Majority of atheists are ex-Christians with a University education

The atheist alliance have launched a campaign to get some numbers on the sorts of people worldwide who describe themselves as atheist. So far the sample group size is 69,798 and counting, with 64% describing themselves as atheist, with the second largest group preferring the term ‘Humanist’.

A whopping 34% are former Catholics, with a further 36% from other Christian denominations. The numbers also reveal that almost 60% have a University or College level education.

The recently published 2011 Office of National Statistics census, here in the UK, shows that the number of people describing themselves as Christian has fallen dramatically since the census of 2001, while the number of atheists has risen sharply from 15% in 2001 to 25% in 2011.

The pedophile priests scandal in the Catholic church, and the positive dialogue about atheism which was spurred on by the likes of the late Christopher Hitchens and neuroscientists Sam Harris in the wake of 9/11, undoubtedly played a role in spiking these numbers.

But perhaps the most surprising data from the on-going atheist alliance census, when broken down by region, is that of the 28,798 North Americans who responded as of 18th December 2012, the vast majority are former Christians over the age of 34 — suggesting that far from being a phenomena more to do with fashion trends and social pressures among the young and internet savvy, as detractors of the so-called new atheist movement are prone to suggest, the actual reason for the rise in people describing themselves as atheist could in-fact be more to do with the time it takes for doubting Christians to carefully unpick what they have been told all their life to believe, before eventually becoming comfortable with the realisation none of it is true in their more contemplative years.

This is an extremely positive sign. Once upon a time churches could be virtually guaranteed that after teenagers and twenty somethings “got it out of their system”, by the time they came to marry, have children and settle down, they would become somewhat tempered by real life experiences, and a sense of mortality which often alludes the young, and begin regularly attending and donating to churches again, later in life.

What the ONS census and the atheist alliance data suggests, is that these back-sliders are a group on the wane, which churches can no longer rely upon to boost their numbers; strongly suggesting that — despite the protestations of apologists, theists and religionists to the contrary — cultural Christians know the game is up for religion in general, and no longer see a reason to self-indentify as such for merely cultural and traditional reasons.

When you also factor in the stone-age attitude towards the role of women in the Church, coupled with an unrepentant homophobic agenda, and the clearly negative effect on the health of political dialogue which theocrats have had in countries like Iran, Egypt and The United States, there’s little wonder so many people are now ready to embrace the Dawkins challenge, and come out of the atheist closet.

Sign the census:

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15 comments on “Majority of atheists are ex-Christians with a University education

  1.      Interestingly, this grants some credibility to the position that universities try to indoctrinate into atheism. Now, it isn’t proof by a long shot. But I have found a few things. Critical thinking is rather rare. No level of education actually supports it. Even at a university, the professors think they have the “right” answers; they generally expect you to learn by rote; and you are expected to respond back to them at the end exactly as they provided the desired responses in advance. It is quite fertile ground for dogma.
         I only present this as food for thought. While I know that university professors tend to think rather highly of their own opinions and have a low tolerance for dissent, I do not know that any actually try to make their students embrace atheism. Most people hold their religious beliefs because they were explicitly taught to them. It is worth considering that atheists may hold the belief that no gods exist for much the same reason.

  2. Post secondary institutions do not “indoctrinate into atheism”, they teach reality, which, coincidentally, mirrors atheism. Most universities (at least in my experience) completely ignore the whole concept of religion since it is completely irrelevant to learning. No physicist is going to try and prove there is no god, because he has better things to do.

  3.      Every religious indoctrination out there has claimed to “teach reality.” And most, if not all, believed what they were saying. One thing my observations tell me is that I have very little to go on. Dogmas can slip in anywhere almost undetectable. Many people who hold dogmatic positions do not recognize the fact.
         Like I said, it’s worth thinking about. I do not claim to know the answer. But I am appropriately suspicious of those who claim to be so sure.

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  5. I strongly disagree, with the accusation or even suggestion that universities and higher learning are teaching “dogma”, this isn’t food for thought this is unfounded speculation , by definition “dogma” is a hard axiom, a claim that something is incontrovertibly true and is without doubt or question, since the typical gateway to atheism is by way of Science and Philosophy, which all these disciplines teach us to do is look objectively and critically at the world and to consider a variety of world views. This isn’t teaching or promoting atheism, at most it teaches us to start asking questions and that nothing is beyond criticism, Atheism really is just a byproduct of internalizing these methodologies, the concept of Gods just simply can’t survive undiluted reason and logic.

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  8. I don’t know which Uni’s ask you to learn by wrote, but there not “worth their salt” (excuse the pun). I graduated from a theological college, and the opposite is true for me, the dogma, was 100% pro Christian (Pentecostal). I see more humanity, than divinity, more psychology than spirituality. I left it not because it is not good, but because it is not true.

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  10. It is illogical for an atheist to be a former Christian… from both a Christian and atheistic standpoint.

    1. Atheist standpoint: God does not exist therefore no relationship with Him could have ever occurred (this is required for a person to be a Christian); an atheist, in his/her former life may have gone to Church, may have sang worship songs, and may have lived as a Christian… but a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ who has a changed heart given him/her from God, thus born again. So he/she just thought they were a Christian but never were.

    Christian standpoint: We don’t choose God, He chooses us. And Scripture clearly states that nothing can snatch us out of His hand once we are chosen… which is before the foundation of the world. So a true believer/Christian is a Christian for life and saved eternally. Scripture also states that those who walk away from the faith were never of the faith to begin with… they simply partook of the fruit of that faith for a little while, never placing their faith in Christ because they were not chosen by the Father for Christ.

  11. Mark Ketchum – that’s “No True Scotsman,” to the core. When I was a “christian” (RC), confirmed at age 10 (who can make a choice like that, so young!) an altar server and a lay reader at mass as a high schooler, I really thought I believed.

    The “ghod chose you” theory disposes of free will, so who needs it.

  12. Actually… it is not NTS… first, the person would have had to be a Christian and proved to be a Christian for the “he was never a Christian” to be a NTS. He is not proved to be a Christian, in fact it is proven that he is not… for in order to be a Christian as defined by Scripture… God would have to chose you before the foundation of the world… and then nothing could snatch you out of the hands of God once you are saved… a Christian. And since he… and you… “no longer” believe in God… you were never saved and were never a Christian… you were simply a make believer partaking of the fruit for a time. Look it up… it is all there in Scripture. And as for God choosing us… does not take away our free will… it is just that our nature changes and now we desire God instead of desiring our natural inclination toward sin.

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  14. Bogus. The real reason atheism is growing in some conclaves, is that skeptics never turn their skepticism inward.

    Most atheists actually live in China, and are brainwashed from youth, not former Christians.

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