- The number of American adults with Agnostic beliefs: This is now accurately known as a result of the 2008 ARIS study: 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.
- The 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:
- Identify themselves as freethinkers, Atheists, Humanists, Freethinkers, NOTA (None of the above), skeptics, Unitarian Universalist, Ethical Culturalist having no religion, or refusing to answer a survey question, or
- Identify 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:
- 1990 study: 1,186,000 identified themselves as either Agnostics or Atheists.
- 2001 study: 991,000 identified themselves as Agnostics.
- 2009 study of 54,461 randomly selected American adults:
- 1,985,000 identified themselves as Agnostics, more than double the 2001 results.
- When asked about the existence of God, 10.0% of adults indicated Agnostic beliefs:
- 4.3% agreed with "There is no way to know." ARIS calls this a "softer" form of Agnosticism.
- 5.7% agreed with "I'm not sure." ARIS calls this a "harder" form of Agnosticism.
- 6.1% refused to answer. Some of these were certain to have been Agnostics.
- 12.3% of American adults are either Atheist or Agnostic; 12.1% are Deistic.
- The margin of error of the surveyis 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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