Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion

Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion

Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion

Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion


During his 2009 inaugural speech, President Obama described the United States as a nation of "Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus--and nonbelievers." It was the first time an American president had acknowledged the existence of this rapidly growing segment of the population in such a public forum. And yet the reasons why more and more people are turning away from religion are still poorly understood.

In Faith No More, Phil Zuckerman draws on in-depth interviews with people who have left religion to find out what's really behind the process of losing one's faith. According to a 2008 study, so many Americans claim no religion (15%, up from 8% in 1990) that this category now outranks every other religious group except Catholics and Baptists. Exploring the deeper stories within such survey data, Zuckerman shows that leaving one's faith is a highly personal, complex, and drawn-out process. And he finds that, rather than the clich of the angry, nihilistic atheist, apostates are life-affirming, courageous, highly intelligent and inquisitive, and deeply moral. Zuckerman predicts that this trend toward nonbelief will likely continue and argues that the sooner we recognize that religion is frequently and freely rejected by all sorts of men and women, the sooner our understanding of the human condition will improve.

The first book of its kind,Faith No Morewill appeal to anyone interested in the "New Atheism" and indeed to anyone wishing to more fully understand our changing relationship to religious faith.


A wind of secularity is currently blowing across North America. No one can predict the overall course of this wind— whether it will gain speed in the years ahead or eventually run its course and peter out. But for now, it is blowing quite steadily. the growth of irreligion in the United States in recent years is undeniable. According to sociologists Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, the increase in the number of Americans eschewing religion in recent years “has been one of the most important trends on the American religious scene.”

Surveys tell much of the story. According to the American Religious Identification Survey, 15% of Americans now claim “none” as their religion, up from 8% back in 1990—a near doubling of “nones” in 20 years. These findings were supported by the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which reports that 16% of Americans are religiously “unaffiliated.” According to the Harris Poll, in 2003, 4% of Americans were atheist, in 2006 it was 6%, and in 2008, the number was 10%— with another 9% being agnostic. These are the highest rates of atheism/agnosticism ever reported in an American survey. Finally, a 2009 survey undertaken by the nationally syndicated Parade magazine found that 27% of Americans “do not practice . . .

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