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.