Surveys regularly receive front-page coverage for reporting, as the 2008 Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey did, that nearly all Americans believe in God. The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life concluded that 92% of Americans are believers and that only 5% of Americans don’t believe in God…But something is wrong with this picture. It erases vast numbers of Americans…It encourages the sense that there are two kinds of Americans, the overwhelming majority who believe and belong, and those few do not believe, and are outsiders. But the conventional wisdom that nearly all Americans believe in God is wrong.
A senior fellow at Pew says the issue is: What does one want to know? Yes it is, so one wonders why so many people who run opinion surveys want to know that nearly everyone believes in something that can (at the price of radical oversimplification and obliteration of distinctions) be called ‘God.’
This is exactly the point, which suggests that depending on the purposes of the study — and how the questions are posed — religion can appear more or less widespread, and secularists can be made to virtually disappear or to appear as a major component of contemporary American life.
Why does it matter? Because secularists (to say nothing of atheists) get ignored in US politics and discourse, while religious influence over laws and institutions keeps growing. Even believers shouldn’t want God making the laws, because God is completely unaccountable.