If you’re an atheist, then the Pacific Northwest is the place for you.
Three of the most godless cities in America are on the West coast, with the Rose City – Portland, Oregon – coming in as the least faithful. According to a survey of 50,000 people conducted by the nonpartisan and nonprofit Public Religion Research Institute’s American Values Atlas, 42 percent of Portland’s residents are “religiously unaffiliated.” Seattle and San Francisco tied at second place (33 percent), with Denver and Phoenix (32 percent and 26 percent) in third and fourth place.
Compared to more devout cities such as Nashville and Charlotte, Portland bills itself as “quirky and different” (the city’s unofficial motto is “Keep Portland Weird”). Daniel Cox, research director at the Public Religion Research Institute, credits this atmosphere as “very attractive to people who may not feel comfortable in other social environments, particularly with a stigma against those who are atheists.”
In “So Help Me God,” Judge Roy Moore brilliantly argues those who ordered him to remove a monument to of the Ten Commandments from his courthouse are the ones breaking the law by ordering him to violate his oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
The South’s higher religious population reflects a strong religious culture in its history and cultural norms. But the Pacific Northwest has no such historical influences. Without a large influx of a major denomination, “religious groups, spiritual environmentalists, and secularists ‘must vie or sometimes must cooperate’ with each other to address the region’s pressing economic, environmental and social issues,” according to MarketWatch.
In the 2004 book “Religion and Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The None Zone,” the authors note, “A clearly recognizable religious reference group functions as a social mirror, alongside or against which an individual can define himself or herself. The Pacific Northwest has neither. … Most people who come into the region do not come seeking to replicate what they left behind.”
Studies show one-fifth (22 percent) of the U.S. population has no religious affiliation whatsoever. Numbers are rising. Last year atheists were 15 percent of the population; 10 years ago, numbers stood at 10 percent. In the 1950s, it was 1 percent.
In late 2012, it was reported that atheism was the third-largest “faith” in the world after Christianity and Islam.
In keeping with Portland’s spirit of diversity serving the needs of the community, the First Atheist Church of Portland welcomes new members under the care of Rev. Cheryl Ann Lewis.