Overview:

A new survey found that fewer than half of all Americans are certain God exists.

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The percentage of American adults who say they absolutely know of God’s existence and have no doubts about that whatsoever has dropped below 50% for the first time in recorded memory. That’s according to recent data from the General Social Survey.

Christopher Ingraham, a data journalist who first pointed out this nugget at The Why Axis, wrote that “Back in 1993, two-thirds of American adults” said they were absolutely certain of God’s existence. Even in 2008, the number “topped 60 percent.” But that number has now fallen to 49.66% (at least if you include the standard caveat about margin of error).

While this ought to be good news and another sign that the country is heading in a more secular direction even as Christian nationalism remains as powerful as ever, it’s still disturbing that nearly half of all Americans are absolutely, positively, 100% certain that God exists.

When that number is at 100%, it’s no longer even faith. It’s just indoctrination. It’s quintessential American confidence (or arrogance) over something that can never be proven. It’s an admission by some people that they will never be swayed by any amount of evidence. They firmly believe in something for which they have no proof and there’s nothing you can say to change that.

(Remember that even Richard Dawkins, in The God Delusion, said he wasn’t 100% certain that there was no God. It’s absurd to say otherwise.)

But the irony is that roughly 65% of Americans said the same thing in 1993 (before the internet became ubiquitous), and yet about 15% of them—we’re talking tens of millions of Americans—eventually caved to their doubts and skepticism. They were right to do that.

So as troubling as it is to see half of all American adults cling so strongly to something so wrong, they may not actually be as stubborn as they seem.

By the way, among younger American adults, the confidence in God’s existence is much lower, as you might expect:

I would also predict that the rise of Christian nationalism, especially during the Trump presidency, will lead to serious backlash in years to come. So the shift away from organized religion that we’ve already been seeing over the past couple of decades may speed up as the Americans who equate God-belief with right-wing bigotry and anti-intellectualism grow into adulthood.

Hemant Mehta is the founder of FriendlyAtheist.com, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.