Godless in Chicago

Americans are fleeing religion as atheism surges


America's First Family of Atheism, Madalyn Murray O'Hair (seated), Jon Garth Murray and Robin Murray O'Hair. Photo from the American Atheists web site, www.atheists.org

Americans are abandoning religion in record numbers, while at the same time, the number of godless is multiplying dramatically.  This news comes from independent sources, religious groups and secular organizations.


An Associated Press story published earlier this week reported that organized religion is experiencing unprecedented losses of membership and donations, while the number of people with no religion is increasing rapidly.  In fact, the web address for the Chicago Tribune version of the AP story included the words, "religion meltdown."

All this comes on top of this  desperate report.pdf by the Church Communication Network that up to 94% of teens leave church after high school.

What's really behind this surge of rationality in America?  Is it the recession, as the AP story suggests, or something else?  More likely, the latter.

It used to be, in this country, that if you were an atheist, the community tried to make you feel like you were the only one and that, therefore, you must be wrong, so keep quiet about it.

Back a few decades, ago, there were only a small handful of atheists who were publicly out of the closet, such as Madalyn Murray O'Hair and her son Jon Garth Murray of American AtheistsAnne Nicol Gaylor and her daughter, Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and Rob Sherman and my son, Ricky.  We refused to be silent about who we were, the merits of atheism, the fallacies of religion and, regardless of your theological opinion, the importance and need for a separation of state and church.

Gradually, Americans who were godless came to realize that they weren't the only ones who were atheists, and that they were right about religion:  God is make-believe.

Then, the internet happened.  Americans who are atheists had a new way to find out about each other, communicate with each other and form new organizations, such as the Atheist Alliance International, the Secular Coalition for Amerca and Camp Quest, a network of residential secular summer camps for the children of freethinking parents.  New atheist leaders have emerged, such as Michael Newdow, who is battling in court to get "under God" out of the Pledge and "In God we trust" off of our money, and Chris Lindstrom of Camp Quest West, who spends countless hours each year to ensure that atheist children have a place to have fun, each summer, without getting God crammed down their throats.

More and more people are hearing our message and are coming to realize that it was Man who created God in his image and likeness, not the other way around.

While the number of religious people in this country is dropping precipitously, there is an exponential increase in the number of people who have come to recognize that atheism makes sense for America.

Our numbers are growing every day, while their numbers are dropping like a rock.

So, no, it's not the recession that is causing people to leave organized religion, because if the recession was the real cause, our numbers would be dropping, too.

The reason that our numbers are up, and their numbers are way down, is that, thanks to more and more of us getting the message out, more and more people are coming to realize that Nobody is in heaven.  When you pray, you are talking to yourself.  Nobody is listening.

It's no longer just Madalyn and Jon, the Gaylors and me.  It's thousands of people, just like you, who are out of the closet and proud to be Atheist.

Keep up the good work!

Please leave a comment, below, to let me know what you think, and tell your friends about this through your social media networks and word of mouth.

I look forward to your comments on this one.  Let me know why you think that atheism is surging, while Americans are fleeing organized religion.

Send personal comments, comments unrelated to this story or notification of typos that you see in any of my posts to rob@robsherman.com.

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Schaumburg Dan said:


I'm 42 years old and coming "out" has been a slow process over the course of 15 years. First to my wife (we never discussed religion until after she got pregnant). Then to my pre-school children about 11 years ago to deprogram them from the neighbor lady. About 8 years ago at work. And my biggest declaration, about a year ago, was setting up my facebook account - this was truly scary - all my friends and school mates from elementary through high school would see. I still haven't told my deer hunting buddies, but the subject never comes up.

I still have a lot of fear about declaring atheism. I told my kids to wait until they were adults to "come out" (they are both in high school now). I did not want them ostracized by the other kids or discriminated against by teachers. They didn't listen to me :( but I am proud of them :) it doesn't seem that they suffered any problems... yet. History has taught us too many lessons to say it is perfectly safe.

22 years ago, when I started working, the first thing my coworkers asked me was about my religion. I lied and told them I was catholic. I would never imagine being as open about being an atheist as I am today. (although I am still nervous about it)

speckinspace said:


AWESOME! We have been here all along...now we're standing up to be heard. Even in spite of the difficult days ahead - It's a great time to be alive in the U.S.A.


jackspatafora said:

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Two questions....

Atheism is indeed "surging" in West Europe and the US. The anecdotal evidence is that it uses constitutional arguments to make room in the public square for this surge. To challenge what it calls "the superstitions that have been codified into laws."

Q #1: Is it correct the ACLU is drawing from this premise in its recent appeal to have crosses removed from military headstones?

Q #2: If true, is this perhaps example of how atheism's mission to "remove" without "replacing?" That is, to invest its surging insights and energies to clear the woods of superstition without replanting anything in its place?

Bob Matter said:



Your ACLU story is an urban legend. See http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/cemetery.asp.


jackspatafora said:

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Well, I couldn't get anything on the ACLU, but wow Snopes gave me just about everything I never knew before. And a few things I don't think I wanted to know. Interesting site...!

gettingfree said:

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I was brainwashed as a child with Roman Catholic Religion. By 18 years old, however, I wasn’t satisfied with the answers to my questions they were giving me in my Catholic high school, and became an atheist. Sadly, my lingering susceptibility to the threat of hell that was brainwashed into me as a child got the better of me and I became a “born-again” Christian when I was 24. I struggled to believe; I really, really tried. Hey, everyone else believes. There must be something wrong with me. Certainly, I am not as good a person as those who believe all around me. I tried harder, talked and thought about god more. After another 12 years, I finally admitted to myself that I was an atheist again.

I think I have made a lot of wrong decisions for myself in the 12 years in the time from when I was “born-again” until I was once again an atheist. Wrong decisions that were motivated by the religious teachings. I am filled with regrets. When I was an atheist from age 18 to 24 my thinking was that I would never try to make someone that had faith an atheist because faith was “good” (and there was still the lingering thought of possible hell if I was wrong). I don’t feel that this time around. And I didn’t bother to know more about atheism. I didn’t think there was anything to know. I just didn’t believe in god. I don’t feel that way this time around. I am reading books and blogs like this one. The current atheist movement is definitely helping me. I wish that during my first phase of atheism this movement towards atheism existed. I think I would have avoided the susceptibility towards religion and would have never become “born-again”.

I found Rob Sherman’s blog because I had a memory this morning about seeing an ATHEIST license plate when I had one of my first office jobs in 1990. I googled and found info on Rob and this license plate that he has had for years and years. I knew by the year and the location that this was the license plate I had seen. A co-worker had said to me, “Come look. The atheist guy is here. See his license plate.” As I remembered this event all the feelings I had those 19 years ago came flooding back. I thought, “What a horrible person!” and “He must be the only one”. Well, not exactly the only one. See, that was during the time I was an atheist. How strong the brainwashing against atheists in this society! That I myself, an atheist, thought that. Today, I am proud I saw that license plate. Today, I commend people like Rob Sherman for coming forward with their atheism and for sticking it out for all those years when it was especially unpopular to do so. So unpopular, in fact, that in those times even a atheist like myself would have given him a dirty look over his license plate.

gr8hands said:


Point of clarification, Rob. It's millions of atheists/non-believers, not mere thousands. We are definitely moving in the right direction.

Greg Morelli said:


Point of clarification, gr8hands, who care about the numbers? A bigger problem than the need for God is the need to fit in.

jackspatafora said:

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Speaking of the rise of Atheism, its cause gets another chance in the Supreme Court this session. Has to do with one of those "constitutionally offensive crosses." This one in front of a VFW in San Bernardino. My thought is what heated furies the atheists generate over this "offense!" I would submit that in tandem with their bellicose "con" they occasionally offer a "pro." Instead of always seeking higher "walls" between state and church, wouldn't it be more creative to, at the same time, find and/or build a few "doors?" Not doors of Establishment, but doors through which believers and non-believers might find more amiable Passage.

undrgrndgirl said:

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rejecting organized religion does not make one an atheist...

ahudson said:

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First,I would like to say that even though you do not believe in God he believes in you. We may not be able to see him or understand fully why terrible things in the world happen, but Jesus told us that our lives would not be without tribulation and it's not "organized religion" that is the enemy, but the powers and principalities that work through people that causes the deception. Jesus told us that the first above all the commandments was to love one another, we are our brothers/sisters keeper. So many times we are so unforgiving of ourselves and each other, we are so judgemental. Forgiveness is the first step to gaining faith. may the Lord bless and guide always in Jesus almighty name.

joshhoff2004 said:

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ahudson, I believe you are in the wrong forum, we are all comfortable in our assertion that your god and jesus are a fallacy. Trying to bring conversions into your 2000 year old superstitions just furthers to prove the point that religious people aren't able to clearly see logic and reality, religion is a disease.

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