The rise of the nones

I’m going to lay some statistics from recent pew polls on you guys in a second, but first I think I’d better define what a “none” is. A “none” is a person with no religious affiliation. That doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in God or a higher power, it simply means that they don’t believe in a specific religious doctrine. This is important because I think most atheists–myself included–would say that spirituality in general isn’t dangerous, but specific religious doctrines are.

The bottom line is that nones in America are on the rise. Take a look at the data from a Pew research in 2012:


It’s interesting to note that everything in the none category rose over this five year period. Atheism and agnosticism rose, and so did people who believe in a God/higher power but not a specific religious doctrine. This last group, as you can see, comprises the vast majority of this slice of the population, which is now just a hair under 20% of the country.

It’s because of these data that I’m not surprised to see the latest Pew research on religion and politics. Let’s start with the first set of data, whether or not people believe that the influence of religion in America is decreasing or increasing:


Those are some pretty significant numbers. Nearly 3/4 of Americans believe that religion is losing influence in America, which is up a whopping 20% from nearly a decade before. When you factor in the increase of the proportion of nones in the population this becomes less surprising. As the number of nones increases, those who remain religious are bound to see such an increase as a loss of influence. And nones themselves are sure to generally see their growing numbers as a loss of religious influence as well. Now let’s take a look at a follow up set of data regarding religion and politics:


Not surprisingly, the number of people who now think that churches should express their political positions and that churches should support political candidates has increased dramatically since the 2010-2012 period. It makes sense that as the number of nones grows, those who remain religious–and who see their influence as waning–would want to utilize politics as a platform to retain influence and power. It makes perfect sense to me that facing decreasing numbers and a decreasing influence, religious people in this country would try to politicize and legislate their beliefs, which is something I write about frequently on this blog and something I would posit correlates to this data.

While I think that this is far from the death knell of religion in this country, I think that this does show that America is going to be reaching a tipping point. If the trends continue, it would seem the religious are on their way to becoming a minority in this country.


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