Non-Religion, America, and Apologetics
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.]
The percentage of non-religious Americans only 60 years ago was hardly noticeable. By 1990, nearly one in every 12 Americans claimed no religion. Today, it appears that nearly one in five Americans claims no affiliation with Christianity or any other religion, while one in every three Americans claims that religion is not an important part of their daily lives (Newport, 2009). Sadly, the number of skeptics, agnostics, atheists, etc. has risen drastically in only the last few decades, while the number of Americans claiming Jesus Christ as Lord of their daily lives has continued to decrease gradually.
The likelihood of you crossing paths with an atheist, agnostic, or skeptic at some point in the next few months is pretty high. The odds of your children, grandchildren, nephews or nieces running into atheistic professors or skeptical students in high school or college are very high (considering many public schools and universities are breeding grounds for non-religious Americans). More than ever, Christians need to equip themselves with the tools to help them “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
Those of us at Apologetics Press hope that you will consider equipping your friends and family members with soul-saving, life-enriching materials. Why not order for your younger children or grandchildren a subscription to Discovery, A.P.’s monthly children’s magazine on Scripture and science? Why not consider arming your teens with Truth Be Told: Exposing the Myth of Evolution? Why not purchase multiple copies of A Christian’s Guide to Refuting Modern Atheism and give them away to college students who may very well be struggling for the first time in their lives with knowing how to defend their belief in the one true God of the Bible? At the very least, why not send your friends or family members a link to the A.P. site, where they can obtain thousands of pages of free electronic Christian evidence material.
Never in the history of the United States has there been a greater need for Christians to study Christian evidences. It is imperative that we teach our young people, not merely proof texts about God’s plan of salvation, but the evidence for God Himself, as well as proofs for the inspiration of the Bible and the deity of Christ.
Are you armed and ready for spiritual warfare? Are you prepared to answer the accusations levied against New Testament Christianity (cf. 1 Peter 3:15)? Are you preparing yourself and others to assist some of the millions of non-religious Americans whom, by the grace of God, you will have an opportunity to talk to about the Creator and Savior of the world (Colossians 1:16; John 4:42; 1 John 4:14)?
Gallup, George Jr. and Michael Lindsay (1999), Surveying the Religious Landscape: Trends in U.S. Beliefs (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing).
Grossman, Cathy Lynn (2012), “Survey Finds 19% Without Religious Affiliation,” USA Today, July 20, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2012-07-19/no-religion-affiliation/56344976/1.
Kosmin, Barry (1991), The National Survey of Religious Identification.
Kosmin, Barry, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar (2001), American Religious Identification Survey.
Kosmin, Barry and Ariela Keysar (2009), American Religious Identification Survey.
Miller, Jeff (2012), “Literal Creationists Holding Their Ground in the Polls,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1093&article=2040.
Newport, Frank (2009), “State of the States: Importance of Religion,” Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/poll/114022/state-states-importance-religion.aspx.
Yeakley, Flavil (2012), Why They Left: Listening to Those Who Have Left Churches of Christ (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).