July 29, 2018

Clear and Present Danger #8: The Nones

Passage: Heb 10:19-25

Recent studies have found that about 70% of Americans claim to be Christian and about 23% of the population identify as “nones” (not nuns). When asked what religion they are or what group they affiliate with, they say, “None.” That is, they accept no particular religion or they identify with no religion or religious group. They are religiously unaffiliated. The nones would include atheists and agnostics, as well as all those who simply do not affiliate with any church or denomination.

23% of the adult US population amounts to about 55 million people—a fairly large group. And it’s a growing segment of the population. In 2007, the nones were at about 16%. By 2014, just 7 years later, they were up to 23%. And about 1/3 of the millennial generation (i.e., 25 million people) is unaffiliated.

Over those same 7 years (2007-14), evangelicals have decreased by about 1%, Catholics have decreased by about 3%, and mainline Protestants have decreased by about 4%. In 7 years, those professing Christianity in America have decreased by about 8%, while the unaffiliated nones have increased almost 7%.[1] That’s an amazing change in a very short time—basically a 15% switch/turnover.

Who are these people? Why are they nones?

  • Some of the nones are questioning their faith and are unsure which faith is true/right. They are confused or unsure which religion to follow. They may be receptive to Christianity, but have made no commitments one way or another.
  • Some think of themselves as “spiritual” but not an adherent of any particular faith. They recognize a god or a “higher power,” but they don’t worship at a church.
  • Some of the nones state that they don’t think religion is important. They don’t have the time to go to church or to participate in religion. They are too busy and have other priorities. God is simply not part of their lives.

What does the increasing number of nones reveal about the weaknesses of the church? What does it mean that so many people are religiously unaffiliated? What does it mean that this group is growing while the American church is declining?

In considering that almost ¼ of the population is now unaffiliated with any religion, I think we can make some rather startling conclusions.

[1] Michael Lpka, “Why America’s ‘Nones’ Left Religion Behind.” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/24/why-americas-nones-left-religion-behind/  24 Aug 2016

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