The Growth of Atheism in America

Written by | Featured, World Religions

“The definition of ‘atheist’ is a person who does not believe in the existence of a God or many gods” (1). 

Generally, atheism is a denial of a God or the gods. However, if religion is defined based on belief in spiritual beings, atheism rejects all religious beliefs. And the vast majority of atheists in the United States (U.S.) fit this description, most saying they do not believe in God or a spiritual force of any kind.

Analyzing history, deep into the 20th Century, more than nine in ten Americans said they believed in God and belonged to organized religion. Moreover, the great majority of them called themselves Christian. But in the early 1990s, religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise (2). By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they did not associate with any established religion had doubled. Moreover, by the 2010s, the count of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size (3).

According to a study conducted in 2014, atheists are primarily men and are relatively young in the U.S. The median age for atheists is 34 years, compared with 46 years for all U.S. adults (4). Atheists also are more likely to be wealthy and highly educated (5).

Almost all U.S. atheists say religion is not too, or not at all, important in their lives and that they seldom or never pray (6).

Many atheists also believe that mosques, churches, and other religious organizations do more harm than good in society. They do not believe in spiritual teachings, but they are well informed about religion (7). In the Pew Research Center’s 2019 religious knowledge survey, atheists were among the best-performing groups, answering all of the fact-based questions correctly as compared to others (8).

As firm believers in God, Ahmadi Muslims do find the growth in the number of atheists troubling. We also realize that true and long-lasting internal harmony can only be established by restoring the connection with our Creator. Our love for others naturally demands that we wish for everyone to experience this inner peace. There is nothing wrong with caring for others enough to desire good for them. And if we believe we have even a morsel of truth that can help others, it should be our desire to share that truth with others. 

A discussion about God’s existence should start with acknowledging that the burden of proof lies with the theists, that is, those who believe in God. Some questions are puzzling to most people who are given to reflection and to pondering about life: How did the laws of nature come to be? How did the universe come into existence? And how did life as a phenomenon originate from non-life?

These questions have been answered by God in the Holy Qur’an, which states:

“Do not the disbelievers see that the skies and the earth were a closed-up mass, and then We opened them out? And We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (9). 

The verse clearly explains the origin of the universe and that God has created every living thing from water, which, today, is proven to be accurate, as the human body consists of 75% water, a universally-known fact. 

As Ahmadi Muslims, we have accepted the beautiful teachings of Prophet Muhammad (sa) and recognize Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the Promised Messiah and Mahdi (as) who was prophesied to reform humankind in the Latter Days. His stated mission was and is to bring all people back to the path of God, including atheists and those already professing belief in God. So, as Muslims who believe in the Messiah (as), we need to be especially mindful in fulfilling the responsibility, with wisdom and foresight. As stated in the Holy Qur’an: “Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in the best way. Surely, thy Lord knows best who has strayed from His way; and He knows those who are rightly guided” (10).

We need to make efforts to counteract the growth of atheism in the manner taught to us by God the Almighty. Firstly, He directs us to carry out the duty using wisdom (hikmah). What is this wisdom? It has wide-ranging meanings, varying from being generally aware to keeping the facts in view. ‘Hikmah’ (wisdom) also denotes a ‘resolute and firm word’ and a ‘conclusive argument, not requiring further proof to establish its validity’ (11). Hikmah (wisdom) implies that we need to acquire specific knowledge to call people toward God. If we increase our own knowledge first, we can hold intellectual discussions with someone who does not have faith in God. These discussions will take place according to the recipient’s level of understanding. We should know how and where to research to acquire straightforward and reasonable responses so that arguments may be provided to the deniers of the existence of God, according to their mentality, outlook, and viewpoints.

The word, ‘hikmah’ (wisdom), also denotes ‘fairness, forbearance, clemency, prophethood, and refrain from ignorance’ (11). Therefore, during debates, one should not present arguments that might be used against other prophets too. Discussing and presenting ideas from this point of view means that we should undertake outreach by application of arguments and teachings from the Holy Qur’an that we ourselves comprehend with complete confidence.

Refraining from ignorance means that we speak in a manner that is easy for others to understand and dispels their ignorance about the existence of God. The Holy Prophet (sa) said to speak to people according to their level of understanding. Continuity and consistency are also essential in our plan of action. It should not be that we meet our atheist friend once or twice in the year or distribute literature to him randomly, then think that we have done justice to conveying the message. It is crucial to continue to spread the message diligently with wisdom, strong arguments and sound counsel and above all, with perseverance. Perseverance and tolerance require that we respect and care for people irrespective of their beliefs, cultivate higher levels of love and peace within ourselves, in order that we may connect with others effortlessly.

Additionally, the Holy Qur’an directs us to call people toward God in the best manner. The Arabic word for “best” (husn) means a manner that is sound, beautiful, appealing, or pleasing (11). This term is used elsewhere in the Qur’an where it says to speak to others kindly. The Qur’an guides us to communicate with rationality and in the best, kindest possible manner.

It is wise to keep this distinction in mind and not to show docility or cowardice whereby we completely lose our sense of integrity and honor simply because we feel some unseen pressure to have to convey the message to others. Although we are not to fight and create disorder, at times it may be necessary only to refute and counter what is being said, in no way should we ever speak rudely, insult the other, or create a further reason for argument by letting anger cloud our senses. 

In any case, it is necessary to adopt a soft tone and to demonstrate good morals, while simultaneously understanding that it is also essential to speak up against what may be wrong or may be a misconception. It should also be remembered that atheists, generally speaking, do not show any pliancy or cowardice in expressing their beliefs. On the contrary, they openly deny the existence of God and the life hereafter. This also puts a heavy responsibility on how strong the faith of Ahmadi Muslims, those who believe in the final and everlasting religion, Islam, should be. The growth in atheism may be viewed as advantageous in some ways because this opposition will open up promising new avenues for outreach. The Promised Messiah (as) states: “The stronger the force of falsehood is which opposes the truth, the power and strength of the truth becomes equally greater” (11).

Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (as), further states:

“It is also commonly said among the landowners/farmers that the more intense the summer heat, the stronger the monsoon. This is a natural phenomenon; the stronger the opposition of the truth, the more it shines and reflects its splendor” (11). 

Therefore, the aim is to become a model of true Islam oneself and then to preach the message of Islam and spread its excellence throughout the world. To affect and influence an atheist, one needs to bring about a pure change within oneself. When one becomes a true model of a Muslim, then there is no question of people’s attention not being drawn toward us. 

Finally, our task is only to convey the message and then to leave matters in God’s Hands. Without this trust in God, how can we claim to be God-following people with genuine concern for others? This is the point where wisdom and outreach must be connected through prayer in order to bring about the most significant changes in the hearts of others. We should pray that God touches the hearts of believers and non-believers, guides us all, and grants everyone wisdom and greater levels of understanding. This way, we can collectively recognize one another as the creation of one loving God, our Creator.

This article appears in the January 2022 print edition of the Muslim Sunrise.


1. (Accessed November 25, 2021)


(Accessed November 25,  2021)


(Accessed November 25, 2021)


(Accessed November 25, 2021)


(Accessed November 25, 2021)


(Accessed November 25, 2021)

7.     the-most-about-religion (Accessed November 25, 2021)


(Accessed November 25, 2021)

9. The Holy Qur’an (21:31)

10. The Holy Qur’an (16:26)

11. (Accessed November 25, 2021)

Last modified: January 2022

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