My initial reaction to seeing the new Pew Forum report? Relief. On a closer examination? Aversion.
First, my profound relief, from page 14:
Good news! America makes more religiously unaffiliated people with each generation, and the trends within age cohorts are also nothing to frown at.
Now for the bad news. Most of the unaffiliated are neither atheists, skeptics, nor rationalists. Only 2.4% self-identify as atheists, with another 3.3% calling themselves agnostic, while “nothing in particular” makes up the bulk of the unaffiliated at 13.9%. In that that last group, belief in new age woo (e.g. spiritual energy, astrology, reincarnation, etc.) runs at the same or slightly higher rates than the general public, and never less than one-in-four. Almost one in three believes they have been in touch with the dead (see pg. 24).
Since there are good reasons for rejecting agnosticism and since the “nothing in particulars” are marginally less skeptical than the general public, the only really good news here is that both of those groups are probably willing to hear us atheists and skeptics out when we try to explain to them that gods, spirits, souls, ghosts, astrology, reincarnation, faith-healing, and alt-med all fall into the same evidential category. To be sure, our mission field is expanding, but we still have to do the hard work of teaching people why and how to think critically about such claims.