I recently had an announcement on the front page of this blog regarding the opportunity to participate in Nicole Ross’ survey project for a class of hers at the Canberra Institute of Technology. It is on religious affiliation in the childfree community. The results are in and the report complete; here are some highlights from her report:

  • There were 487 respondents who learned of the survey on SurveyMonkey through various channels on the internet
  • 80% were female, and 80% were between the ages of 21-39
  • 73% were from the United States
  • 75% have parents who adhere to some type of Christian religion
  • 70% report not holding any religious beliefs; 29% identify as religious
  • 79% report that their religious upbringing did not influence their decision not to have children

In her conclusion, Nicole indicates that the survey numbers indicate that “there is a positive relationship between individuals who are childfree by choice and absence of religious belief, and that atheists within the childfree community significantly outnumber atheists in the general population, at least in Australia and the United States.”

Kudos to Nicole for gathering data on the childfree and religion;  there has been a dire need for research in this area. Previous research has tended to show that those who choose not to have children are not particularly religious, and this survey seems to concur with this thinking.  Nicole takes it further and interestingly finds that most respondents don’t see their religious upbringing as influencing their childfree status.

Two clarifying points occur to me when reading her results:

1. Instead of childfree individuals in general, the survey numbers seem to indicate more specifically that there is a positive relationship between a certain slice of the childfree population–childfree women ages 21-39 in the United States with access to the internet, and absence of religious belief.

2.  The question, “Do you currently hold any religious beliefs?” does not automatically mean respondents would identify themselves as atheists.  Saying those who “do not belong to any religion” would also not automatically mean they would say they are atheists. I would like to have seen Question 4, “Please state your parents religion.” asked of respondents as well, so that they could self-report on this, and that the choice of  “atheist” instead of “no religion” be used instead on both questions.

This survey brought to mind what I learned about this when interviewing couples for Families of Two The age ranges of the couples at the time was between mid-twenties and mid-sixties, and most indicated they did not consider themselves particularly religious but a small minority said they considered themselves atheists.  Many of them did not belong to a church, or did not attend church regularly, but did hold Christian beliefs.

Makes me ponder the hypothesis, that the trend of childfree atheists has increased with Gen X and Y, when you compare to the generation before them. Some do believe there is a rise in atheism in general these days, in part due to the destructive effects we see resulting from fundamentalist religious fanaticism. As Richard Dawkins, says in The God Delusion, religion has consistently been a divisive and oppressive force in the world, and that sure is the case today.

What do you think–are the childfree more likely to be atheist? Or do more march to their own spiritual drum?

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