21% of Atheists believe in God?

June 28, 2008 at 3:28 pm 49 comments

Graphic Source: The Dallas Morning News Full Survey Data: The Pew Forum

Entry filed under: ~Other. Tags: , , , , , .

70% of Christians in America believe that Christianity is NOT the only way! Why d-C? – Where are you Jesus?

49 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Pantheophany  |  June 28, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Regarding the 1/5 Atheists who believe in “God”: This comes down to whether you lump Pantheists in with Atheists or Theists. Note that the 90% figure refers to “God or universal spirit.” The differences between Jehovah/Allah/Odin versus Shaw’s Life Force or other Pantheistic “God” could not be greater (as I’m sure that adherents to the former would agree). This is not unlike asking “do you believe in horses or unicorns?” and taking the answer to mean wide belief in unicorns. In this case, Christians are reading this further to suggest the respondents believe in their specific, purple unicorn, not even unicorns in general. “God” is a very elastic term.

    American society may still be quite spiritual, but it is hardly Christian in any way that Evangelicals would define it. “Atheists” who believe in a universal spirit are not being inconsistent, they just weren’t offered the word “pantheist” as an option, and pantheism is more compatible with atheism than with deism.

  • 2. Stephen P  |  June 28, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    ‘Pantheist’ may not have been an option, but ‘secular unaffiliated’ and ‘religious unaffiliated’ were available.

    I’m not sure what this shows – my best guess is that many people are actually thoroughly confused about their religious beliefs. Either that, or more people than I suspected adopt a mischievous approach to answering surveys. Maybe ‘followers of Loki’ should be an option on future surveys.

  • 3. Walking Away  |  June 28, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    Ummm, how can an atheist believe in God? Isn’t that a contradiction based on the definition of being atheist?

  • 4. The de-Convert  |  June 28, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    There may be agnostic former Christians who believe themselves to be atheists because of their choice not to believe in God.

  • 5. panthophany  |  June 28, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    There may be agnostic former Christians who believe themselves to be atheists because of their choice not to believe in God.

    Or a misunderstanding between “non-Christian theist” and “atheist.” In my study of the poll, I think it’s likely that most people do not actually know what they believe, do not know what their claimed groups believe, and commonly hold contradictory beliefs.

    This is not surprising to anyone who has talked with many people about their beliefs. In my days as a Creationist, I found that most people who claim belief in Evolution actually had no idea what modern Evolutionary Biology says (certainly made my arguments easier at the time) and have lots of contradictory beliefs about it (that it’s compatible with a literal Genesis for instance). I’m in no way saying that science is a religion, I’m just saying that belief is a funny thing, and contradictory belief is very common among those who have not carefully considered them.

  • 6. Lottie  |  June 28, 2008 at 10:47 pm

    Ummm, how can an atheist believe in God? Isn’t that a contradiction based on the definition of being atheist?

    Yes. Someone who believes in God is not, by definition, an atheist.

    This makes as much sense as saying 21% of dwarfs are six feet tall. Then they’re not dwarfs, are they?

  • 7. andrealudwig  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    Love that last comment by Lottie. Makes me laugh.
    I read your welcome info and agree that we should evalutate all religions “critically,” or with intelligent questions. I also wanted to note that no true Christian will ever “de-convert,” as you call it, because once the Holy Spirit indwells a person, He does not leave. Once saved, always saved. There are many false religions, and those you can – and should! – walk away from.

  • 8. andrealudwig  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    I also just noticed your “de-converison wager,” and I would like to assert that acts of love, kindness, compassion, and mercy are powerless to get you into heaven. See my page entitled “How to Get to Heaven” on http://www.phenomenaltruths.wordpress.com.

  • 9. Obi  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm

    We’ve heard it all before, Andrea, but thanks for your concern. I’ll be praying for you so that the Invisible Pink Unicorn can intervene in your life and show you Her love.

  • 10. Ubi Dubium  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:31 pm


    I’m not interested in getting into heaven. (It sounds really boring, anyway.) I think that living with love, kindness, compassion, and mercy is the right thing to do, and I don’t need the fear of eternal torment to make me do that. If your heaven existed (and I don’t think it does), it would be full of deeply religious people, but none of my friends, or anyone I would find interesting. Bleah.

  • 11. HeIsSailing  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    What your pastor told you about atheists is true. We are all trying to get into Heaven without God’s help. Thanks for your help.

  • 12. The de-Convert  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:40 pm


    I would say it doesn’t or we would have discovered it with modern technology. Remember YHWH was concerned that man would build a tower to reach heaven so he confused their languages (see this post for more info).


  • 13. Ubi Dubium  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Back to the topic at hand.

    I think what we are seeing on this graph is not telling us that some atheists actually believe in god. I can accept that some people who describe themselves as not believing in “god” have not ruled out that there might be some impersonal force present in the universe. But for that red bar showing “atheists who believe in god”, I think we are actually seeing a combination of:
    1. People not intelligent enough to mark their answers correctly,
    2. People who misunderstood the original question, and
    3. People who like to give random answers on polls just to mess things up.
    In other words – I think this percentage defines the margin of error on this poll.

  • 14. Ubi Dubium  |  June 28, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    The de-Convert-

    Except for the Pastafarian heaven! That one’s OK, and not mentioned in the bible as something god was worried about. An eternity of Beer, strippers, and no Fundies! I can get behind that one.

  • 15. Chicken Girl  |  June 29, 2008 at 12:57 am

    In other news, 21% of bachelors are married.

  • 16. orDover  |  June 29, 2008 at 1:29 am

    What is really interesting is that the +-8% represented in red believe in a personal god, so that kind of rules out agnostics, pantheists, and deists.

    I really wonder what the exact questions asked were. I think it’s kind of weird that they can’t be readily found. The Gallup polls always provide them.

    It’s also really interesting that the options were “Personal God,” “Impersonal Force,” and “Other/Don’t Know.” Where is the “There is no god” option? Sure, those people could answer “Other/Don’t Know” but that doesn’t really reflect their real views.

    Am I the only one who finds this whole thing a little fishy?

  • 17. orDover  |  June 29, 2008 at 1:34 am

    After looking close, I see that those who said they don’t believe in god were not included in the 21%, so ignore that question.

  • 18. TheNerd  |  June 29, 2008 at 2:07 am

    I think they should re-write the questions for that poll and re-collect the data.

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  June 29, 2008 at 2:29 am

    The poll questions are available easily. Just to to the link I put in post #2 and download the full report. The questions are all at the end of the report, along with a long description of the survey methodology.

  • 20. The de-Convert  |  June 29, 2008 at 8:16 am


    In other news, 21% of bachelors are married.

    Ironically, this is probably true 🙂


  • 21. Skep  |  June 29, 2008 at 8:17 am

    As Mark Twain put it, Heaven for the Climate, Hell for the Companionship.

    So no thanks Andrea

  • 22. Tautology of the Skeptical Sinner  |  June 29, 2008 at 8:38 am

    21% of Atheists believe in god??…

    Found this over at De-conversion the original survey is here http://religions.pewforum.org/reports and coverage by  The Dallas Morning News
    This is not a puzzling survey result.
    As we all know, Atheists tend to be smart asses. And Survey takers tend…

  • 23. Twazzi  |  June 29, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Did Ben Stein have part in this poll?

  • 24. dragonmage06  |  June 29, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I put my money on the “this poll is seriously messed up” option. I agree with orDover, where’s the “there is no God” option? Or the Buddhist option for that matter?

  • 25. Walking Away  |  June 30, 2008 at 2:48 am

    Chicken Girl – GOOD ONE! LOL. I need a laugh.

    I am so glad I found this place. Thank God for all you people 😉

  • 26. SnugglyBuffalo  |  June 30, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Indeed, I have found this blog to be quite a godsend. 😛

  • […] seats more than a thousand people, but the USA is a country where 21% of the atheists apparently believe in God, so that probably wouldn’t work too […]

  • 28. You’re Doing It Wrong: Statistics « Nullius in Verba  |  October 10, 2008 at 1:46 am

    […] Apparently, 21% of Atheists surveyed believe in God. […]

  • 29. eternal0void  |  November 18, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I think that what is going on with the concept of “21% of atheists believe in a God” is that some folks just came off the religious bandwagon and aren’t quite sure what to call themselves, so they call themselves “unbelievers” because they no longer believe in the religion in which they were raised.

    However, an “unbeliever” isn’t necessarily the same thing as an atheist. Someone who is disenchanted with Abrahamic religion and hasn’t yet had the opportunity to discover a non-Abrahamic religion may call themselves an “unbeliever” (as this is what their old religion called people like them), yet still want to believe in a God. This is in contrast to an atheist, who has no desire to believe in a God. Interviewers may lump the “want to believe in a God” unbelievers in with the “have no desire to believe in a God” atheists, and from this shoddy questioning we get shoddy results.

  • […] as I’ve previously mentioned, the USA appears to be a country in which 21% of the atheists believe in God, it’s not surprising that – to pick one example from the Barna survey – 64% of Americans (or […]

  • […] the statement “I do not celebrate Christmas as a religious festival”. I am reminded of the survey that said 21% of American atheists believe in a god. These surveys are nonsense, […]

  • 32. GBM  |  December 15, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I may be revealing my ignorance here but doesn’t ‘atheism’ mean ‘not-theism?’ as in the rejection of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god who intervenes in human affairs? As is the catholics, protestants, jews, muslims, etc who thought that god was not a personal god but an impersonal force are also atheists? lol. what a horrible survey

  • 33. GBM  |  December 15, 2008 at 11:32 am

    I may be revealing my ignorance here but doesn’t ‘atheism’ mean ‘not-theism?’ as in the rejection of an omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god who intervenes in human affairs? So the catholics, protestants, jews, muslims, etc who thought that god was not a personal god but an impersonal force are also atheists? lol. what a horrible survey

  • 34. James  |  April 11, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    After reading comment #6, my mind wandered to LOTR and I thought of “Gimli’s Revenge!”

    My other thought was if the survey has a typo for “atheist”, which instead read “a theist”. Or possibly they allowed people to check more than one box, because their faith was uncertain.

  • 35. brandon grissom  |  April 13, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Ok i want to put this out there.
    Just to say “The Atheist” dont believe in God, they have no proof that he is not real.
    Lets say I dont believe in gravity doesn’t mean i can go jump off a building and float around.
    God is real.

  • 36. BigHouse  |  April 13, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    Lets say I dont believe in gravity doesn’t mean i can go jump off a building and float around.
    God is real.

    Ok, brandon, I’ll bite. If God is gravity, what test is analgous to your jumping off a building?

  • 37. LeoPardus  |  April 13, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    I believe Brandon is real. A real sad example of the kind of product put out by our educational systems.

  • 38. intellectuallyfulfilledatheist  |  December 21, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    The graphic on this blog is entirely dishonest. I followed the link provided to the study and downloaded the full 210 page pdf file of the full report. The question that this graphic is supposed to represent is found on page 167 of the report. Atheists aren’t mentioned at all, instead you see “unaffiliated”, which most likely includes atheists but also other religious people who don’t affiliate themselves with any of the denominations that they were presented with by the survey. The person who made the graphic didn’t even get the numbers right.

  • 39. Anonymous  |  December 24, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Also in the poll: 24% of virgins had sex, 32% of dead people are alive, 42% of black people have white skin, and 16% of blind people can see.

  • 40. Rosemary  |  December 27, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    This seems to reflect the usual ignorance of Fungelical Christians about the meaning of the word “atheist”. There apologists keep telling them that an atheist is someone who “rejects God” or has “turned their back on God”. In order to reject something or turn your back on it you have to believe it is real. The only thing that is real here is the egregious ignorance of so many people who have experienced nothing but the commercialized U.S. edification system.

  • 41. Rosemary  |  December 27, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    There = their. Spell check is bad.

  • 42. Rosemary  |  December 27, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    brandon grissom : Unlike the concept of “gravity”, the concept of “god” fails all the tests or simply cannot be distinguished from the effects caused by “no god”.

    Since there is no valid evidence for the existence of a god, even yours, there is no valid reason why anyone should believe that one exists, even yours.

  • 43. Rosemary  |  December 27, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    @ brandon grissom :

    P.S. There is a lot of invalid evidence for the existence of gods, including yours.

    Unlike the systems of other several other developed countries, the U.S. secondary educational system contains no nationally compulsory lessons in the rudiments of critical thinking, the skills of logical reasoning, the identification of fallacious reasoning, the art of baloney detection and the recognition of insidious scams and marketing ploys.

    Without mastery of these skills the bulk of the American public will continue to be more than usually fooled by people, like Creationists (almost entirely a U.S. phenomena) and mega evangelists (also a U.S. invention) who deliberately attempt to dupe and exploit the gullible believer in order to obtain money, power and ego trips. They will also be at the mercy of well-meaning people who are unaware that they lack knowledge and experience in relevant areas and are therefore mistaken and misinformed and easily misled by charismatic con artists who manage to persuade them that they are not.

    The younger and less educated the person, and the less skeptical they are of things they are told by those in positions of real or apparent authority, the more susceptible they are to being duped.

    I would strongly recommend that you seek to remedy these deficits in what ever way you can.

  • 44. Rosemary  |  December 27, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    @andrealudwig: Many of us who de-converted from Fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity have heard this reasoning before. If it were true then you do not need to worry. because we all continue to be “saved”. That is, unless the Evangelical Conversion Formulae is wrong or your version of god is a liar and does not really sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in someone if they do all the things that the Evangelical Conversion Formulae specifies.

    In any case, Andrea, if is very logically fallacious to make a post-hoc analysis of a person’s group membership based on whether they eventually conform to the expected outcome criteria. If you try doing that in any practical science class and you will not only fail, but will probably also be used as a cautionary tale to teach other students what not to do. It is the equivalent of arguing that someone who is pregnant could not have been following a birth control plan as prescribed. (A notorious research study into the efficacy of Catholic birth control methods actually did this. Any one who got pregnant was simply dropped from the study on the grounds that they weren’t really following the method or they would not have got pregnant. As you might be able to see in this particular instance, this is completely circular logic. This allowed the study to conclude (falsely) that the Catholic method being studies was nearly 100 percent effective compared with the less effective (97 percent) artificial birth control method, which did not remove people if they got pregnant.

    Your reasoning falls into a similar logical trap. Your sample is actually 100 percent effective because you throw out everybody who follows the method but does not turn out the way the theory says they should. This is bad, bad, bad, bad reasoning. Instead, be honest and admit that there is quite a large percentage of people who were once “saved” who no longer believe any of it was real. Look around you. About 10 percent, or more, of the people who you now think are excellent examples of the “saved” Christian will become “unsaved” over the next 25 years. Can you tell, ahead of time, which ones they will be? Since I have studied the phenomena I might be able to come up with a pretty reasonable guess, if I knew a few details about their personality, intellect and probably future place of residence, but I doubt that you could. Of course, one of them might turn out to be you. Think about that.

  • 45. toddAethiest  |  July 14, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    you can be an aethiest and believe in god – As Aethiest is a broad term that has evolved over time. Not all Aethiest are the same. I choose to doubt religion and base my aethiesm on the fact that I believe in science. The fact of weather or not there is a good hardly enters the equation for me.

  • 46. toddAethiest  |  July 14, 2013 at 4:25 pm


  • 47. toddAethiest  |  July 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Albeit common sense, tells me there is no God and thats what I choose to believe. Not not all aethiest do – God is not real however this is not a fact that can be proven so not worth discussing. However Religion and The bible and such is absolutely worth debating as those who believe are wrong. And a danger to society in some cases.

  • 48. Alban  |  July 15, 2013 at 2:54 am

    What is the difference in the God you contain within yourself and the “God” we created in our own image? Could there be a god who escapes imagination and legends that is simply accessible?

    Suggest you let THE POSSIBILITY of that god enter the equation. All beliefs based in theory or imagination are arguable. Religion uses those premises. It’s not bad. It is just inaccurate.

    Combine simplicty with wanting to discover within and accuracy has a chance. The gauntlet is not easy to pass thru, but you can get thru.

    What is then proven is not confirmation of a concept, but a realization that seems to grow in and about a beauty and a love that is indescribable.

    What then comes from that ‘knowing’,changes a lot of concepts that were cemented in opinion!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • 49. rlwemm  |  July 15, 2013 at 3:43 am

    Nope. You can’t be an atheist and believe it a god. The very definition of atheist is one who does NOT believe in the existence of a god.
    There are some mis-definitions of the term that have been invented by conservative Christian groups who want to characterize atheists as bad people who are “angry at god” or have “turned their back on god” – which implies that they still believe in a got. The rest of the world does not use their unique definitions.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.



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