The Perfect Storm against the Faith

In our last post on the rise of the Nones, we looked at James Emery White’s The Rise of the Nones to describe what the Nones are like. But the question is How did the get there? What precipitated the rise of the Nones? White calls it the “perfect storm” and sees two storms:

The first storm combined Copernicus (the cosmological attack), Darwin (the biological attack), and Freud (the psychological attack). Each, in his own way and at different levels, led more and more to question the Christian faith and each called into question central elements of the faith. The sun became the center, natural selection explained humans, and projection explained the reason for religion.

White sees the second storm in a secular boom. Three elements, though I’m not sure the terms are the best:

1. Lawyers: organized religion is too linked to politics (anti-gay, sexual conservatism, abrasive). [I'd call this Politicians, not Lawyers.]

Folks, this issue is big and we are not tuned to it enough — both the Left and the Right have colonized the faith to a political agenda. But as we saw in the last post, the Nones are mostly Democrat so the critique of evangelicalism that it is too political is just as often a criticism that it is not the politics of that particular person. But we need to leapfrog over this one: the church is an alternative politic not the feeding ground for the politics of the world.

2. Guns: actions betray the church’s beliefs and the way of Jesus.
3. Money: televangelists, megachurch pastors, and widespread distrust of the church.

There are three moving cultural currents that are reshaping American religion and culture, and are contributing to the rise of the Nones:

Secularization: Christianity is losing (and has largely lost) its authoritative voice to a more scientific worldview.

Privatization: The public sphere is to be religiously neutral (even anti-) while one is to keep one’s faith private. (Peter Berger at work here.)

Pluralization: ideologies and faith are options competing for our attention and adherence.

After sketching Ross Douthat’s characterization of contemporaries and then a brief on a kind of pop Hinduism at work among many of the religiously unaffiliated, White proposes three major beliefs of the Nones, a theology of the Nones as it were:

1. Truthiness: we not only discern the truth for ourselves on the basis of facts but we create truth for ourselves (sometimes in spite of the facts).

2. Wikiality: reality is determined by a majority vote.

3. Mistakers: instead of being sinners, we are mistakers.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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