POLL: Majority Say You Don’t Need God To Be Moral

From a poll just published by Pew Research:

Most U.S. adults now say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values (56%), up from about half (49%) who expressed this view in 2011. This increase reflects the continued growth in the share of the population that has no religious affiliation, but it also is the result of changing attitudes among those who do identify with a religion, including white evangelical Protestants.

Surveys have long shown that religious “nones” – those who describe themselves religiously as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – are more likely than those who identify with a religion to say that belief in God is not a prerequisite for good values and morality. So the public’s increased rejection of the idea that belief in God is necessary for morality is due, in large part, to the spike in the share of Americans who are religious “nones.”

Among white evangelical Protestants, 32% now say belief in God is not necessary to have good values and be a moral person, up from 26% who said this in 2011. To be sure, most white evangelicals still say belief in God is necessary for morality. But the share who say belief in God is a necessary underpinning of being moral has declined from 72% to 65% in just six years.

Religious “nones” themselves, in addition to growing as a share of the population, have simultaneously become more likely to reject the idea that believing in God is necessary for morality. In 2017, 85% of religious “nones” say belief in God is unnecessary for morality, up from 78% who said this in 2011.

The Catholic League has reacted by declaring that atheism somehow leads to joining ISIS, among many other things. I’m not kidding.

  • Will Parkinson

    Atheism for the win.

  • YeOldePickyPeckereth
  • bkmn


  • YeOldePickyPeckereth
  • Tempus Fuggit

    Most U.S. adults now say it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values

    Of course it isn’t. Morals = applied ethics. No deity, saviour, devil, heaven, hell, purgatory, worship, or bronze-age fairytales required.

    • pch1013

      Yep. Doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do is innately and obviously superior to doing the right thing because Sky Daddy might punish you otherwise.

    • RoFaWh

      Contemplating, inter alia, the Mormons, the Christian Scientists, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you need to add “iron age fables”.

      Add in scientology and you need “silicone age fables”.

  • Bluto
    • The_Wretched

      Bill Donohue also argues that priests are all good and holy until such time as their abuse victims start getting all lewd and demanding the priests abuse them. He’s an utter fail of a human being.

      • greenmanTN

        Oh, those wily prepubescents with their saucy, come-hither eyes!

      • Silver Badger

        Well, all those alter boys were just asking for it. Ask any pedo.

      • Eddie Besketti

        my mother listens to this guy. I know nothing of him other than to stay away. she is always asking me to please listen.

        • The_Wretched

          He’s an utterly loathsome piece of work. I’m sincerely surprised the real catholics let him front that he’s speaking for them.

    • Cattleya1

      Well, sometimes good…

    • EdmondWherever

      I’m good to get a reward, too.

      That reward is a society with good people in it.

  • Silver Badger

    It has been my experience that those who “sprinkle God over everything like ketchup” are more likely to treat others unethically than those who don’t. Now, can some one tell me the difference between “ethics” and “morals”?

    • Reality.Bites

      Anyone who can sprinkle ketchup can perform miracles and should be venerated

    • Silver Badger

      plural noun: ethics; noun: ethics
      moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.
      “medical ethics also enter into the question”
      synonyms: moral code, morals, morality, values, rights and wrongs, principles, ideals, standards (of behavior), value system, virtues, dictates of conscience
      “your so-called newspaper is clearly not burdened by a sense of ethics”
      the moral correctness of specified conduct.
      “many scientists question the ethics of cruel experiments”
      the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles.

      plural noun: morals
      a lesson, especially one concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience.
      “the moral of this story was that one must see the beauty in what one has”
      synonyms: lesson, message, meaning, significance, signification, import, point, teaching
      “the moral of the story”
      a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.
      “the corruption of public morals”
      synonyms: moral code, code of ethics, (moral) values, principles, standards, (sense of) morality, scruples
      “he has no morals”

  • Pollos Hermanos

    The Fundies jumped into bed with Trump. It’s clear to everyone else that you definitely can’t be moral and a fundy.

  • Tawreos

    Let’s hope those numbers continue to grow.

  • Skokieguy [Larry]

    If you need a third party (religion) to tell you how to behave in a moral fashion, wouldn’t that be proof of the absence of personal morality?

    I am an atheist, yet I think its wrong to kill others. And I didn’t have to look up sky-fairy instructions to figure that out.

  • The_Wretched

    Religion gets in the way of developing your morality. When morality means ‘follow the church rules’ you’ve exported morality and how you think about being moral to a 3rd party. And we’ve seen the consequences of the heavily religious ‘just following orders’ when it comes to LGBTQ folks’ civil rights.

    • MichaelJ

      I wouldn’t t make such a broad assessment of the relationship between religion and morality. I’ve known plenty of religious people with a sense of right and wrong that is similar to my own, including my pro-gay evangelic in-laws. These are not people for whom being moral and religious equals following church or biblical rules. They are people whose morality stems from religious upbringings (often including charity work as well as church attendance) which have not preventing them from developing a sense of right and wrong beyond or even against some church teachings.

      Perhaps the folks I know are innately decent people who would have developed the same morality even if they did not have a religious upbringing, I don’t know. I do know that my sense of right and wrong was greatly influenced by the values imparted to me by my parents, my grandmother, and family friends, and by the example of the Civil Rights movement unfolding as I became increasingly aware of the world beyond my home. I also know that in the US, where being rich and powerful is celebrated and self-interested greed and competitiveness is increasingly admired, being able to develop a different moral sense is all the more important. Whether folks get that from their religious upbringing or something else is not so important to me.

      • The_Wretched

        The standard claim in the US is from the evangelical and other christian talking heads that their religion is the font of morality. Indeed, people like Roy Moore cite the bible and ‘christian morality’ as the reason why he gets to flout the law.

        I’m much less concerned about the best humans who are decent people because of or regardless of religion. I’m more concerned about the horrible ones and what arguments they use. So far as ‘good religionists’ provide cover for the bad ones, I’m not so fond of them either.

        • MichaelJ

          Well then I think we basically agree.

  • YeOldePickyPeckereth
  • greenmanTN

    If anything it’s a hindrance. Religion replaces morality with dogma.

  • Skokieguy [Larry]
  • YeOldePickyPeckereth
  • MikeBx2

    Makes me recall this quote from Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg:

    “With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil – that takes religion.”

    • Eddie Besketti

      wouldn’t it be better to say “……and good people can behave badly……” instead of “……and bad people can do evil…..” ?

  • Adam Stevens

    You do, however, still need to be 100% stupid to waste your life on religion.

  • YeOldePickyPeckereth
    • GayOldLady

      Oh, I see you’re in drag today!

      • YeOldePickyPeckereth

        My Elizabethan costume, m’lady.

        • GayOldLady

          Quite lovely! Excellent choice.

          • YeOldePickyPeckereth

            Ooops…looks like we’re being called for our Waffle House reservation.

          • GayOldLady

            Perhaps we should dine elsewhere, we don’t want to soil your elegant garments at Sarah’s filthy station.

        • Cuberly Deux

          9. Henry V: Act 2, Scene 1

          Pistol’s cock is up,
          And flashing fire will follow.

  • YeOldePickyPeckereth
    • pch1013

      You forgot “welfare recipient.”

      • pch1013

        and “immigrant.”

        • Bad Tom

          And yet execrable author.

          • Cattleya1

            Awful, preachy, execrable author.

        • Ivan T. Errible

          And ESL speaker and Jew and…..

    • Todd20036

      That’s nothing. St. Ronnie Reagan raised taxes 5 times and compromised with democrats.

    • Cuberly Deux

      Also pretty big on birth control too.

  • Ninja0980

    I’ve always said that if you need a deity to know that killing/raping etc. is wrong, that says more about you then anything else.

  • Reality.Bites

    And what percentage says it’s not possible to believe in God and be moral?

  • YeOldePickyPeckereth
  • ETownCanuck
    • pch1013

      Admittedly, some people lack both. See: Trump, Donald J.

      (who is actually an atheist, no matter what his drooling cultists believe.)

  • JWC

    In some strange and wonderous ways the general public is looking for other avenues of belief not necessarily spiritual. The one mitigating factor that in some ways drives this, is the religious rights manic and feverent dialogue toward anti Christian activities Their rhetoric on anti gay, anti abortion and anti alternate religion is slowing driving a wedge. They are deparate and in their desparation tend to drivepeople to search elsewhere https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9c1c9eb394d5f85478bdf39111bf0e2946925c74b6711daf39f2a4981b7b37ca.jpg

  • Rebecca Gardner

    I would argue that Religion is the greatest source of immorality in all of human history.

    • Harveyrabbit

      Took the words right out of my mouth.

    • andrew

      “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” Blaise Pascal – 1669.

      • pch1013

        Meh. Pascal also famously said that a smart person should believe in God, just in case the priests and Bible are actually right about the whole hellfire and damnation thing.

        • Jeffg166

          He probably thought witch craft was real.

          • andrew

            In the 1600’s probably 99% of the people held that belief.

        • andrew

          I’ll give him a pass since he lived in the 17th century. His belief that I quoted above is astounding considering the time in which he lived. About 350 years ago he said that he would rather die believing that there was a God and find none, than believe that there was no God and find one.

        • Eddie Besketti

          i’m cool with that. it’s ok. If you wanna believe in god as a back up insurance plan – fine. Just stop treating other people like shit or your belief will fall on the trump list of All Things Fake.

  • andrew

    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Steven Weinberg Nobel Laureate, Physics.

  • Jean-Marc in Canada

    I know a lot here don’t like Bill Maher, but this “new rule” is one of the best pushbacks ever on the idea of atheism being a “faith”


  • Jean-Marc in Canada
    • Todd20036

      Sigh. Miss him.

  • Todd20036

    I need my god to be immoral, actually.
    I’m a Priapist!

    • ohbear1957

      That’s a religion I could get behind. Hard on the body, but exhilarating.

  • MichaelJ

    Another thing that could be contributing to the increase in the belief that religion is not a prerequisite for morality is the increased visibility of religious individuals and groups who have a repugnant and hypocritical sense of right and wrong, often working to impose it on others more than trying to follow it itself (e,g,, the Kim Davises of the world).

    • boatboy_srq

      There was a time when ethics (Plato, Aristotle, Cicero) was part of social science and philosophy curricula somewhere in K-12. I don’t remember whether they were casualties or relevance-centric education or of the Reichwing squeeze on public ed. But ethics – and thereby morality – sans religion was once taught in school, until it wasn’t.

      • MichaelJ

        Ditto for Civics. Americans are incredibly ignorant of their own government, the Constriction and other long-held principles.

  • joe ho

    Our moral sense is the result of our evolution as social animals. Expectation of reciprocity. Punishing those gaming the system. etc. No god needed.

  • It is easy enough to find both moral and immoral (or ethical and unethical) theists and nontheists. So obviously the god belief doesn’t help people be more moral. It is used by religious people to explain why they are ethical or moral but I suspect that the same people would be decent or not either way.

  • Gigi

    Atheism is the anithesis of ISIS. Donohue proves yet again that he’s a clueless POS.

  • First of all, there is no God, so even those who think one is needed in order to be moral are full of crap. Secondly, many “godly” people are decidedly immoral! So let’s ask tougher questions next time.

  • MBear

    If you need a threat of eternal damnation to be “good “, you have no morals. Religion is the antithesis of morality

  • Ken M

    I wonder if the poll referred to “God,” (Christian variety) or any “God.”

  • Willys41

    I only hope the human race lasts long enough for people to learn how to think.

  • HanyBaal

    Religion’s greatest con was to successfully co-opt morality to the point they are now conflated with each other. Growing up, being a good Muslim meant one is principled and righteous. Now I think religion is by definition immoral, for it demands one harm himself and others in its service.

  • Ken M
  • justmeeeee

    What about the 75% of religious people who say they’re religious but really aren’t? Why doesn’t anybody ever speak for them?

    • m_lp_ql_m

      Maybe because they need to start speaking for themselves.

      • justmeeeee

        Maybe, if they even knew it themselves. Some of my closest friends and relatives are non-religious religious people.

  • Ben in Oakland

    Given the story of god’s incessant smiting, of how Abraham bargained with god not to destroy sodom, how god sacrificed himself to himself by committing suicide to lay the blame on someone else for someone’s sins…

    The real questions is..


  • Cuberly Deux

    Was watching an atheist bible study youtube vid last night. They were going through a portion of Jeremiah. Page after page of how god was totes gonna smite everyone and everything. Torture your family, tell you you can’t trust your family and friends, you can only trust god….and that if you don’t he’ll smite your ass as well. Oh, and destroy your herds and your crops and starve you in a super-hot furnace of a burning desert.

    The patriarchal tantrum for total control of all aspects of life was less than subtle I spose. Maybe more people are actually reading the damn thing.

  • DesertSun59

    This poll is actually quite irrelevant. Until Nones get elected to offices where they can influence public policy regarding religion this is nothing other than mental masturbation.

    • (((GC)))

      This poll is showing that the climate is improving for Nones to get elected.

      • Mikey

        I would never vote for a nun.

  • liondon#iamnotatraitor

    Sorry Typo..should read ..can’t be moral with god.

  • acde

    Everyone should read the article by the Catholic League available in the last words by Joe. It is the most outrageous gobbledegook of non-sequiturs, opinions masquerading as fact, drawing conclusions from unrelated “facts”, and assuming that all agree with the Catholic League definitions of sin and depravity such as assisted dying. If it was not so pathetic it would be a riotous laugh. I would like to see a fist year philosophy student have a go at it.

  • Wuulf

    Morality is doing what’s right no matter what you’re told. Religion is doing what you’re told no matter what’s right.

  • drbrentzenobia

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but “not believing in god” is a different thing from “not being religious.” Hindus and Buddhists do not believe in the god of monotheism, but still represent a good percentage of religious people.

    • Halou

      The linked Catholic League article makes that same mistake. A majority of people in Japan are Buddhist and Shinto, very spiritual but not dogmatic about it nor do they proselytize at others, as Evangelicals are inclined to do.

  • LarryChemEngr

    Time for a good old fashioned revival. Praise the Lord, and pass the collection plate!

  • Charles Nelson

    White Evangelicals also believe that police are always needed because they and their fellows will cheat, rob and kill if there isn’t someone always watching them.

  • Mike

    Belief in god and adherence to religion most definitely does not make people more moral or ethical. I mean, just look around. Many of the most amoral and unethical pigs are also the most devout. I’d put my trust in an atheist over a churchy any day. Atheists don’t have gods or “holy” books commanding them to be vain and cruel the way members of conservative religions do.

  • Jefe5084

    Declining because the loudest evangelical believers (preachers and politicians) have few if any morals. Easy to see that religion is not equal to moral, but may be inversely related.

  • Hue-Man

    You don’t need religion if you apply one simple idea from Luke 6:31 (KJV)
    And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
    A simpler version: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

  • leastyebejudged

    This is progress of course, but we need to remember that religion is all that some crazy people have, and plan accordingly. They’re going to be needing a LOT of help.

  • Eddie Besketti

    joemygod – – I clicked the link. didn’t see anything about ISIS in the text. oh wait…. I found it. What a stupid comparison between Japan and Belgium – quite a stretch and twist and with lots of negative imagination. I think the amount of pedophiles coming out of the moralistic catholic church speaks volumes about morality than squeezing numbers from comparing Japan and Belgium . from the text: The secular animus against religion, as played out in Belgium, is made manifest in two ways: (a) more Belgians, per capita, have fled to join Islamic terrorists in the Middle East than any other European nation, and (b) it has one of the highest rates of assisted suicide in the world (those with autism and mental illness are routinely killed).