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Although the literal definition of “atheist” is “a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, 8% of those who call themselves atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit.

Indeed, 2% say they are “absolutely certain” about the existence of God or a universal spirit.

Alternatively, there are many people who fit the dictionary definition of “atheist” but do not call themselves atheists.

About three times as many Americans say they do not believe in God or a universal spirit (9%) as say they are atheists (3%).