The Association of American Publishers (AAP), the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry, recently released its annual estimate of total book sales in the United States, and according to its findings, religious books had a "difficult year."
The report, which reveals sales from 2006, marked a sharp 10.2 percent drop in religious books sales compared to the previous twelve months. The trend was one of the biggest decreases among all the book categories reported on by AAP.
According to AAP, the drop is not critical, however, since "compound growth is still strong at 7.5 percent per year."
Coincidently alongside the sag in sales of religious books has been a rapid interest in atheist books over the past months. Books that had not sold that well in the past are now beginning to turn into purchases.
According to some critics, people in the United States are starting to resent the role religion has played in society.
"There is something like a change in the Zeitgeist," explained Christopher Hitchens, author of God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, in the Associated Press. "There are a lot of people, in this country in particular, who are fed up with endless lectures by bogus clerics and endless bullying."
Some Christians, however, say they see the rise in atheist literature as only a reaction to the rise of religious influence. Christianity is gaining more strength, with several victories gained throughout the year.
Examples include the growth of homeschooling and private Christian schools, limits put upon stem-cell research, and a ban on partial-birth abortions that occurred recently in the Supreme Court.
"It sort of dawned on the secular establishment that they might lose here," explained the Rev. Douglas Wilson, author of Letter from a Christian Citizen, in a debate on ChristianityToday.com. "All of this is happening precisely because there's a significant force that they have to deal with."
With the growth in the number of anti-religion books being sold, more are expected to come out on the market.
The report from AAP calculates its sales numbers by compiling data from the Bureau of the Census as well as sales data from "81 publishers inclusive of all major book publishing media market holders." AAP estimated that U.S. publishers had net sales of $24.2 billion in 2006.
Religious books data were compiled in cooperation with statistics received from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) – an international non-profit trade organization of 260 member companies worldwide that "promotes excellence" among Christian publishers.