In a major “gloves off” press release this week the Council for Secular Humanism gave a scathing critique of last year’s Baylor University Religion Survey of 2008, recently published in a book What Americans Really Believe (Baylor University Press, 2008). The Council for Secular Humanism argues that the Baylor study chose to neglect or creatively interpret date from Gallup, Harris, and Pew other sources that point to belief in a personal God declining in America and the rise of secularism:
* Numerous Gallup studies show that firm disbelief in God or a universal spirit has risen fourfold since the 1940s. Baylor researchers misinterpreted data from just two early Gallup polls, then combined them with data from a handful of other studies, creating an inaccurate impression that unbelief has held steady for more than 60 years.
* Respected studies from Gallup, Pew, CBS, the BBC, and others find that between 10 and 13 percent of Americans either reject or doubt God’s existence. Two recent Harris Poll studies that used special methods to help unbelievers identify themselves found an unprecedented 21 percent of Americans at least doubting God’s existence. The Baylor team makes no mention of this data and relies on significantly lower figures.
* Data from the Pew Center, the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), and the Harris Poll now show that America is entering into the same process of secularization that previously occurred in other Western countries. Baylor researchers disregard this data and continue to maintain — inaccurately — that “faith American style” is holding its own.