American atheists appear to be less likely to vote and volunteer and give less to charity

The Stars and StripesA new study by American Christian research organisation the Barna Group has found that nine percent of Americans (20 million people) openly identified themselves as an atheist, an agnostic, or specifically said they have “no faith” – a proportion that has grown over the last decade amongst all age groups.

Only about 5 million adults unequivocally use the label “atheist” and staunchly reject the existence of God. The rest have doubts of God’s existence but do not outright reject a supreme being.

Most atheists and agnostics (56 percent) agree with the idea that radical Christianity is just as threatening in America as is radical Islam. Two-thirds of active-faith Americans (63 percent) perceive that the nation is becoming more hostile and negative toward Christianity.

Atheists and agnostics were found to be largely more disengaged in many areas of life than believers. They are less likely to be registered to vote (78 percent) than active-faith Americans (89 percent); to volunteer to help a non-church-related non-profit (20 percent vs. 30 percent); to describe themselves as “active in the community” (41 percent vs. 68 percent); and to personally help or serve a homeless or poor person (41 percent vs. 61 percent).

Additionally, when the no-faith group does donate to charitable causes, their donation amount pales in comparison to those active in faith. In 2006, atheists and agnostics donated just $200 while believers contributed $1,500. The amount is still two times higher among believers when subtracting church-based giving.

The no-faith group is also more likely to be focused on living a comfortable, balanced lifestyle (12 percent) while only 4 percent of Christians say the same. And no-faith adults are also more focused on acquiring wealth (10 percent) than believers (2 percent). One-quarter of Christians identified their faith as the primary focus of their life.

Still, one-quarter of atheists and agnostics said “deeply spiritual” accurately describes them and three-quarters of them said they are clear about the meaning and purpose of their life.

When it came to being “at peace,” however, researchers saw a significant gap with 67 percent of no-faith adults saying they felt “at peace” compared to 90 percent of believers. Atheists and agnostics are also less likely to say they are convinced they are right about things in life (38 percent vs. 55 percent) and more likely to feel stressed out (37 percent vs. 26 percent).

According to study results, 81 percent of the no-faith group say they adapt easily to change compared to 66 percent of active-faith Americans. “It is important for Christians to understand the environment and the perspectives of people who are different from them, especially among young generations whose culture is moving rapidly away from Christianity,” said David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group. “Believers have the options of ignoring, rejecting or dealing with the aggressiveness of atheists and those hostile to the Christian faith. By their own admission, Christians have difficulty handling change, admitting when they are uncertain of something, and responding effectively to divergent perspectives. These characteristics make the new challenges facing Christianity even more daunting.”

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3 responses to “American atheists appear to be less likely to vote and volunteer and give less to charity

  1. I’m not surprised by this result.

    Non-believers are not going to rely on a supernatural force to look after them if they hit problems. Hence they will want to have more “insurance”. This is possibly born out by the US which is religious but social insurance rudimentary and the more secular societies of Europe which have much higher levels of social insurance.

    Also most non-believers are probably rationalists and less likely to give as the result of an emotional appeal and will subject donations to a cost/benefit analysis. Samaritans Purse, which runs the Xmas shoebox appeal, is a nice idea that makes the donor feel good, but is not very effective in helping those in need (unless it is in converting them the Xianity) 🙂 . Likewise giving to street collectors who are very often on commission is much less effective than using Give As You Earn which gains the benefit of tax relief.

    The survey is also probably slightly skewed in that the non-believers are younger on the whole than the believers. For example the young tend to be less “at peace” with themselves whilst the more elderly tend to find change a problem.

  2. Although Christians may donate more to charities I do not consider this itself to be a sign of a charitable nature. If an atheist gives money to a good cause but at the same time expects with high probability that there is likely to be a large reward of some nature as a direct result of this donation, or by donating the atheist avoids serious bodily harm, one could hardly call this charity.

    The same defininition should apply to Christians who donate to any cause which is (in their eyes) likely to increase their prospects for receiving everlasting salvation or avoidance of everlasting damnation. This is hardly an act of selfless charity, they are making a calculated investment in their afterlife. As such, this is not charity, it is “ethical investment” at best. At worst it is a protection racket. Depends on if the carrot is perceived as mightier than the stick.

  3. Pingback: Are theists happier then atheists? - Page 9 - Religious Education Forum

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