PBS’ Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly on the Rise of the Nones, Part 3: Religious Implications

A couple of weeks ago, we learned that the percentage of Secular Americans was higher than ever before. Not only do a third of Millennials (18-29) have no religious affiliation, nearly 20% of all adults are also unaffiliated.

That incredible report was conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life in conjunction with PBS’ Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly. Last week and the week before, the show aired part one and part two of a three-part special on our people.

Part three focuses on the religious implications of a rising non-religious populace:

Correspondent Deborah Potter: Chris Stedman found religion on his own and joined an Evangelical church. But soon after, he discovered he was gay and eventually left.

Stedman: The grand irony of the situation is that I became an Evangelical Christian because I was looking for a community, a place to belong and I was looking for a way of making sense of injustice and suffering, of grappling with this idea of suffering. But the irony of it is that becoming an evangelical Christian increased the amount of suffering in my life and also sort of alienated me from others.

Potter: Now a self-described atheist, Stedman discovered he missed the shared values and service opportunities the church provided, something he’s found again with the Humanists.

Stedman: I thought maybe, you know, helping build up non-religious communities would be a way to provide people with opportunities to be civically engaged; to be involved in interfaith dialogue efforts; to do community service; to, you know, be more involved in their communities, be more organized.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9347436 Mark Dorn

    I didn’t watch this and am not sure if it says it, but isn’t there a chance that, with people that would’ve been nominally religious leaving the church, churches will generally become more radical?

    • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

      Yes there is, and I’m fairly sure that is happening. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing as the more fundie a church gets the more it alienates liberals and the smaller it becomes.

    • linford86

      Indeed, and this is actually happening. There is a great deal of sociological evidence that there people are leaving liberal denominations and there are also people entering the conservative denominations. I saw a study a while back that traced which percentage went where, but I was never able to locate it again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mandy.m.robbins Mandy Marx Robbins

    Interesting, but I’d still like to have seen more discussion on the lack of evidence for religion.

  • ortcutt

    Let’s face it.  Weekly worship rituals are basically the world’s worst theater production/lecture series.  There are a lot better things that anyone could be doing on a Sunday morning.  Reading the newspaper, eating brunch with friends, playing on a sports team, catching up on sleep, etc….  As the pastor said, he didn’t miss church at all. 

    • Robster

      It would improve attendance if the churches did a bit of work on their Sunday brunch menu. Everytime I’ve been, it’s the same old wine and crackers. Wine and bloody crackers! The thought that they’re actually fleshy bits of the baby jesus really doesn’t improve things either. Some mornings a salad would be nice, perhaps they could pretend the carrots are one of the disciples or an angel or ghost or something. There’s so much to choose from both in the food groups and biblical nonsense. A committee of Cardinals could get to work and fluff things up a bit to create a bit of interest.

      • ortcutt

        They could serve Bloody Marys and call them the Blood of Christ.

        • Pureone

          That goes against the teachings of Jesus-  “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesars.” 

    • WildRumpus67

      I love my weekly rituals. I was a lonely atheist and now I am a happy Unitarian. I like the music, I like to hear a weekly inspirational talk, I like the socializing after over lunch. I also get to have very intellectual discussions about religion with some of my more theistic friends. No dogma and no conflict with my lack of belief in the supernatural. It works for me, don’t knock it.

      • ortcutt

        What I don’t understand is why someone would want to discuss religion every week.  I’ve looked at the topics discussed at UU churches and it’s predictably very worship-heavy and religion-heavy.  Religion is somewhat interesting as a historical, sociological matter, or as a political struggle against religion but it’s not interesting enough to talk about every week rather than literature, general history, science, technology, etc….  I understand wanting to be part of a social group, but joining a church has always struck me as the easy way out.  It’s the expected thing and people can really do better in terms of social and intellectual life. 

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, Blonde

    i’ll check it out later, but i’m a tad disturbed by all the humanist-y stuff in that quote masquerading/presented as atheism. the two aren’t the same, not at all. i respect and admire humanists, but as people were arguing in another thread, it’s sort of a religion without the god(s) part. 

    part of my personal code of ethics and morality is to do good, help others, be nice, etc. but i don’t need nor want to belong to a club or group of like minded people in order to do so. all of those people in the quote are talking about their need to be part of a community. the atheist community is only a community in the sense that we all agree there are no god(s). after that, we are as varied and dissimilar as the general population at large. 

    don’t get me wrong; being part of a group, and being out and proud as a humanist or atheist or secularist is wonderful and everyone should give it a try. but my ‘community building’ days are behind me and i’m perfectly comfortable knowing that i am different, and don’t like and am not liked by, some or even many members of the atheist gatherings/conversations/blogs in which i participate today. i get plenty of uniformity at the gay and political blogs i read; it’s actually sort of refreshing to come here and argue with people who honestly believe republicans are a good choice or that the deficit is a pressing question of our times. hell, we’ve even got racists here. keeps one on the toes, chatting with folks like that now and again. 

    i’m actually glad Hemant switched over to Patheos too. it’s been fun to see folks here bitch slap some of the believers brave enough to come by and comment.

    • Tom_Nightingale

      A religion without the god(s) part is not a religion at all.

      An atheist is not necessarily a humanist, but looking at the Harvard humanists, all of them are atheists.

    • Guest

      That basically sums up my view on the matter. Would you like to join me on TLC’s up and coming breakthrough series Breaking Humanist?

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    The video made several mentions of the statement “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” I’ve asked many people what they mean by that, and I haven’t heard much of a consistent meaning beyond my impression that they don’t consider themselves a member of any organized religion, but they do believe in spooks and magic, that is, some kind of supernatural beings and/or supernatural forces.

    I think that kind of latent, vague, disorganized belief in insubstantial stuff is just new religions waiting to organize themselves. It reminds me of the primitive animism that preceded the early cults that eventually developed into the religions. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      “I think that kind of latent, vague, disorganized belief in insubstantial stuff is just new religions waiting to organize themselves.”I disagree. I identified in that way for years. Basically I was unsure and I was not familiar with the atheist viewpoint. I was quite excited to learn that atheism had very good rational moors tying it down.But I wasn’t about to join some organized religion. I did try some out but they were just way too goofy. I still find earth-based religions to be appealing though. But they often celebrate real things – like harvest or solstices. meh.

  • eskomo

    If you can’t be a card-carrying atheist, I guess you are a self-described atheist. It just sounds like a mild put-down to me.

  • linford86

    The thing that I disliked about this series of videos was the way that they lumped all of the “Nones” together…


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