For those who don’t know, although it is turning dangerously into old news, the Nones are steadily climbing among the Millennial Generation. About 1 in 5 adults consider themselves nonreligious – specific to Millennials, the Nones make up 1/3.
However, non-religious and non-spiritual are two separate qualifications. Many Nones who say they are not religious will say they believe in a higher being or afterlife of some kind.
In other words, they are not going to let a church building tell them what to believe and how to live their lives. It is spirituality of the heart, not the “Good Book.” (This is what they believe)
The Pew Forum‘s recent survey helps to break this down a little more:
“Many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one in five say they pray every day (21%).”
The golf between religion and spirituality is growing wider and wider. According to the recent Pew Survey, of those who are not religious 65 percent say that religion is not important. About 2 percent of atheists/agnostics say religion is important, while 72 percent of protestant Christians say religion is very important.
Being an atheist or agnostic is not something most Americans feel they need to be ashamed of anymore. Finally we are seeing people say what they really believe, not what everyone else believes. Christians and other religions can look at this and be dismayed at the depravity of man, or they can be thankful that at least now clear definitions have been made between religious and nonreligious.
Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision, said that Christians have become frustrated, spending a lot of time trying to fight for Christian symbols in the public sector (crosses, Ten Commandment, prayer in public schools). There’s a place for it, he said, but “we have focused perhaps too much on them instead of the underlying reality they reflect. Instead, we need to go back to the basics of living as disciples of Christ, living missionally for Christ and demonstrating the Gospel in tangible ways within our schools, workplaces and communities.”
Stearns says this will help Christians get away from alienating nonbelievers. ” The kind of Christianity the world responds to is the authentic “love your neighbor” kind. Its appeal can’t be legislated through court battles and neither can courts stop its spread.”
So what do the increasing nones mean for America? Well it is obviously becoming less religious, even though the United States is still a highly religious country compared to others that are at the same industrial level we are. However, while we are still very religious there is a steady decline in religious commitment. The Pew Survey pointed out that in 2003 25 percent of adults seldom went to church and in 2012 that number grew to 29 percent.
Political changes must also be considered. If the majority of a candidate’s audience is not religious, will there be such an ardent focus Christian values? Or instead will it be the values of the atheists, agnostics and other secular groupings? According to USA Today the rise of the Nones will affect many aspects of society:
This group, called “Nones,” is now the nation’s second-largest category only to Catholics, and outnumbers the top Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptists. The shift is a significant cultural, religious and even political change.
Later in that same article Pew Forum senior researcher Greg Smith said,
“The rise of the Nones is a milestone in a long-term trend,” Smith says. “People’s religious beliefs, and the religious groups they associate with, play an important role in shaping their worldviews, their outlook in life and certainly in politics and elections.”
While many will be disturbed by this new statistic, many others will be overjoyed. Members of the secular movement, New Atheism, freethinkers and many more will be happy to know they are slowly making their way out of the minority. Time will tell what impact this new non-religious focus will have on the future of America, and perhaps it will make Christians consider what they need to do differently.