Survey: Many don’t want atheist in-laws

Brace yourself for family backlash if you plan to marry an atheist.

A new Pew Research survey chiefly focused on political polarization also found Americans divided when someone in the family picks a nonbeliever to marry.
Atheists are the most unwanted future relative, by far. Nearly half (49 percent) of Americans say they would be unhappy if a member of their immediate family picked an unbeliever for a spouse.

Those most likely to say they’d be upset:
•73 percent of people who call themselves “consistently conservative.”
•64 percent of Protestants, including 77 percent of white non-Hispanic evangelical Protestants.
•59 percent among Republicans or those who leaned to the GOP, 18 points higher than unhappy Democrat or Democrat/leaning adults.
•55 percent of Roman Catholics

By contrast, only 9 percent overall said they would be upset by the prospect of a relative wedding a “born again” Christian.

Marriages between Democrats and Republicans were not nearly as divisive.

The number of people who would be upset if a family member married someone of another political party was less than one in 10 overall. And the percentage was similarly low for marrying someone of another race or an immigrant born and raised in another country.

Temperatures did rise a bit over gun ownership and over a lack of a college education.

Overall, only 19 percent said they would be unhappy to have a gun owner in the family. But Democrats and those who leaned blue were more likely to be unhappy (26 percent) than those who favored the GOP (9 percent).

“Clearly, an atheist is the least likely to be welcomed into a family,” said Jocelyn Kiley, senior researcher with the Pew Center for the People & the Press. Although 20 percent of Americans said they have no religious identity, “certainly religiosity matters in the United States.”


62 thoughts on “Survey: Many don’t want atheist in-laws

  1. You forgot to mention that 99,998% of atheists wouldn’t want to marry into that sort of family in the first place, 🙂
    …and couldn’t cop the daily dose of lemons.


  2. So most would not have welcomed the following into their family?

    Thomas Edison – Helen Keller – The Beatles
    Charles Schultz (creator of Peanuts) – Jacques Yves Cousteau
    Abraham Lincoln – “The Bible is not my book, nor Christianity my religion.”
    Roger Ebert – Einstein – Linus Carl Pauling
    Maurice Sendak – Warren Buffet – Billionaire philanthropist
    Jonas Salk (discoverer of the Polio vaccine) – Andy Rooney
    David Hume – Ray Romano – Ted Williams
    Scott Joplin – Marlene Deitrich – Butterfly McQueen
    Billy Joel – Sigmund Freud – Bruce Lee
    Bill Nye – Susan B. Anthony – William Shatner
    Marlon Brando – Noam Chomsky – Katherine Hepburn
    Helen Mirren – Andrew Carnegie – Richard Branson
    Kurt Vonnegut – Gene Wilder – Virginia Wolf
    Charlie Chaplin – Richard Rodgers – Arthur Schleshinger Jr.
    Frida Kahlo – Ernest Hemmingway – Carl Sagan
    Oscar Wilde – Frank Zappa – Mark Zuckerberg
    Jamie Hyneman – George C Scott – Andy Rooney
    Daniel Radcliffe – ‪Carl Sagan – Daniel Ratcliff
    Penn and Teller – ‪Arthur Miller – Barry Manilow
    Kevin Bacon – Burt Lancaster – George Orwell
    Steve Jobs – Mark Twain – Voltaire
    George Carlin – Rodney Dangerfield – Adam Savage – Mythbusters
    George Bernard Shaw – Simon de Beauvoir – Isaac Asimov
    Thomas Paine – Gene Roddenberry – creator of Star Trek
    Rod Serling – creator of The Twilight Zone – John Stossel
    AC Grayling – Dan Dennett – Thomas Mann
    Noel Coward – Jodie Foster – Stephen Fry
    Margot Kidder – Larry King – Keira Knightley
    Brad Pitt – Robyn Williams – Stanley Kubrick
    Neil DeGrasse Tyson – Physicist – Richard Feynman – Physicist
    Buckminster Fuller – Gene Kelly – Paul Robeson

    Once again it depends on how these people define themselves (may be falsely) and how others define them (may be falsely.)


      • But not EVERYBODY discriminates on religious grounds!

        Apart from Warren Buffett, you forgot to mention
        Bill Gates
        George Soros
        Steve Jobs
        William Clement Stone
        Benjamin Graham\
        among others;
        ……..each of whom ~ I suspect ~ contribute(d) more to the common good generally than most godbotherers, combined, in any given year.
        ….and ANY of whom, I suspect, would be welcomed into ANY family, lemon-suckers or not.

        ps An example of which, I’m reminded:-

        “Among the first companies Buffett acquired after launching Berkshire Hathaway, the Omaha-based investment and insurance giant, was The Sun Newspapers of Omaha, then owned by Stan Lipsey, one-time chairman of The Jewish Press, Omaha’s Jewish newspaper.

        “At the time, the Omaha Club did not take Jewish members, and the Highland Country Club, a golf club, didn’t have any [non-Jewish] members,” Lipsey recalled. “Warren volunteered to join the Highland” — rather than the Omaha — “to set an example of nondiscrimination.”

        Buffett happily recalls the fallout from his application.
        “It created this big rhubarb,” he said. “All of the rabbis appeared on my behalf, the [Anti-Defamation League] guy appeared on my behalf. Finally they voted to let me in.”

        But that wasn’t the end of the story, Buffett said. The Highland had a rule requiring members to donate a certain amount of money to their synagogues. Buffett, of course, wasn’t a synagogue member, so the club changed its policy: Members now would be expected to give to their synagogues, temples or churches.
        But that still didn’t quite work, Buffett recalls with a laugh, because of his agnosticism.

        In the end, the rule was amended to ask simply that members make some sort of charitable donation, and the path to Buffet’s membership was clear.

        It seems there’s nothing REALLY wrong with The Omnipotent Dollar God? 😉


    • I wouldn’t want a lot of those guys in my family Strewth, they are dead.

      I thought I would have a look at the first person on your list. Thomas Edison.

      An article he wrote about the non existence of the soul had everyone thinking he was an Atheist. He later cleared that up with this.

      You have misunderstood the whole article, because you jumped to the conclusion that it denies the existence of God. There is no such denial, what you call God I call Nature, the Supreme intelligence that rules matter. All the article states is that it is doubtful in my opinion if our intelligence or soul or whatever one may call it lives hereafter as an entity or disperses back again from whence it came, scattered amongst the cells of which we are made.

      Israel, Paul (2000). Edison: A Life of Invention. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-36270-8.


    • I was on a roll so I thought I would look at the second person on your list.

      This is what Helen Keller said;

      For three things I thank God every day of my life: thanks that he has vouchsafed me knowledge of his works; deep thanks that he has set in my darkness the lamp of faith; deep, deepest thanks that I have another life to look forward to–a life joyous with light and flowers and heavenly song.”
      ― Helen Keller

      Where did you get that list from ?

      I got a feeling some of the beatles believed in God but I have run out of time.


  3. 49%? Shouldn’t the title read “Many don’t mind Atheist in-laws” considering the majority don’t have a problem with it?

    Only 9% would have a problem with marrying a born-again Christian.

    This survey seems to depict the religious as a rather intolerant group, not all that loving of their neighbour. I don’t think Jesus would be very amused by this.


    • Didn’t Jesus say that He did not come into the world to bring peace but a sword? Didn’t He say that He came to set a son against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter in law against her mother in law? (Mat. 10:34-36.)

      Why does this surprise us in regards to atheist relatives? How can you say that Jesus would not be amused if atheists and Christians cannot tolerate each other? How can you say that the Christians are intolerant?

      We are talking about two diametrically opposed worldviews; so much so that it is like putting Jack the Ripper in charge of the whorehouse and expecting him and the whores to get along peacefully.

      In fact the Bible warns us a number of times not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers (ie atheists, pagans, etc) 2 Cor. 6:14. This is because such marriages do not work unless one party or the other is willing to compromise critical parts of their worldviews and/or beliefs. Usually it is the Christian who has to compromise (as proved by Jasonjaw’s comments – why is the Christian intolerant? Why not the atheist?)


      • In essence, Jesus was opposed to selfishness and preached/demonstrated selflessness. If Atheists tended to fall more toward selfishness and Christians tended to fall more toward selflessness, then I would absolutely buy your argument. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case. Christianity tends to be more of a social club for Bible-focused individuals rather than people following Jesus’ lead into the trenches to connect with and help others in society break from their troubled ways.

        Considering the recent societal prevalence of religion being strongly intertwined with daily life, Athiests tend to be more likely to have a connection with religious people and have developed a general understanding of their traditions and ways. This allows for Atheists (for the most part) to be more tolerant of their religious compadres. Those raised within the confines of religion are less likely to be able to understand the ways of unbelievers as they are less likely to have significant experience dealing with them.

        Lack of connection and understanding plays a huge role in people being intolerant. The religious population tends to be less connected to those of other worldviews than Atheists. I think that is what the results of this survey are demonstrating.


      • Jasonjshaw

        “Christianity tends to be more of a social club for Bible-focused individuals rather than people following Jesus’ lead into the trenches to connect with and help others in society break from their troubled ways.”

        Really? So you’ve never heard of Salvation Army, Loaves and Fishes, ADRA, St Vincent De Paul, Prison Fellowship and other various Christian Motorcycle Clubs, etc?

        And what about organisations like AA, RSPCA, World Vision and Red Cross, that were started by Christians?

        “Those raised within the confines of religion are less likely to be able to understand the ways of unbelievers as they are less likely to have significant experience dealing with them.”

        On the contrary, those raised within the confines of their religion also live, play and work in the same world as the atheist. They are bombarded by the worldview of atheism in ethics governing how one does business. They are bombarded by the worldview of atheism in interacting with the media (radio, television, newspapers, etc). They are bombarded with the worldview of atheism the minute they step into a public school or university. So you are quite wrong about your statement. The problem is that too many of them are influenced by the atheist worldview to an extent that some are neither fully Christian, nor fully atheist. Others turn their backs on Christianity altogether. Whilst others return back to Christianity.

        Those that reject atheism do so because they consciously rejected the worldview of atheism. Those that don’t, is because atheism gives them a comfortable environment to pursue their vices without bothering about conscience and accountability.


      • “Lack of connection and understanding plays a huge role in people being intolerant. The religious population tends to be less connected to those of other worldviews than Atheists. I think that is what the results of this survey are demonstrating.”

        So you would like me to be tolerant of the muslims in my community who are threating young girls with murder if they refuse to marry older men? You would have me be tolerant of KKK?

        And how is it that every communist regime has persecuted religion if atheism is so tolerant of other world views?


  4. Does atheist in-laws include atheist spouse?

    I think if you are a believer and practice your faith and want your children to grow up in the faith, then it would be a problem.


    • It could be a problem in a modern marriage, where everybody thinks they have an ‘equal’ right to make decisions.
      Not otherwise.
      I’ve seen some weird situations arise over the years.


      • If both parents are say Catholic, you’re not going to have the issue of whether to baptise the children or not.

        I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying Dabs.


      • Not necessarily always a problem, Kate. —>

        But I’ve seen such situations turn very nasty ~ even lethal.
        In the (pre-feminist) days when there were clear ~and generally-accepted ~ rules about who made what decisions in a household there was much less scope for either-or confrontations. Y’didn’t get the in-principle rows that not only seldom had a satisfactory conclusion, but caused ongoing rancor.

        A woman I knew (who had the harshest life-story I’ve ever heard) was caught in such a (never-ending) situation.


    • My atheist relative is happy to let his JW ex indoctrinate their son, but answers the boy truthfully when questioned on his own beliefs. There is no conflict.

      My own advice to the boy is to attend to his mother’s teaching until he is old enough to make either a thought out decision or an inspired one.


  5. Off-topic —-> Harking back to the atheist question (since some can’t accept the accepted definitions/etymology):- If children need to be baptised/circumcised (in whatever form) in order to become a ‘believer’/”see the kingdom of god”, what are they BEFORE they become ‘believers’/see the kingdom of god?
    ‘Believers-in-waiting’ perhaps?


      • Duck and weave as you will, the question isn’t ‘what they’re NOT’.
        It’s what they ARE before they ‘get god’?
        Will YOU, puh-leese, make a decision?

        ,,,,or do you intend to maintain your childishly-stubborn position despite the definitive realities? (That’s a question, too ~ in case it escapes you! 🙂 )


      • Who’s being childish and perverse now? . If you are going to claim that a baby is atheist, you would have to foolishly claim that a rock, or a bicycle, or any other inanimate object you can think of is an atheist. Babies, dogs and cats do not have the intellectual capacity to believe in anything (except for very basic instincts; but those don’t count as beliefs). Get it?


      • As, by definition, they are. Are you saying it’s foolish to claim that a bicycle is ‘without god’: atheist by definition? ( but not ‘AN’ atheist)

        A post making the point appears to have been lost ~ I’ll see if I can repost it. Atheism is a condition, NOT a characteristic. Y’can no more be ‘an’ atheist than you can be ‘an’ courageous or ‘an’ stupid or have ‘an’ smallpox, etc.
        There’s nothing in the rules (again: check the etymological definitions) that requires a ‘belief’ in atheism ~ a ‘belief in non-belief’, or anything else. The rules ONLY require a LACK of belief. (UNbelief; NONbelief, etc.)
        Wombats and rhodies, et al all LACK any belief in god ~ so obviously they’re NON-believers ~ hence ‘atheist’. A bicycle also doesn’t believe in taxation, say. Do you suppose that requires a choice NOT to believe?

        The ‘intellectual capacity reiteration is a non-starter. (NO…that doesn’t mean it has to be going backwards ~ as according to the ‘atheist’ arguments it must be doing.)
        Are you then insisting that those with less than a given intellectual capacity cannot ‘see the kingdom of god’ because they can’t make a valid choice?
        Or that their non-belief is a chosen position? —>
        “Sorry mate, you’re too stupid to get into heaven, evidenced by the fact that, since you didn’t choose to be a believer you must’ve chosen to be atheist.”

        I wonder what Jesus would say about such a suggestion.
        Or Mr Osbourne, my Tech-school logic instructor.
        …or Albert Einstein! (Y’reckon the General Theory of Relativity is confusing??! HA!)

        Incidentally, I note for the record that you STILL haven’t addressed the question. If the theologically ‘uneducated’ can’t be ‘believers’ and aren’t
        non-believers (atheist) then WHAT are they?

        It’s a pivotal question. Perhaps kindergarteners in purgatory? Na. They can’t be catholics without the requisite choice-decision, can they?


      • But that’s the whole point:- Nothing in the definition of ‘atheism’ REQUIRES a ‘philosophical argument/decision. A-theist simply describes a condition*.

        …like ‘wet’ 😉
        When a dog shakes itself it’s to alleviate a condition of sogginess ~ ie. ‘get rid of wetness’; it does NOT a require a ‘philosophical decision’ to ‘get dry’.

        As Ziggy Freud is reputed to have said:- Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

        ..and you STILL haven’t answered the question!
        (is that a philosophical decision that you don’t have a philosophical argument that supports your agenda?

        *(of being ‘without god’, in case I hadn’t made it clear!)
        (=’. ‘=)


      • The assertion that “There is no God” is just as much a claim to knowledge as is the assertion that “There is a God.” Therefore, the former assertion requires justification just as the latter does. It is the agnostic who makes no knowledge claim at all with respect to God’s existence. He confesses that he doesn’t know whether there is a God or whether there is no God.


      • Again, ‘atheism’ doesn’t REQUIRE any such assertion:- “The assertion that “There is no God”.
        Someone who is ‘atheist’ (without god) might CHOOSE to make such an assertion on an intellectual plane ~ and should then be prepared to defend it in the same arena* ~ but that’s a separate issue. A devout jew might equally assert that Jesus was NOT the son of god, but such an assertion need NOT have any relativity to his jewishness.
        …. but WOULD require ‘intellectuality’.

        Intellectual arguments depend on nothing other than intellectual argument, to state the obvious.
        ie. Being ‘godless’ (atheist) per se doesn’t require any assertions.
        Babies and bicycles assert nothing, yet are definitively godless.

        * most problems in this ‘arena’ arise not because of any intellectual debate, but because non-atheists (‘Believers’, generally) REFUSE to keep the argument on an intellectual plane, but insist on referencing ‘faith’, ‘belief’, ‘divine inspiration’, ‘theology’, hearsay, etc.


      • A commonly repeated error is that the word “atheism” was derived from the prefix “a-“, meaning “without”, and the word “theism”, meaning a belief in God. Therefore the claim that “atheism” means “without a belief in God”. This is incorrect because the etymology of the word “atheism” derives from the Greek word “atheos” meaning “godless”. The “-ism” suffix, which can be roughly mean “belief”, was added later. The etymology of the word means “godless belief” not “without a belief in gods”.


      • ??????….”Dogs are dogs and cats are cats..they can’t understand philosophical arguments or make philosophical decisions. Neither can bicycles.”

        How do you know this?
        Voices in the head? 🙂


      • ummm…Does not compute:- –> “Nah, just logic…that most people understand

        Endless evidence demonstrates that there’s an inverse ratio between what ‘most people understand’ and logic. 😉


      • ps…. would you post the premises on which you base your (purported) ‘logic’?
        Or is your assertion based on ‘Belief’?
        ,,,,,,,’Faith’, perhaps?

        If you put it all off long enough we might forget the question was ever raised.
        ….like the other one 🙂


    • They are certainly people who have taken on board a concept of God. They become atheists by rejecting that concept.


      • Cut to the chase:- Y’can’t ‘choose to believe’ in what you claim is a non-existence. ….interesting ideas within that proposition.


      • A quote from Einstein in 1941

        I was barked at by numerous dogs who are earning their food guarding ignorance and superstition for the benefit of those who profit from it. Then there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source. They are like slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional “opium of the people”—cannot bear the music of the spheres. The Wonder of nature does not become smaller because one cannot measure it by the standards of human moral and human aims.


      • Sounds good Judith.
        But apparently he was ignorant of the definitive meaning of the word ‘a-theist’.
        It’s a word for a condition, a description of godlessness; NOT an opinion, and has nothing to prove, no point to make.


      • As William Laine Craig rightly pointed out, a deceptive game is being played by many atheists. If atheism is taken to be a view, namely the view that there is no God, then atheists must shoulder their share of the burden of proof to support this view. But many atheists admit freely that they cannot sustain such a burden of proof. So they try to shirk their epistemic responsibility by re-defining atheism so that it is no longer a view but just a psychological condition which as such makes no assertions. They are really closet agnostics who want to claim the mantle of atheism without shouldering its responsibilities.


      • So far YOU’RE the only one who’s prattling on about ‘belief’ ~ one way or another ~ which you insist requires a ‘philosophical decision’.
        My position all down the line is that ‘belief’ ~ one way or another ~ has NO bearing on ‘atheism’/godlessness.
        The link to the etymological evolution I posted the other day makes, I thought, that point very clearly.
        Later corruptions to suit a particular agenda are not legitimate except insofar as they’re used in corrupt form.
        Here’s more:-
        Note:- NO indication of any connection to “belief”.
        STILL no connotation of “belief”


      • Clutching at straws again my friend.. Why don’t you stand up for your atheist belief? Perhaps it would make you responsible for actually trying to defend it? A bit too difficult perhaps.


      • ….or perhaps a verdict of ‘Not Guilty’: that god DIDN’T do it, and is therefore innocent.
        Case dismissed? 🙂


      • Try to pay attention just once: THERE is NO SUCH THING as “atheist belief”.
        (Try reading the posted links, and check out the links on them.)

        I’d be happy to make an intellectual/philosophical argument to the effect of ‘god’s’ non-existence, if I thought it was worth the effort.

        But you’d have to swear to ….er, ‘god’ that you’d take an objective view, and leave any assertions of ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ or unfounded supposition, or non-established/non-demonstrable ‘facts’ in the dunny until you were ready to leave.

        Shall we begin with the assertion that ‘Non-attendance Proves Absence’??


      • What on earth (or elsewhere!) is an “an avrediamist”??
        Something to do with a bird flying backwards?


      • It’s not believing in vrediamism. If you don’t know what an avrediamist is, Dabs, neither you nor anyone here would call you one. Same applies to a rock or a tree or a baby – they do not have the concept. Just as they do not have the concept of theism or atheism.

        Cry unfair if you like, I could have used a real term that you had no knowledge of, as would be the case for a tree or a rock or a baby, but I might have had to scratch too deep to escape your googling capacity. A capacity also unknown to them! 😆


      • ?? “If you don’t know what an avrediamist is, Dabs, neither you nor anyone here would call you one.”

        …..and they DIDN’T.
        Except you….. I wonder what that demonstrates?


  6. If this survey was taken by the department of religion in the Pew Centre, I wonder who were the research subjects. Is it possible they identified themselves as religious? In which case the results would point to a broad tolerance.

    But probably not the case! 😆


  7. At all comes down to not what religion but a basic floor in the existence of oneself .
    If you as many lack the ability o except the finite existence of yourself any bit of crap spin by a few would do to ease your troubled mind.
    And those packages of crap spin are called “RELIGION ”
    Last week I talked to come religious person in the city.
    I said this :-
    If I stood here ten thousand years back of ten thousand years forward and any time between there would be a person proclaiming to “KNOW THE TRUTH” and all would be saying another version of why they “BELIEVE ” their so important they should exist forever .
    A line of thinking he found very troubling !!
    As people are very much motivated by self interest and the ability to have denial .
    What,s so difficult in understanding that the universe existed for 13,700,000,000 without you and will continue to exist for at least another trillion trillion years without you then itself will not exist again


    • The atheist position is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove since it is an attempt to prove a negative. Therefore, since there are no proofs for atheisms’ truth and there are no proofs that there is no God, the atheist must hold his position by faith.


      • So then gravity ,time, the progression of the universe toward entropy . are just beliefs ?
        The laws of thermodynamics are what ?
        Recently they discoved proof the Quantum maths are correct .
        The maths is now to a point in time just :
        1/ trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth if a second away from the beginning of the universe .
        And the Quantum maths has zero room for any fairytale mystical crap.
        Now back to my point I am making :-
        No matter what place of time there are always those claiming to know the real truth .
        And there you are claiming the real,real,real, etc,etc,etc,etc,etc, truth
        How about convincing every other person with similar claim that has lived is living or will live that you know the real etc,etc,etc,etc,etc,truth .
        When you have then I will consider your evidence you put to me .
        And you being like me just another finite existence of chemicals you better act fast .
        It won,t be long before I am


      • Did you miss it, James?? “The atheist position is …impossible, to prove since it is an attempt to prove a negative.
        (a) theists don’t HAVE ‘a position’ …(that’s what narks everybody), they just don’t accept some ‘believer’s’ position.
        (b) for that reason atheists HAVE “nothing to prove”, negative or otherwise.

        The god vs atheism argument is a pure beat-up, set up by people who have NOTHING else (apart from some PURPORTED millennia-old hearsay) to support the views for which they seek reassurance because they’ve hung their very lives upon their ‘truth’.
        That’s called ‘setting up a Strawman’.
        Another thing it’s called begins with ‘B’, but since it’s Sunday I’ll leave it to your imagination. I don’t want them around here chucking bricks through my window on behalf of a ‘god’ so frail that he needs to be defended.
        (and obviously doesn’t know where I live! 😉 )


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