Meet the 'Nones:' Spiritual but not religious
Published: Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 3, 2013 at 4:30 p.m.
Between 1972 and 1989, about 7 percent of Americans identified as having no formal religious affiliation. However, between 1990 and 2012, that figure jumped to 19.6 percent. Among people under age 30, just over 30 percent say they have no religious affiliation. At the same time, the percentage of the U.S. population that identifies as Christian has experienced a steady decline, and other faiths have experienced modest growth at best.
The number of religious services I attended growing up could fit on one hand, with enough fingers left over for a peace sign. I hardly know a Catholic from a Protestant, let alone the belief systems of other world religions.
Granted, not all Nones are as ignorant about religion as I am. Some grew up attending church but distanced themselves from their faiths as adults. Others may still attend religious services occasionally but do not identify as members of any one religion. Then there are those, like me, whose lack of religion was handed down to them. Both of my parents grew up with a religious affiliation but were Nones by the time I entered the picture.
I married a fellow None, and you could call us a
Some might assume that Nones do not believe in God, but fewer than 15 percent consider themselves atheists. For the most part, it seems, Nones are curious about spirituality
Robert Putnam and David Campbell, who discuss religious trends and attitudes in their book
So what is causing this seemingly sudden religious disassociation among a large subset of the American population? The only explanation that seems to make sense, the authors suggest, is political. The one characteristic many Nones share is that they lean left politically.
Putnam and Campbell say the rise in Nones appears to be tied to the perception, particularly among young people, that religion and conservative politics go hand in hand. This sounds about right to me. I can't wrap my head around a God who is more concerned with our private parts than with the content of our hearts.
But are we the ones who are missing out? For centuries, religion has been a tool to make people happier, kinder, more inclined to see the big picture. It's been credited with keeping believers grounded, reducing anxiety and the compulsions that often lead to self-destructive behavior. In times of great difficulty, it may be the only thing that keeps a person afloat until things get better. Religion is touted as a doorway to the eternal, helping us understand our role in the cosmos.
A couple of years ago, I found myself thinking about religion and wondering
So I took the
I decided to visit all of them. If these places offer tools to help their congregations navigate life and make the human experience more meaningful, then what do I have to lose? Regardless of whether I eventually
Corinna Nicolaou is a writer living in Washington state. Follow her journey into religion at OneNoneGetsSome.com. From the Los Angeles Times.
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