What Religion are You? The Growing “none” Category

Slate had an interesting article up today, One-Fifth of Americans Now Religiously Unaffiliated.  The data It is based on Pew Research data:

“…tracking the so-called religious “nones,” a group that’s increased by 5 percentage points in the past five years—and roughly 10 points in the past two decades—to 19.6 percent of all Americans, or about 46 million people. Indicating that the increase owes something to generational shifts in the general population, the number of younger “nones” is even bigger: A third (32 percent) of American adults under 30 are now unaffiliated. Pew breaks down the category into three sub-groups: atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” Atheists and agnostics make up about 6 percent of the total population, or about 13 million people. The rest aren’t exactly non-believers, however, with two-thirds of the entire “unaffiliated” category expressing some sort of belief in God. Overall, 42 percent of the group described themselves as neither religious nor spiritual, with the rest, a slight majority, identifying themselves in one of those two categories.

But here’s where things get interesting: The religiously unaffiliated now make up the plurality religion of Democratic-leaning voters at 24 percent. For comparison, Black Protestants and White mainline Protestants comprise 16 and 14 percent of that voting group, respectively. That heavy Democratic support, however, seems to be limited: While the unaffiliated have a strong liberal stance on social issues (nearly three-quarters think abortion and same-sex marriage should be legal), the group’s preferences on government size and role actually largely mirror the breakdown of the general population: 50 percent of the unaffiliated would prefer a smaller government, compared to 52 percent of the general population. This kind of makes sense, given that the group expressed strong support for the role of religious institutions in fighting poverty and building community (77 percent and 78 percent), but were considerably less keen on the role of religion in “defending morality” than the general American public (52 percent vs. 76 percent). The latter role, of course, is more readily associated with the conservative Religious Right attitude towards religion’s role in American governance.”

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  • Russ

    I think I might be considered part of the “Nones” because, even though I consider myself a Christ-follower, I have renounced my most recent “church” membership and am no longer affiliated with any formal institution. However, I still meet regularly with a group of other believers, some of whom fall into the same situation as I: we are dissatisfied with the institution.

    I am a Gen X’er and I have never been comfortable with labels. Years ago I didn’t have a problem with “evangelical”, but now that term is more political than spiritual and don’t relate well to it. I really had to think hard about this when I had to, of all things, set up my Facebook profile. Christ-follower seemed easy enough; that’s a label I can live with.

    • Sam

      I have to say, as an actual “none”, that the trend of religious people to redefine the word “religion” in order to shed the label is intellectually dishonest. Do you follow the evangelical view of Christ as a savior, the Mormon Christ who visited America, the Muslim Jesus who was a prophet but not a savior, the Jesus seminar Jesus who was a moral teacher but not supernatural, the Gnostic Christ who is a noncorporeal spirit? You can’t be a “Christ follower” without first filtering your definition of Christ through a specific religion’s teaching.

      (And it’s not a recent trend… I remember hearing it in church when I was in grade school)

  • It’s the inevitable progress of time, I’d say. You may disagree (and almost you certainly don’t share my pleasure with this news), but I think evidence suggests that time, money and education are detrimental to religion.

  • T.F.

    The problem is not the culture it is within the churches themselves folks. Because of the neglectful church pulpits in teaching the pure Word of God in an exegetical, expository verse by verse manner to the Christians in the pews, Bible illiteracy is destroying our culture little by little. Give your pastors permission to return to a teaching role and throw the sermon notes away! Stop with the mysticism and phony philosophies and teach the pure Word of God to the folks who are currently starving for truth so that the Spirit of God and renew and transform our minds and hearts! If your pastor refuses to teach the truth then you need to leave the church! More Christians need to be willing to stand up for the pure Word of God and leave their churches so that our culture can reap the benefits of a biblical church in action.