One in Five Americans Stricken With Crippling Mental Illness

Well, it’s a crippling mental illness if you’re a religious authority. Otherwise, it’s Freedom.

Nones Climb to 19 Percent

America’s “Nones” — the nonreligious — are at an all-time high, now comprising nearly one in five Americans (19%), according to a new study by the Pew Center for the People and the Press. The 19% count is based on aggregated surveys of 19,377 people conducted by the Pew Research Center throughout 2011 and reported by USA Today.

Why? It may be the Internet. It may just be some sort of fluke of the historic moment. But it’s also – and perhaps mostly – for this reason: Some of us are working at it.

“This means great news for progress, for reasoned debate, for the status of nonbelievers in our nation,” said FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. “The freethought movement and FFRF are growing rapidly. There is an explosion of local and campus freethought groups, activities and conferences.”

This is the moment to bask in that realization: We’re making a difference. We’re convincing people. They’re leaving religion — becoming US. This is not just some simple linear increase, either — the movement is snowballing.

But it’s also a moment to carpe diem in a political and economic sense.

Freethinkers have been highly marginalized, in part for being perceived as making up a small segment of the U.S. population. Actually, there have always been many more nonreligious than Jews, Muslims, Mormons or Eastern religions’ adherents, currently respectively at 1.2%, 0.6%, 1.4% and 0.9% of the U.S. population, according to ARIS. “Most minority religions, however tiny in numbers, are treated with respect, inclusion and sometimes deference. It’s time public officials and the American public wake up to the changing demographics and stop treating atheists and agnostics as outsiders,” added Annie Laurie Gaylor, who co-directs FFRF with Barker.

Hold onto that vision of a world without religion and churches in the driver’s seat. This is the first moment in history when that world was visibly within reach.

How can you help? Join in. Come out (even if it’s only online). Talk to people. Volunteer. Put a little time and money into secular causes and organizations, in whatever way you can. You might also want to support the Secular Student Alliance, which FtB’s Blag Hag (Jen McCreight) refers to as A Juggernaut of Secular Awesome.