Do atheists and agnostics pray? It seems that some of them do. Pew Research Forum has conducted a few studies over the last several years that have produced 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). According to these studies a certain number of atheists and agnostics do engage in the religious ritual of prayer (although it is a minority). Christine Wicker of Psychology Today writes,
“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).
Going on this statistical information one finds 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, as inconsistent with an atheistic view of the universe. It is not unheard of for some atheists to criticize 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). There are even secular chaplains popping up at some American universities (7). There is also a growth in atheist churches which seem to wish to emulate their theistic brothers and sisters (8).
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.