The Rise of the Religious ‘Nones’


Should atheists in the U.S. be encouraged by the rise in the percentage of what’s known as religious nones? Do those that claim no specific religious affiliation say anything about the state of religious belief in this country overall?

I don’t think it means much, if anything at all. All this number tells us is that there are people that do not identify with any specific religious institution. They may have been raised Catholic or one of the many Protestant denominations but at some point decided the teachings were no longer relevant to them personally.

What it doesn’t say is whether or not any of these people still have a belief in God or a higher power. I would say that from all of the recent data that its clear that being unaffiliated means just that and nothing more. Is this important? Well, yes and no because there have always been people when they reached their majority that discontinued their attachment to the particular denomination in which they were raised. The numbers of those being reported is what is interesting.

Although I don’t see this as necessarily being a positive for atheists, the number of those unaffiliated has been growing steadily over the past few years. What I think this does show is that religious institutions in this country are losing people because their teaching is meaningless anymore. No one needs to go to church to be moral. In fact, in America, a majority of those polled last year said that a person didn’t need to believe in God to be moral. The message of churches are falling on deaf ears.

No, this doesn’t imply the imminent  demise of religious institutions. They’ll be around long after all of us alive today are gone. It’s a good sign though that we, as a society are finally maturing and that we no longer need these institutions to inform us about anything.

4 thoughts on “The Rise of the Religious ‘Nones’

  1. Still waiting for Google to respond…

    I agree that many people just drift away from their family religion and do not ever think they are atheists, but might admit to being agnostic. (Ooh there are those tribal suspicions.). That seems okay with me. I think it is a positive thing for non-believers, but only if these newly “nones” actually have some ethical backbone and moral compass…and it is a plus if they still maintain a sense of community with their neighbors, fellow workers and family, too if they choose.

    What we all stand to lose with the total collapse of religions is that sense of community, the one that keeps human beings feeling or believing that it is better to act according to an ethical set of traditions, which bind communities under a rule of law.

    Churches do this well. Church families do this well. Churches bind a community together that school PTAs, local governments, atheist meet-ups and secular charities do not do well. It may well take a village’s religious leaders to keep a village following a moral compass. There is tradition in a shared history of religious beliefs and in this nation that shared tradition includes a patriotic strand that needs support.

    BTW, I followed a link from Vjack that was included in a post of his on The Atheist Conservative. Thanks Vjack for the link.


    • I don’t see churches providing a sense of community for anyone anymore. Most of the people I know that attend church only see their “church friends” at church. It’s not like having a church on the corner where you and all your neighbors go every Sunday. Even in my smallish community, there are nearly 40 churches (that are listed). It was common when I was a kid, to see kids out playing after school, or dinner, and on the weekends. Parents knew each other in the neighborhood. No longer.


  2. Are you sorry to see that “sense of community” wither away? I am. I guess the small towns around here are still “backwards” enough to continue in that vein. The small town governments also tend to pull in from the rural areas that make up the district and with the help of our local churches and schools manage to keep something of it together. It is a struggle, with many small towns always on the brink. Our churches are a big part of the struggle.

    Do you think that as the sense of community and tradition fades, the notion of keeping a moral compass struggles, too? Do you think a backbone of ethical behavior remains firm in isolation as the individual grows ever more unmoored from the village? I’d like to think that it does, but I am not so sure about how most human beings maintain their moral compass without being reminded that it is important.

    Seems sort of hokey, yet I would rather have something that works well, then give over to something that is trendy, but terribly flawed. Well..every place is different and each human being is, too. Whatever works to promote harmony, while allowing for individualism is okay with me. Sometimes it is just a matter of manners that keep it all in balance. We could use more of that all around, in my opinion.


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