Today's USA Today reported on a new study of religion in the United States and the numbers of those involved with particular religious groups. The bottom line: the country is becoming less enamored of organized religion, but it's hard to tell much more than that. The big news is the huge rise in "Nones" - people who claim no religious affiliation - since the 1990 survey:
So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, 'the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion,' the report concludes."Nones" is a broad group that not only includes atheists and agnostics, but "people who claimed no religious identity." In other words, it would be a vast oversimplification for my non-believing brethren to claim that 15% of the populace is compose of nonbelievers. For many, it's more a rejection of organized worship than a major change in belief about the nature of reality:
Haynes, like 69% of Americans, said in the ARIS survey that he believes there is 'definitely a personal God.' He calls himself a deeply committed 'follower of Christ,' rather than aligning with a specific denomination. He attends a non-denominational community church where he likes the rock music, but Bible study is the focus of his faith.It's similar to the growing number of voters who register "Independent" rather than with one of the major parties. That doesn't mean they vote third party on election day, tho'.
'We just look to Jesus,' he says. 'That's why I don't pay attention to surveys. Christianity is moving totally under the radar. It's the work of God. It can't be measured. It happens inside of people's souls.'
Of the 34.2 million "Nones" out there, according to the survey, only 1.8 million (based on ABC's reportage I just watched) are atheists. That's damned near double since 1990, but still, it's less than 1% of the population, by my figuring. So let's not get ahead of ourselves.
I'm pleasantly surprised that West Virginia's percentage of "Nones" matches the national numbers. At least we're keeping up with the rest of the country in that category.