The number of atheists in this country could be as much as 10 times more than previous estimates, according a study published earlier this year.
The percentage of atheists in the US varies depending on who - and how - you ask. According to a Gallup poll in 2016, only one in 10 Americans answered 'no' to the question: 'Do you believe in God?'
Even fewer actively identify as atheist, with numbers clocking in at 3 percent, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll in the summer of 2016.
With research showing there is a stigma surrounding atheists, the authors of a new study found a way for subjects to indirectly reveal their beliefs and found 26 percent of Americans do not believe in God.
Trump signed an executive order to allow tax-exempt churches to participate in politics earlier this month. He said 'We are a nation of believers' and affirmed the history of religion in the US
While more than two thirds of those 65 or older say being a Christian is an important part of being American, the landscape of society is shifting, with only one third of adults ages 18 to 29 who agree, according to a 2015 study.
But research shows a certain level of stigma is still attached to atheists.
More than one third of Americans believe atheists should be banned from becoming president, for example, and so far no one outside Christianity has been elected into the country's highest office (John F. Kennedy was the only Catholic).
Will Gervais and Maxine Najle of the University of Kentucky set out to conduct a study that might sidestep some of that stigma.
They set up two groups. The control group was presented with a list of nine statements, like 'I eat meat' or 'I have visited New York City', while a test group was presented the same nine questions with the added statement 'I do not believe in God.'
The number of atheists in this country could be as much as 10 times more than previous estimates, according a study published earlier this year (file photo)
Members of both groups were asked to identify the number of statements true to them before the researchers compared the findings between the two groups.
The study concluded that 26 percent of Americans likely do not believe in God - figures significantly higher than previous figures of 3 or 10 percent.
The researchers wrote: 'This implies the existence of potentially more than 80million American atheists.
'The disparity between self-report and indirectly measured atheism rates underscores the potent stigma faced by atheists as even in an anonymous online survey, about a third of American atheists may be effectively "closeted," even in anonymous telephone polls.'