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Agnostics and Agnosticism

Numbers. Internet resources. Books.

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How many Agnostics are there in the U.S.?

There are two ways of answering this question:

bullet The number of American adults with Agnostic beliefs: This is now accurately known as a result of the ARIS studies: it is about 10% of the adult population -- on the order of 23 million. 1 It is the second largest religious belief system, after Christianity.
 
bulletThe number of American adults who identify themselves as Agnostic: From the same study, this is about 0.9% of the adult population, or just under 2 million adults.

The difference is because the vast majority of adults with Agnostic beliefs either:

bullet Identify themselves as freethinkers, Atheists, Humanists, Freethinkers, NOTAs (None of the above), skeptics, Unitarian Universalist, Ethical Culturalist having no religion, or refusing to answer a survey question, or
 
bulletIdentify themselves as Christians or a member of an Eastern religion like Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, etc. or as a followers of other religions.

The Graduate Center of the City University of New York periodically conducts a massive "ARIS" study of over 50,000 American adults. 1,2 They estimated:

bullet1990 study: 1,186,000 identified themselves as either Agnostics or Atheists.
 
bullet2001 study: 991,000 identified themselves as Agnostics.
 
bullet2009 study of 54,461 randomly selected American adults:
 
bullet 1,985,000 identified themselves as Agnostics, more than double the 2001 results!
 
bulletWhen asked about the existence of God, 10.0% of adults indicated Agnostic beliefs:
bullet4.3% agreed with "There is no way to know." ARIS calls this a "softer" form of Agnosticism.
bullet5.7% agreed with "I'm not sure." ARIS calls this a "harder" form of Agnosticism.
bullet6.1% refused to answer. Some of these were certain to have been Agnostics.
 
bullet12.3% of American adults are either Atheist or Agnostic; 12.1% are Deistic.
 
bullet The margin of error of the survey is less than ±0.5%

There are currently over 4 times as many adults with Agnostic beliefs than Atheist beliefs in the U.S. The number of persons with Agnostic beliefs exceeds the number of followers of each of the organized religions, except for Christianity. Agnosticism is really the second largest religious belief system in the U.S., and is growing fast.

The 1996 Canadian Census only counted 21,975 Agnostics. The 2001 census data showed that the percentage of Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, adherents of no religion, etc rose from 12.3% in 1991 to 16.2% in 2001.

Unfortunately, all public opinion surveys of religious affiliation include a significant percentage of individuals who do not reveal their religion. In the case of the ARIS 2001 and 2008 studies, this amounted to about 5% of the total surveyed, an increase from 2.3% in 1990. We suspect that many of them are actually Agnostics.

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Agnostic resources on the Internet:

Many Agnostics contribute to the Atheist, freethinker and secular sites. Some resources are:

bullet The About.com web site has a group of essays on Agnosticism at: http://atheism.about.com/
 
bullet Agnostic church describes their web site as "the net's premier Agnostic Ezine & resource site." See: http://www.agnostic.org/ mirrored at http://www.agnostic.com . Unfortunately, since at least the end of 2009, this web site is offline.
 
bulletA critical Agnostic Review of Christianity examines and evaluates "... fundamentalist Christianity and the claims it makes about the Bible and the nature of the universe." See: http://agnosticreview.com/
 
bulletAgnostic Web features "An Agnostic's brief guide to the Universe" at: http://www.agnosticweb.com/ It can be downloaded as a PDF file at: http://www.agnosticweb.com/
 
bulletThomas Huxley and the Coining of Agnostic is described at: http://science.jrank.org/
 
bullet The Black Agnostic is "for black agnostics in particular, and all agnostics in general, to fellowship, debate, discuss, agree, disagree, grow the community, ... and disrupt the status quo." See: http://www.theblackagnostic.com/
 
bulletThe Internet Infidels has a great deal of material on Agnosticism. You can find it by using their internal search engines.
bulletThe Secular Web at: http://www.infidels.org
 
bulletThe Freethought & Rationalism Discussion Board (formerly the Internet Infidels Discussion Board) is at: http://www.freeratio.org/
 
bullet Their Kiosk containing popular essays at: http://infidels.org/
 
bullet Their library: Go to their home page at at: http://infidels.org/ and click on the "Library" link. First, you have to agree to a disclaimer.
bulletA talk by Clarence Darrow in which he explained why he was not a Christian at: http://www.infidels.org/library/
 
bulletNotes from a debate on the existence of God between Dr. D.M. Jesseph from NC State and Dr. W.L. Craig of Campus Crusade for Christ, 1996 at: http://www.infidels.org/library/
 
bulletA 1896 talk by Robert G. Ingersoll titled "Why I am an Agnostic" is at: http://www.infidels.org/library/
 
bullet"Agnostics," a rather intolerant essay by the late Madalyn Murray O'Hair is at: http://www.infidels.org/library/
 
bulletH.J. Blackham's 1981 essay: "What is Agnosticism?" is at: http://www.infidels.org/library/
 
bulletThe Catholic Encyclopedia attempts to refute Agnosticism and gives the Roman Catholic Church's position on Agnosticism. See: http://www.newadvent.org/
 
bullet The Modern Ecumenical Church is a faith group centered in Melbourne Australia with independent international  affiliates. They feature "modern, communitarian & agnostic spirituality." It appears to be compatible with Agnosticism. See: http://www.me-church.org/

bullet A famous essay by Bertrand Russell titled "What is an Agnostic" is online at: http://scienceblogs.com/ It is a fascinating and refreshing essay to read. It should be particularly useful to theists who proselytize, because it will help them understand the Agnostic worldview.
 
bulletThe Universal Church Triumphant of the Apathetic Agnostic delivers a sometimes light-hearted view of Agnosticism. See: http://www.ApatheticAgnostic.com
 
bullet You Tube has a listing of over 200.000 videos on Agnosticism! See: http://www.youtube.com/

A powerful indictment of Theism, Atheism, and organized religion:

book cover image Vincent Bugliosi, "Divinity of doubt: The God question," Vanguard Press, (2011). 352 pages. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store

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Two guides for Agnostic parents:

book cover image Dale McGowan, Ed., "Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion," American Management Association (2007). Read reviews or order this book Amazon customers rate this books with 4.7 out of 5 stars.

book cover image Dale McGowan, Molleen Matsumura, Amanda Metskas, and Jan Devor, Authors, "Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief," AMACOM, (2009). Read reviews or order this book Amazon customers rate this books with 4.6 out of 5 stars.

Other sources of information:

bulletSee an updating news feed of interest to Agnostics and others.
 
bullet The Rational Response Squad has a large group of forums for Atheists which Agnostics may find useful. See: http://www.rationalresponders.com/
 
bulletSee additional books for children and teens
 
bullet See also our sections on Atheism, Deism, Unitarian Universalism, and Humanism

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Barry A. Kosmin, et al., "American Religious Identification Survey 2008," Trinity College, 2001-DEC-19, at: http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/ This is a PDF file.
  2. Barry A. Kosmin, et al., "American Religious Identification Survey 2001," City University of New York, 2001-DEC-19, at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/This is a PDF file.

Copyright © 1997 to 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update and review: 2014-FEB-17
Author: B.A. Robinson.
Links last checked on 2014-FEB-17

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