Who are the ‘Nones’?

More than 13 million atheists and agnostics and nearly 33 million claim no particular affiliation. About 20 percent of U.S. … Continued

More than 13 million atheists and agnostics and nearly 33 million claim no particular affiliation. About 20 percent of U.S. adults say they had no religious affiliation, an increase from two decades ago when about 8 percent of people were deemed so-called “nones,” according to a new study released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. The group will be the subject of an upcoming PBS miniseries this month.

“But despite their nickname, the “nones” are far from godless. Many pray, believe in God and have regular spiritual routines,” The Washington Post’s religion reporter Michelle Boorstein wrote Tuesday.

About 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say they’re spiritual but not religious.

From 2007-2012, the so-called “nones” have risen from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of all U.S. adults.

For the first time in recent history, the number of Americans who consider themselves as Protestant has dropped below 50 percent at 48 percent.

“Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptists Theological Seminary in Louisville, saw a welcome clarity in the report, even if he didn’t like the new picture in focus,” USA Today’s Cathy Lynn Grossman reported.

“Today, there’s no shame in saying you’re an unbeliever, no cultural pressure to claim a religious affiliation, no matter how remote or loose,” Mohler told USA Today. “This is a wake-up call. We have an incredible challenge ahead for committed Christians.”

Nones are also becoming a larger force in politics. “Nones” are largely Democratic, being 24 percent of registered voters who vote Democratic or lean that way, the study says, showing that “the unaffiliated have become a large and important constituency of the Democratic Party,” Religion News Service reported Tuesday.

“Millions of Americans are discovering that religion isn’t required in order to lead a moral and purposeful life,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association said in a statement Tuesday morning.

According to Pew, young people are increasingly less religious: 32 percent of people under 30 have no religious affiliation, compared to 9 percent of those 65 and older. And 72 percent of unaffiliated people support abortion rights and while 73 percent support same-sex marriage.

“College students and people starting families and entering new careers are coming out as non-religious in droves,” Speckhardt said in a statement. “Saying that you are an atheist no longer carries the stigma that it did in years past. More and more are recognizing that you can be good without a belief in a god.”

“I’m undecided as far as religion is concerned,” Sean Taylor, 25, a college student who lives and works in Baltimore, told The Post.

He said about five or six years ago, “it came to me that when you look around you got Muslims, Christians, people over in China and people who say that their way of life is built around a certain belief and people who don’t belief that are wrong.

“But who am I say something is right or wrong or whose religion or right or wrong,” Taylor said in a telephone interview Tuesday with The Post.

“I wanted to sit back and take time to see what I’m comfortable,” he said when asked how long he’s identified himself as being unaffiliated. “There’s a lot of religion out here.”

Elaine Antkowiak, 80, who lives near Townsend, Md., was raised Catholic. She has considered herself religiously unaffiliated for years and right now would describe herself as atheist.

“I find it very hard believing. If there was a real God, things wouldn’t be happening, like all of our service people being killed over in Afghanistan,” she told The Post Tuesday before mentioning the toll serious injuries of two of her children have had on her family.

She said her husband is a head usher of a local church and her enjoys going, but she would only reconsider returning to Mass if structural changes occurred in the Catholic Church including allowing priests to marry.


To read the report

Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly, the national PBS television program, which partnered with Pew in the survey, will air a three-part series. The first segment debuts Friday and features “an overview of who these religiously unaffiliated people are and what they believe,” according to Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

Watch a preview:

  • PhillyJimi1

    I am a none.

  • getcentered

    I know for a fact that I will die one day and no amount of myth is going to ameliorate the uncertainty of what will happen to me when I do.

    I’m going to be the best person I can regardless.

    Actions demonstrate morals not religious affiliation.

    Religion is mostly an opening for hypocrisy and a closing of tolerance and reason.

  • LAGirl1

    People who self identify as ‘None’ may also reluctant to identify with a church. The ‘religious-industrial complex’ has done a lot of damage to people who might otherwise be open to affiliating with a religion.

    And I say this a a loyal churchgoer.

  • HillWilliam

    Next: Nones on the Bus.

  • SODDI

    By 2020, the nones will most likely be the largest “religious” group in this country. Maybe even sooner if one of the or more of the major religious groups commits some spectacularly heinous act of criminality, immorality or open, vicious hate. (I know, could never happen.)

    It doesn’t bode well for those protestant christian denominations who wish to make their particular cults’ beliefs the law of the land

  • Jonathan J Prinz

    This is an important trend polticians have yet to acknowlege. It is also the subject of my new e-book “Transcenders: Living beyond religion and the religion wars”. 32% of Millenials, our future, is up from 25% in ’08 and that alone is worth considering. The only statistics that Pew reports that I think are understated is those who say they believe in God. Admitting no god-belief is still “incorrect” in this “religious” country. That 88% of the so-called nones are not looking for a religion suggests that will change and fits in with what I have found in my own study of this subject.

  • thrugraceiamsaved

    Breaking my heart

  • whitenoize73

    Proud to be an atheist!

  • DRJJJ

    The nones are actually as religious as all others! Their religion: the evolution faith movement, based on missing links and speculative science as their god! They’re behind secularization of church and state and have done us no favors-turn on the news! When we teach our kids with our tax dollars a false religion/ that evolution is gospel and there is no hope, they’re just piles of chemicals and all animals, they start to act it out-turn on the news! Church and family is the foundation of decent/functioning society I would argue!

    Yes, Christians are broken/disfunction people, I admit it-there’s room for one more! Loving God and loving others-what a horrible world view huh?

  • DRJJJ

    Time Magazine with Einstein in his 50s:

    To what extent are you influenced by Christianity? “As a child I received
    instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled
    by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.”
    Do you accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can
    read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality
    pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life!”

  • Chaotopia

    “If you could reason with religious people they wouldn’t be religious.”

    Dr. Gregory House

  • TCash

    DRJJJ – evolution is not a faith! Faith relies on nothing more than a book of dubious origin. Evolution has hard EVIDENCE to back it up, much of which can be seen in various museums around the world.
    You clearly know very little about evolution and hide behind your book of stories.

  • Matt O’Neal

    So why is such a large and growing group still being politically ignored?

    One theory is that the religiously unaffiliated are generally apathetic about religion. Until recently, they rarely organized, or rallied, or started any groups or clubs. Conversely, the religious adherents have generally been the loudest, most outspoken, most evangelical members of society. And while the trend seems to be reversing, we’re probably still a long way from being a secular nation.

    I look forward to the first politician who courts the non-believer population. Of course it may be 2050 or so, but I think it’ll happen in my lifetime.

  • Matt O’Neal

    DRJJJ- you may be right. Oh, no wait. Today is not opposite day.

  • dcrswm

    ……good luck with your spooky ghost stories…just keep them to yourself.

  • jburnetti

    The nones were taught by the nuns, but see no sense in an old, male, celibate clergy that deprives 99% of the flock from serving in positions of responsibility in the Church – and cannot follow the leadership of men who protect pedophiles. God, yes. Old boys club, no.

  • edismae

    It takes more than a spell check to “proof read” an article.
    Add the grammar check and you would have caught a few more typos.

  • hebaber

    I was brought up secular, and have spent my entire live in environments where there was no stigma attached to being a None, and where in fact religious belief was not socially acceptable. This is the future, I’m convinced, but I don’t care for it, because I really, really enjoy religion and hate to see it die out.

    But let me make it clear: I don’t mean I support any pecularialy religious “values.” And I don’t think religion makes people better or improves society. I like religion in and of it self–metaphysics and liturgy, churchiness as such.

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