by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

My dad was born in 1935 on a farm in southwest Missouri. My mother was born in 1940 in southern Alabama. Neither has any recollection of ever having conversations with atheists or agnostics. Practically all their acquaintances were theists who considered themselves Christians.

Religious researcher and statistician Flavil Yeakley mentioned in his most recent book, Why They Left, that in 1950 “we could assume that most of the people around us already believed in God, in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and in the Bible as the Word of God. They already understood that people are lost in sin and in need of salvation” (2012, p. 29). According to George Gallup, Jr. and Michael Lindsey, in 1947, 89% of Americans identified themselves as Christian Protestants or Catholics (1999, p. 7). Considering this is in addition to the millions of other “religious” Americans (e.g., Jews, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.), it is safe to say that the percentage of non-religious Americans (including atheists, agnostics, and skeptics) was minuscule.

Although, thankfully, the majority of Americans still believe in God (see Miller, 2012), the upward trend of non-religion in America is quite disturbing. In 1990, 8.2% of Americans claimed to be non-religious, most notably agnostics, skeptics, and atheists (Kosmin, 1991). In 2001, that number had jumped to 14.1% (Kosmin, et al., 2001). By 2008 it reached 15% (Kosmin and Keysar, 2009). According to USA Today’s religion reporter, Cathy Lynn Grossman, aggregated surveys by the Pew Research Center indicated that the percentage of non-religious Americans has now reached 19% of the American population (2012). [NOTE: The percentage of non-religious individuals would be even higher were it not for the many millions of Catholic Hispanics who have migrated to the United States over the past two decades.]

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