According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, so-called “nones,” those who have no religious affiliation, now represent close to 30 percent of the US population. Fifty years ago, they made up only 5 percent of Americans. In fact, they are now the largest religious demographic group in the United States, ahead of evangelical Protestants (24 percent) and Roman Catholics (23 percent).
What has changed in the last half-century to lead to this? In other words, why is this happening?
If we turn the clock back to 1900, somewhere between 90 and 97 of Americans identified as Christians. As recently as 1972 that percentage was still about 90 percent. But cracks must have been forming, because today, only about 63 percent identify as Christian, and that could drop below 50 percent in a few more decades. According to this article at Patheos, the vast majority of those who no longer identify as Christians have joined the ranks of the nones.
So to repeat the above question, why do we think this is happening? Perhaps it’s part of a larger trend, as Pew reports that nones are “less likely to vote, less likely to have volunteered lately, less satisfied with their local communities and less satisfied with their social lives.” So is it growing alienation from community and culture?
Perhaps it has become more socially acceptable to admit to being religiously unaffiliated? What if Americans aren’t actually less religious than they used to be, but just being more honest about it?
Pew, the Patheos story continues, has also reported that nones “are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”
We’re going to talk about this in our conversation this evening. Why do you think the ranks of the nones keep increasing, and why are fewer and fewer people identifying as Christians? And where does religion go from here? Is religious affiliation going to fade away? Will it become more fluid? Is this a problem to be solved, or a simply a new reality that those of us who continue to embrace a religious identity and affiliation will have to adapt to?
Join us for the discussion this evening starting at 7pm at Casa Real in downtown Oxford and share your thoughts with us.