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Pew report: One-third of evangelicals believe people can be good without God

(Wikimedia Commons/Loz Pycock)Poster for the Atheist Bus Campaign in a train in the London Underground.

A majority of Americans, including a third of white evangelicals, believe that it is possible to be good without belief in God, according to a new report from Pew Research Center.

The findings, drawn from two polls conducted on June 8–18 and June 27–July 9 among 5,000 American adults, showed that 56 percent of the respondents do not think that having a religious belief is a requirement for someone to be moral and to have good values.

Among white evangelical respondents, 32 percent agreed that belief in God is not necessary to be moral, while 63 percent said the same among white mainline believers.

Black Protestants were the least likely to agree with such a view, with only 26 percent believing that faith in God is not needed. In contrast, 85 percent of the religiously unaffiliated rejected the view that faith in God is necessary to be moral.

The latest figures show a growth in the share of Americans who say belief in God is unnecessary for morality, tracking closely with the growth in the share of the population that is religiously unaffiliated.

In a 2011 Pew survey that included the question about God and morality, 18 percent of respondents identified themselves as religious "nones." By 2017, the share of nones has risen to 25 percent, according to Pew.

However, the attitudes about the necessity of belief in God for morality has also increased among those who identify with a religion.

Among all religiously affiliated adults, those who say that belief in God is unnecessary for morality rose from 42 percent in 2011 to 45 percent in 2017.

There was also a decline in the share of white evangelicals who still say that belief in God is necessary, dropping from 73 percent to 65 percent in just six years.

The findings were released on Oct. 16, ahead of the "Openly Secular Day" on Oct. 20. The event is being promoted by multiple organizations of atheists, humanists, agnostics and other secular individuals to highlight their lack of religious beliefs.

Atheists in America have launched several advertisement campaigns over the years to stress that people can live good meaningful lives without God.

"You don't need God — to hope, to care, to love, to live," said a 2011 advertisement sponsored by the Center for Inquiry (CFI) in Amherst, N.Y.

Ronald A. Lindsay, former president of CFI, has contended that it is a "myth" that nonreligious people lead "meaningless, selfish, self-centered lives."

"This is not only false, it's ridiculous. Unfortunately, all too many people accept this myth because that's what they hear about nonbelievers," he said at the time.

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