The Rise of the Nones

I am not sure that this is anything new.. most of already understand what this Trinity College report, titled American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population, speaks to in 29 pages. Consider this from the intro page:
One of the most widely noted findings from the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS 2008), which was released in March 2009, was the substantial increase in the No Religion segment of the U.S. population, whom we designate as "Nones." The Nones increased from 8.1% of the U.S. adult population in 1990 to 15% in 2008 and from 14 to 34 million adults. Their numbers far exceed the combined total of all the non-Christian religious groups in the U.S.

Who exactly are the Nones? "None" is not a movement, but a label for a diverse group of people who do not identify with any of the myriad of religious options in the American religious marketplace – the irreligious, the unreligious, the anti-religious, and the anti-clerical. Some believe in God; some do not. Some may participate occasionally in religious rituals; others never will.

Nones are easily misunderstood. On the one hand, only a small minority are atheists. On the other hand, it is also not correct to describe them as "unchurched" or "unaffiliated" on the assumption that they are mainly theists and religious searchers who are temporarily between congregations. Yet another incorrect assumption is that large proportions of Nones are anti-rationalist proponents of New Age and supernatural ideas. As we will show, they are more likely to be rational skeptics.
I think that the "rational skeptics" description is representative of many folks that I have met outside of the four walls of the church. Many folks that I have met in the Blogosphere are one-time church going people who have had sincere and honest questions about their beliefs. I once thought that these folks were simply people that have been let down or hurt by "the church".. that may be true of some but it is certainly not the majority of the great folks that I have encountered.

I think that the whole skepticism thing is endemic of our Western culture. We in the West are trained from birth to rely heavily on our brain and our senses. People who are deemed "successful" are those who have used their intellects, got educated and are now addressed as "Doctor". Unfortunately we are not taught much about how to rely on things like faith, hope and love. In a sense we have replaced some of these things with "positive thinking" and pseudo-psychological yoga-ish techniques.. things that can be understood and explained to the brain.

I am rambling a bit now.. so I will simply throw the ball into your court. Do you know many "Nones"? Do you think "rational skeptic" is a good description of them? Do you think religious leaders have let them down? How?


  1. At dinner with some golf buddies last month, and Bob relates how he does not understand how anyone who think rationally can believe in God. Ricky, who is a doctor, replied, “You know Bob, the more I focus on science and medicine, the more I am convinced that God plays a role in our lives. I see too many things first hand that cannot be explained except for the presence of God.”

  2. Hmmm, this explains a lot about my state.

  3. Have you ever heard Matt Chandler speak of the "dechurched?" I think a big reason so many do not identify with a particular denomination is what happens to many who were once a part of the church.

  4. I think this is why the church needs to teach church history and apologetics. As you mention, many had questions that were either not answered or answered inadequately. When someone asks about proof for the Resurrection and the response is "just have faith," is it any wonder they leave? This is true for doctrinal distinctives as well, although I do think that some of the denominational mindset is less then helpful, and that a broader Christian perspective can be positive.


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