The Rise of the “Nones” – Young Americans Are Doing Without Church

Facade of the National Cathedral, Washington, DC. Photo by BF Newhall

The National Cathedral. Photo by BF Newhall.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I sleep in till a comfy 8 or 9 most mornings. But last weekend I had to rise and shine at 4 a.m. my time to get the latest news on the God beat — most strikingly the rise of the “nones,” the religiously unaffiliated.

I was in Bethesda, Maryland, for the annual Religion Newswriters Association conference, and the conference got underway each day at 8 a.m. sharp.

Upright, pen in hand, and fortified with a cup of tea, here’s what I found out one morning:

  • Organized religion is a tough sell these days, especially among the young.
  • Of Americans of all ages, one in five is unaffiliated.
  • The unaffiliated tend to be heavily Democratic and liberal — 38 percent say they had liberal views, compared to 20 percent with conservative views.
  • The religiously unaffiliated – aka the “nones” — are on the rise in the U.S. In the past five years, Americans who say “none” when asked their religion have risen to about 20 percent in 2012 from about 15 percent in 2007.
  • But that doesn’t mean “nones” in America aren’t religious or spiritual. Two-thirds say they believe in God.  And of all Americans, fewer than 6 percent describe themselves as atheists or agnostics.
  • Still, a majority of “nones” say they are not looking for a religion. They say religious organizations are too focused on money, power, rules and politics. A full sixty-seven percent say churches and other religious institutions are too concerned with politics.

That’s it for now. Excuse me. I’m going to take a nap. For a more detailed report, see JoAnne Viviano’s story on the Columbus Dispatch website.

More news from the God beat in my next post, coming soon. Meanwhile read about Harvard’s Harvey Cox on belief and unbelief.

Religion Newswriters Association conferrees visit the National Cathedral at sunset, 2012. Photo by BF Newhall.

Light from the setting sun reflects from the National Cathedral onto the faces of visiting Religion Newswriters Association conferees. Photo by BF Newhall




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