Do atheists and agnostics pray? It seems that some of them do.
Pew Research Forum has conducted a few studies over the last few years that seem to have churned out some interesting statistics. One study says that 6% of atheists and agnostics pray daily (1) whereas another puts it at 11% of atheists and agnostics who pray weekly and monthly (2). And with only atheists themselves considered Pew found that 3% said that they pray (3). These studies at least seem to suggest that a certain number do seem to pray as commentator Christine Wicker, writing for Psychology Today, asks, “Do atheists and agnostics pray? Yes, indeed. Quite a bit it turns out. Six percent of them pray every day, we’re told by the Pew Research Center. And 11 percent pray weekly or monthly” (4).
So, if we go with Pews research from 2012 and do a little bit of calculating we find that of the agnostics and atheists in America (7.1% = 22 641 899), 2 490 608 of them pray week or monthly. If 3% of atheists pray then that works out to 296 577 doing so daily. Remember that this is only the number of atheists who admit to praying, and it is entirely possible that some will not admit that they do since it is seen, by both themselves and others, to be inconsistent with an atheistic view of the universe. After all, other atheists have criticized those who pray as not really being atheists since atheists don’t believe in God. It is also possible that others desire to pray but decide not to.
There are a number of reasons why some atheists pray. Some do so out of out of desperation (5), and others because of awe and transcendence brought on by comprehending the universe (6). As a result it isn’t entirely surprising that we find secular chaplains popping up at some American universities (7), and even the growth of atheist churches (8), in the hope for atheists to emulate their theistic brothers and sisters. One of my favourite commentators on religious matters, Bishop Barron, says that “Studies show that everybody prays… you could almost say that the human being is best categorized as the animal who prays” (9).
1. Jeffrey, T. 2012. Pew: 6% Percent of Atheists and Agnostics Pray Every Day. Available.
2. Lugo, L., Cooperman, A., Funk, C., Smith, G., O’Connel, E. & Stencel, S. 2012. “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation. Available.
3. Lips, M. 2016. 10 facts about atheists. Available.
4. Wicker, C. 2013. Do Atheists Pray? Available.
5. Boorstein, M. 2013. Some nonbelievers still find solace in prayer. Available.
6. Wicker, C. 2013. Ibid.
7. Boorstein, M. 2013. Ibid.
8. Wheeler, B. 2013. What happens at an atheist church? Available.
9. YouTube. 2017. Bishop Barron Comments on Prayer. Available.