The Recent Pew Research Center’s recent findings that “Nones” comprise nearly 23 percent of America’s adult population reminded me of how often Nones are misunderstood and misrepresented in this country, and how labels can be tricky little fellows.
As a writer, I have grappled repeatedly with how best to reach my intended audience; should I use secular, non-religious, unaffiliated, non-traditional, progressive? I’ve settled on non-religious or secular in most cases, but even those can be misleading. Does a non-religious parent refer to only an individual who does not have a religion, or does it refer to anyone who has chosen to raise children outside the restraints of one specific religious doctrine?
The difference may seem academic, but these slight variations make huge differences to demographers like those at Pew, who are trying to assess people’s beliefs, and to authors like me, who are trying to get their books in front of the people who might benefit from them.
So what is a None exactly? The following is a list of the most common labels that fall in the catchall category. (There are many others.) You’ll notice that most of the terms are not mutually exclusive.
Which labels describe you? Anything missing from this list?
Apatheists: Those who are indifferent to belief/disbelief or consider the subject meaningless.
Agnostics: Those who believe that the existence of God is unknown and unknowable.
Atheists (Positive): Those who assert that no gods exist.
Atheists (Negative): Those who lack belief in any god.
Brights: Those who belong to a socio-cultural movement promoting a “naturalistic” world-view — based in nature with no supernatural forces.
Deists: Those who believe in the existence of a god as creator of the universe but reject all organized religion and super-natural events.
Freethinkers: Those who form opinions about religion on the basis of reason — rather than tradition, authority, or established belief.
Humanists/Secular Humanists: Those who embrace ethics, compassion, social justice and naturalism and attach primary importance to human matters, rather than the divine or supernatural.
Naturalists: Those who believe the universe is devoid of general purpose and indifferent to human needs or desires.
Pantheists: Those who reject the idea of a “person-god” but believe that the “holy” manifests itself in all that exists.
Pluralists: Those who accept all religious paths as equally valid.
Rationalists: Those who hold that reason and logic are the only true sources of knowledge.
Skeptics: Those who believe that continuously and vigorously applying methods of science is the only way to arrive at explanations for natural phenomena.
Searchers: Those who belong to no belief system or world view but are still open to ideas and actively searching for the truth.
Spiritualists: Those who are spiritual — which is an undefined term but generally refers to people who are open to the sacred but more interested in personal well-being and development.