Before I intimate the declining state of religion in this country, let me say that it is in dismal disarray.

Thousands of churches in America, on any given Sunday morning, have a telling number of empty pews–most of them more than half-empty. An equal number (thousands) of articles have been written, asking, “Why is church membership declining?” That is not my particular concern either.


My interest is in the growing number of agnostics and atheists, in general. I well remember a time in this country when only one atheist’s voice was being heard and who name was well-know–Madalyn Murray O’Hair. O’Hair once opined, “Religion has caused more misery to all of mankind in every stage of human history than any other single idea.” The remarkable, but unthinkable truth, is that she was right! Keep this thought in mind.

Before I share statistics, it is important to understand the meaning of the words “atheist” and “agnostic.” According to Dr. Phil Zuckerman, in an October 2015 issue of Psychology Today, “An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in the existence of God or gods. And agnostic is someone who isn’t sure if there is a God or not, or who doesn’t feel like he or she (or anyone) can have any valid information on the matter, and thus, thinks that it is impossible to say there is a God, or that there isn’t.”

I’ll go with Zuckerman’s definitions, but simplify them by saying that both atheists and agnostics (nonbelievers) simply have no belief in a deity, period. They are neither theists nor polytheists. They are about as willing to talk about God or gods as they are to enter into a passionate, intense discussion of unicorns or leprechauns!

Atheism and agnosticism is growing at breathtaking rates through the world. Just to share some statistics, according to the Oxford Handbook, 41 percent of the people of France (or nearly 20 million) are nonbelievers. Almost one-third of the people of the United Kingdom are nonbelievers. But, wait…

While we may not be surprised that 17 percent of the people of Russia are nonbelievers, it startles us to learn there are a little less than half that number (8 percent) in the United States. The actual number of unbelievers in the United States is 18,625,556. Compare to the population of the State of New York - 19,795,791 (2014)



The rise in numbers of unbelievers in the U.S. is, unquestionably, not due to the efforts of Madalyn Murray O’Hair!

I suspect this statistic is buoyed and burgeoning because the church continues to be unrealistic in its teachings, along with its unrelenting promotion of the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible. It is growing because of the unremitting hypocrisy between what Christians “say” and what Christians “do.”

The results of the recent election evince the latter. I cannot, in my lifetime, remember so profane and un-Christ-like a candidate as Donald Trump; yet, evangelical Christians overwhelmingly supported and voted for him. Go figure!

(c) 2017, L. Milton Hankins