According to a recent study by UT-Chattanooga, one in five Americans are now non-believers. They have identified six categories:
I wonder if they are not missing another very large segment, what I would call the “de facto unbeliever.” The de facto unbeliever attends church, often regularly. He (they are mostly men, in my experience) might say grace before every meal and, if polled, would no doubt affirm that he is a Christian. Yet religion means nothing to him and really enters his consciousness scarcely at all. The only interest he shows in religion is for an hour on Sunday morning, and even then he is obviously bored and detached. If the sermon goes a little too long, he starts to fidget, shuffle his feet, and check his watch. During football season he is especially anxious to get out on time. During the 167 hours of the week that he is not in church he shows no interest in religion at all, never mentioning any religious topic, and certainly never reading anything with religious content. His attitudes, interests, pastimes, and concerns seem wholly secular and this-worldly. Religious belief involves more than a willingness to assent to certain propositions. Some degree of visceral commitment would seem to be required, and it is totally lacking in these guys. Probably it would be better to call them “Homer Simpson unbelievers;” they evince a degree of religious apathy tantamount to unbelief. Pastors no doubt decry the unmotivated, but I think that religious apathy should be strongly encouraged. The benefits of religious apathy have long been neglected or underrated. No religiously apathetic person ever started an inquisition, jihad, crusade, pogrom, persecution, or witch hunt. Maybe we could get the NFL to start games at 11:30 A.M. on Sundays.