Atheist Tuesday: Atheist “Retention Rate” at the Bottom (Thank God!)


Surprise! Despite all the bluster and guffawing from the unbelieving set about the growth of their religion, atheists just can’t keep unbelieving for long.

According to a new study, atheists have the lowest “retention rate” of any religious group.

According to The Christian Post, citing a study from Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), “those who grow up in an atheist household are least likely to maintain their beliefs about religion as adults.

“Only about 30 percent of those who grow up in an atheist household remain atheists as adults. This ‘retention rate’ was the lowest among the 20 separate categories in the study.

“There were 1,387 atheists (weighted) in the survey. Four-hundred thirty-two weighted respondents said they were raised atheist. Of those, 131 self-identified as atheist.

“What these findings reflect is that in the U.S. atheists are for the most part ‘made’ as adults after being raised in another faith. It appears to be much more challenging to raise one’s child as an atheist and have them maintain this identity in their life,” Dr. Mark Gray wrote at CARA’s blog.

So what should a Christian do with this information? Keep sharing your faith with those strident atheists, no matter how callous and vocal they may be.

Because they are the best of the backsliders….


  1. It’s cool, you’ve got a tiny group (Atheists) with low retention, versus a huge group (Christians) also with low retention. Guess what. That still means the small group is growing.

    Also clearly for someone to have been an adult now growing up in an atheist home the culture they grew up in a much more overtly Christian culture than people do now. Basically it’s talking about culture in the past. I would guarantee these numbers will look a lot different in 20 years than they do now.

  2. And yet, there’s this study: “Nones On The Rise

    I would be quite interested to see how the study you display above defines “atheist household”. My guess is that they define it differently than most atheists would expect. My guess is also that you’ll see that number drastically change in the next 10 years, along with the “Nones” number.

    For the record, all of the people I know who grew up in an “atheist household”, which are very few people, are still atheists today. Having said that, the vast amount of atheists I know — myself included — grew up in theist households.

  3. Surprise! Despite all the bluster and guffawing from the unbelieving set about the growth of their religion, atheists just can’t keep unbelieving for long.

    1. Bluster? Guffaws? Sorry, I don’t see that.

    2. The growth is substantial… check out the study I posted in my comment above. 1 in 3 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are “Nones”, and the number keeps growing every year, across all demographics.

    3. Atheism is not a religion in any form, unless you completely distort the definitions of “atheism” and/or “religion”.

    4. The study you posted says nothing about “atheists just can’t keep unbelieving for long.” At *best* it says that atheists who grow up in atheist households were no longer atheists when they were polled. Again, I’d be very interested to see how CARA defines “atheist” and “atheist household” in this context, as I’m betting they would be different than I would define them.

    Yes, I read the full CARA study.

  4. It’s most entertaining to see you, Steve Sanchez, using these numbers to attack atheists.

    The one thing these number don’t account for, you see, is the False Christians. the folks who claim to be Christian, yet according to you and many of your supporters here, aren’t actually Christian.

    I’m willing to bet the retention rates, according to you Steve Sanchez, are much lower than the chart actually shows.

    Stones, & glass houses, planks and eyes, Steve.

    • Well, okay, then!

      I don’t think I’m attacking atheists… I love atheists, you included. I’m just publishing a study. You figure out the details.

      I’m just saying that this is another reason why we must keep sharing our faith with unbelievers.

      Does that help?

      • Hi Steve,

        1. Whateverman is not an atheist. He’s said this before.

        2. What’s your opinion on the study I posted?


      • Oh, and welcome back!

      • I’m just publishing a study
        You can lie to yourself all you want, but please do me the courtesy of not lying to me.

        You’re doing more than publishing a study. You’re attacking atheists for have a low retention rate, and using this low figure to justify your pre-existing evangelical approach.

        If “false Christians” were included in that graph’s data, Christianity’s retention rate would be much lower than atheists’.

        PS. Thanks Nohm. I know he does it just to be annoying.

      • You’re doing more than publishing a study. You’re attacking atheists for have a low retention rate, and using this low figure to justify your pre-existing evangelical approach.

        No. This is an opportunity to encourage Christians to witness to atheists who have beliefs founded on solid sand.

  5. Like a mighty phoenix of lolz, atheist Tuesday rises from the ashes… to crash into the sea like a face-palming albatross.

  6. Math!

    “Nones” make up about 16.1% of the population.
    “Christians”: make up about 78.5% of the population.

    A retention rate of 30% thus means that atheist households are ‘losing’ 9.66% of the united states population, (~ 300 million * 9.66% = 28 million people) every year. There are many hypotheses to be made about this: for my part, I’m going to speculate it has something to do with the non-religous marrying members of the christian majority and joining them in going to church and identifying as christian from then on. (Also, the conspicuous lack of social and familial pressure to remain non-religous: from experience, the lesson atheists teach their children is “think critically”, not “be atheists”)

    The retention rate for christians in general is a bit more difficult to calculate, so I’m just going to use the rough median and say ~60%. This means that christians are ‘losing’ 47.1% of the united states population (~ 300 million * 47.1% = 141 million people). In deference to our host, I won’t speculate on the causes there.

    Either way, that means christianity is losing 5x as many people each year as atheism. Interesting.


    • Actually, Christianity loses none. Jesus said that no one can pluck them out of his hand. He will lose none that are his. Implication: Those who leave aren’t Christians. Conversely, it’s very easy to convert out of atheism.


      • Conclusions Taken To The Logical Extreme!

        Interesting. Ignoring the fallacy and redefinition of an established english word, your statement plus the retention rate statistics indicates that out of all those self-identifying as christian in the world, 1 in 3 aren’t.

        You know what this means? “No religon” actually makes up 42.2% of the US population, while christians are only 36.2%.

        Abuse Of Statistics For Fun And Profit!

      • Actually, Christianity loses none
        How did this study determine the religious affiliation of its participants? Probably just by asking them – right?

        Do false Christians think they’re Christians, Steve?

        You do the math, or maybe ask your daughter help you with the tough stuff…

      • Do false Christians think they’re Christians, Steve?

        Of course.

        Have your friends read you the Bible.

      • If false Christians think they’re Christians, Christianity’s retention rates are lower than your study suggests.

        Indeed, you’d be a more successful evangelist preaching to the choir…

  7. Although many misotheists love to use the scientific principle of “Making Stuff Up”, the truth is that atheism is on the slide. And no wonder, since atheism makes its own “Poes”.

    • There is a difference between world statistics and US statistics. The current discussion is about US statistics, given that that is the context of the data Steve brought up.

      Also, I would highly recommend that those with the word “piltdown” in their username refrain from mentioning Poes Law. The piltdown hoax was exposed by scientists and has since never been referenced as legitimate. Can you say the same for the Paluxy footprints, the Calaveras skull, or Moab and Malachite Man?

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