerman analyzed a wide array of data comparing religious nations to less religious nations and also, interestingly, religious states within the United States (i.e. "Bible-belt" states) to less religious states.

Citing four different studies, Zuckerman states: "Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious nations where belief in God is widespread." He also states: "Of the top 50 safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries."

Zuckerman writes: "And within America, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be the highly religious, eg. Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be the among the least religious in the country, eg. Vermont and Oregon."

A 1999 Barna study found that atheists and agnostics actually have lower divorce rates than religious Americans.

He also cites another study, in Canada, that found conservative Christian women experienced higher rates of domestic violence than non-affiliated women.


The (Baylor) sociologists’ study, published in the journal Criminology, also showed young adults in a fourth category—who say they are neither spiritual nor religious—are less likely to commit property crimes than the “spiritual but not religious” individuals. But no difference was found between the two groups when it came to violent crimes."

So should the takeaway be that it is worse to be spiritual but not religious than to be neither spiritual nor religious?

Danbury, CT

I don't have a problem with people believing or not believing, it is the anger and stereotypes some have on both fringes that disturbs me. Some religious people act like anyone who doesn't believe like they do are going to end up in hell and some atheists act like anyone who believes lacks a brain and can't possibly believe in Science.

So for me, it comes down to how we treat one another and acting with respect. I believe Atheists can still be caring, good people, and feel that Believers can use their faith to help others. I believe one day we will know for sure whether there is a God and an afterlife. I've had experiences in my life, living and traveling abroad that suggest to me there is a Supreme Being. I also am an avid student of Science, History and Human Behavior. I love my family and friends who don't believe and hope we can have a respectful, intelligent dialog.

  • 12:55 p.m. July 6, 2013
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Danbury, CT

If you took away all Religion from the world, you would still have crime, war and hate. Look at the biggest wars in history (e.g. the 20th century) who were led by people of no religion at all. Don't blame Jesus just because people sometimes don't know how to implement what He taught. It's real hard to forgive and love unconditionally, but it is the only way to heal and unwind hate. We've tried revenge. It never works.

Atheist led USSR and Nazi Germany, Mao, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh, etc. all have shown that the experiment of removing God didn't remove our natural desire to conquer, kill and control.

Freeland, WA

The increase of non-religious people does not surprise me in the least. There are too many people out there that run around with blinders on in the name of their religion and they turn their backs on people who don't fit their mold. I don't consider myself a religious person, yet I believe I'm a good person. I respect my family's beliefs, but I don't practice them. Because of that, there are some in my family that will have nothing to do with me and have cut me off completely, including my own daughter. Am I bitter? You betcha.



You have chosen a convenient period of time (the 20th century) to make your silly straw man argument that religious people are not responsible for all crime, war and hate. Who made that they are?

If we take into account all of human history (including the Crusades, Middle-East violence, American history, etc), it is clear that religious people are no better in any way than non-religious people and vice versa.

Salt Lake City, UT

"Perhaps the lesson to be learned from studying The Book of Mormon would be the pride cycle and what happened when the people or great majority of those individuals turned a way from God."

Quite the contrary - I was born and bred in the church and it was a careful, focused, prayerful and earnest study of both the Bible and the BoM that convinced me that all religions are simply human creations designed to help us cope with our fear of mortality. It was an amazing awakening.

Others have said it but it bears repeating - the best way to become an atheist is to carefully read the Bible. When you realize that the Bible cannot possibly be divine in its origins then you realize that neither could the Book of Mormon.

That 80% of the American public are religious is not a surprise - we've got centuries of social inertia to deal with. It's that only half of the public sees the decline in religiosity to be a bad thing that strikes me as interesting.

Twin Lights
Louisville, KY

Tyler D,

I understand. I think that God is in both the gaps and the well understood. Science is simply how He works. From Brother Brigham:

"I am not astonished that infidelity prevails to a great extent among the inhabitants of the earth, for the religious teachers of the people advance many ideas and notions for truth which are in opposition to and contradict facts demonstrated by science, and which are generally understood. You take, for instance, our geologists . . . say, 'If the Lord, as religionists declare, made the earth out of nothing in six days, six thousand years ago, our studies are all in vain; but by what we can learn from nature and the immutable laws of the Creator as revealed therein, we know that your theories are incorrect and consequently we must reject your religions as false and vain; we must be what you call infidels, with the demonstrated truths of science in our possession; or, rejecting those truths, become enthusiasts in, what you call, Christianity.' In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular."

moniker lewinsky
Taylorsville, UT

Once again the Deseret News shows its bias. Including one comment from an atheist that is disparaging toward atheists? Nice touch.
My atheism has nothing to do with being snarky or judgmental toward believers I don't live my life as if there is a deity because I see no evidence of one. I don't pray because I don't want "god" to waste his energy helping me while children across the globe are starving to death.
I'm sorry if this offends some people, but I am not responsible for the ills of society.

I suppose that believers give more if you consider contributions to churches as "charitable giving". I don't necessarily think that all contributions to churches fall within the range of charity.

I don't know why so many people think that bigotry toward atheists is more socially acceptable than bigotry toward any one particular religion. Maybe some day this will change and then atheists will feel less defensive and will "get over themselves".

Temple City, CA

The great secular benefit of organized religion is its ability to focus people's behaviors (usually good behaviors) around a central social core.

The great secular difficulty of irreligion or non-belief is its failure to do exactly that.

I grant to my non-believing friends that believers have no corner on morality--even morality as defined by my religious beliefs. What I don't grant to my non-believing friends is any authority to define morality. What is moral to one is not moral to another, and they often disagree on what constitutes morality.

The lack of a focused, organized religion means--in a secular sense--the lack of a focused, organized definition of morality.

If you want to know what I believe to be right and wrong, all you need to do is understand my religion and measure it against my personal belief in it. If you are a professed non-believer, I have no idea what you consider to be right or wrong except that you disavow belief.

Clovis, NM

Of course it is bad for society that the number of religious people is declining. However, no matter what people said in this survey, I think the majority of them voted with their mouth and not with their behavior. Every crime committed breaks a religious law of some kind. Every affair breaks the commandment not to commit adultery. Every person who eats out or shops on Sunday forces some employee to not keep the Sabbath Day holy. Every person who provides incorrect information on their tax return is both lying and cheating. If you frequently start a sentence with the words "I hate", then you may be forgetting to love your neighbor. The list could go on almost forever.

I'm not perfect. Nobody is. But when we say that lack of religion is bad for society, we need to remember that not everybody who ignores religion is an atheist or agnostic. Most people who are not living what they believe to be right still consider themselves to be religious.

A better question my have been, "Is rationalizing your behavior bad for society?"

layton, UT

"God" forbid people would begin to use their own minds instead of believing in some silly books designed to control and dominate those viewed as inferior by the ruling class.

Religion poisons everything.

Tyler D
Meridian, ID

@Jeff – “What I don't grant to my non-believing friends is any authority to define morality.”

This sure does leave out a whole host of folks who have had a lot to say about ethics… folks like Aristotle, Buddha, Confucius, Spinoza, Hume, not to mention current writers like Sam Harris – The Moral Landscape is one of the most coherent books on morality I’ve read and yet it is entirely free of superstition or tablets chiseled from on high.

@Jeff – “If you are a professed non-believer, I have no idea what you consider to be right or wrong except that you disavow belief.”

How about simply the well-being of conscious creatures… see, it’s not so hard.

And to turn the tables a bit, I hardly think “because God commands it” stacks up as even moral given some of the awful things “God” has commanded throughout the centuries (see Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy for examples galore).

@ Twin Lights

Great quote!

We should have a long discussion sometime…

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