More Nones But Fewer Nuns

More Nones But Fewer Nuns March 25, 2021

That is not a typo. Actually, there are fewer nuns. The Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. had about 240,000 priests and nuns in 1964, but in 2014 it had only about 90,000. So, there are fewer nuns, but more nones.

My friend Scot McKnight is a New Testament professor at Northern Seminary in Lisle, Illinois, which is near Chicago. He has some interesting statistics about church affiliation in his “Scot’s Newsletter” today. He derives it from a new book written by Professor Ryan Burge entitled The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going. A lot of people probably don’t even know what nones are.

The new word “none” refers to a person who has no religious affiliation. Nones are increasing at a surprising rate in the U.S. Pew Research informed in recent years that church attendance has been declining from 80% to 70% or less. Burge has the following statistics about the decline of religious affiliation in the U.S.:

Evangelical Protestants: 17% in 1972, 29.9% in 1983, in 2018 21.6%.

Mainline Protestants: 1972 at 27.9%, peaking in 1976 at 30.8%, in 2018 at 11%.

Black Protestants: in 1972 at 14% and staying relative the same at 9-10% in a slow deline to about 6.2% in 2018.

Catholics: 27.3% in 1972 and relative slow decline from 2006 (27.3% again) to 23.3% in 2018.

The Nones: in 1972 were 5.1% and have seen nothing short of a steady climb, especially since about 1993, to 23.7% in 2018.

Of course, these statistics arouse the questions about whether or not there are fewer people who believe in the God of the Bible or fewer who believe in the church or both. It is socially more acceptable now in America to admit no religious affiliation. And this decline in religious affiliation reflects a generational change in which following family traditions are not as important today as they used to be.

I suspect it is mostly about the church and that this is due to church shortcomings. What do you think? How can the church be improved? Do today’s churches reflect the churches we read about in the New Testament, thus those that existed nearly 2,000 years ago?

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