Women Nonbelievers Still Face Intolerance, Despite Growing Numbers
A new survey of nonreligious women in America details discrimination at work, school, and within families
Today, when three in 10 Americans are religiously unaffiliated, one might reasonably expect acceptance of nonbelievers. It seems fair to imagine freethinking women — many of whom have abandoned their churches and are deconstructing extreme forms of faith— might finally enjoy a broader level of inclusion and tolerance in society. Yet many nonreligious women still experience the sting of stigma, not only while in public fights for progress, but in smaller, often more hurtful ways: in how they are treated at work, by new friends, or within groups of other nonbelievers.
Nonreligious Women in America, a report released today by American Atheists and Secular Woman, breaks out data pertaining to over 13,000 women who identified as atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and skeptics in the 2019 U.S. Secular Survey. The new report shows how the experience of women diverges from other nonbelievers, both in their personal lives and within their communities.
The vast majority of women in the study were raised Christian; over half were formerly Protestant and 29.1% Catholic. This tracks a 15% move away from Christianity by Americans over the past decade, according to Pew Research Center data. The majority of Christian apostates abandoned Protestant churches. Over the same time, the portion of atheists and agnostics ticked up a couple of percentage points each, and the broader category of “nothing in particular” grew at a larger clip.
Over 40% of women in the Nonreligious Women in America study had a somewhat firm or very strict upbringing. Roughly that same portion had parents who were unaware of their nonreligious beliefs before age 25, suggesting many may have hidden or avoided sharing their lack of faith. Among those who did tell, one in five had unsupportive parents. That lack of support could carry longer-term consequences. Women with unsupportive parents screened 59.8% more likely for signs of depression than those with supportive parents. Almost three-fifths overall had some negative experiences with family due to their nonreligious identity.