Because the US Census doesn't collect information about religious affiliation, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) began its own survey in 1990 with 113,000 interviews, and followed up with 54,000 in 2008.
According to the ARIS Survey, Nones make up 15% of the US adult population, up from 8% in 1990. So who are they? Nones are simply the growing number of folks who answer "none" when asked for their religious identity or affiliation. Which doesn't mean they're necessarily non-believers - only about 7% of Nones are atheists, a third identify as agnostic and over half believe in a higher power.
In the general US population, while the number of atheists and agnostics has more than tripled in the last two decades they still represent just 12% of the total population (2% atheist,10% agnostic). The vast majority of the US population believe in a higher power, with 70% identifying as deists and 12% theists.
This article was originally published in January 2010, and has been updated for the
January 2011 paperback release.
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