A majority of U.S. adults and almost a third of evangelicals now say they believe that faith in God is not needed to be a moral person, a survey has revealed.
The Pew Research Center reported on Monday that 56 percent of all American adults surveyed say they don't think that being a believer is a requirement for someone to be moral and to have good values, which is up from the 49 percent who said the same back in 2011.
The results, based on a survey conducted June 8–18 and June 27–July 9, also found that 32 percent of white evangelical respondents agreed that belief in God is not necessary to be moral, along with 63 percent of white mainline believers who said the same.
Black Protestants were the most likely to disagree with such a view, with only 26 percent saying faith in God is not needed, while as many as 85 percent of the religiously unaffiliated rejected that faith in God is necessary.
Every religious group measured moved more in the direction of siding with the argument that faith in God is not needed for morality, compared to the previous results in 2011.
Pew noted that this growth "tracks closely with the growth in the share of the population that is religiously unaffiliated.
Other organizations, such as Gallup, have highlgihted the declining trust in the Bible in America. A survey released by the group in May found that fewer than one in four Americans, or 24 percent, believe that the Bible is "the actual Word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word."
A slightly higher 26 percent, on the other hand, argued that the Bible is "a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man."
A separate collection of surveys from Pew in 2014 found that many other countries around the world do see faith in God as essential to morality, however.
"In 22 of 39 countries surveyed, clear majorities say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values. This position is highly prevalent, if not universal, in Africa and the Middle East," Pew noted at the time.
"At least three-quarters in all six countries surveyed in Africa say that faith in God is essential to morality. In the Middle East, roughly seven-in-10 or more agree in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Lebanon."
It added that North American and European countries are most likely to disagree that God is necessary, however.
Atheists in America have been making the argument that people can live good, meaningful lives without God for years. Several ad campaigns, including one in 2011 sponsored by the Center for Inquiry in Amherst, N.Y., have focused on that message.
"You don't need God — to hope, to care, to love, to live," the ad stated at the time.
CFI President Ronald A. Lindsay, who has since stepped down from the role, said that it is a "myth" that nonreligious people lead "meaningless, selfish, self-centered lives."
"This is not only false, it's ridiculous," Lindsay said back then. "Unfortunately, all too many people accept this myth because that's what they hear about nonbelievers."