Monday, March 05, 2012

The Rise of the "Nones"


For many of us, the story in this week's Time Magazine won't come as any surprise, but for many it may be a shock.  More and more people are opting out of "organized religion."  They're not necessarily abandoning God, they just don't feel that places like the church are useful places to engage one's spirituality.

The cover "story" in Time focuses on "10 Ideas that Are Changing Your Life."  One of those 10 ideas is that the number of people claiming no religious affiliation is on the rise (about 16% of the population), and it's not likely to stop rising any time soon.  

In this article, Amy Sullivan points to Diana Butler Bass's new book Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening -- which sits waiting for me to pick up and read -- where Diana points out that religious institutions large and small have experienced a "participation crash."   And yet, as Amy Sullivan writes:  
But the hunger for spiritual connection and community hasn't gone away. A 2009 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life asked respondents whether they believed in God, how often they prayed and whether they were affiliated with a particular religion; it found that "40% of the unaffiliated people were fairly religious," says director Luis Lugo. "Many said they were still hoping to eventually find the right religious home."


Amy points to the Emergent Church movement as one response to this, though as an "observer/participant" in this movement I'm not sure that it has all the answers either.  


So the question is -- if more and more people are disaffiliating or simply not affiliating to begin with, what does the future hold for faith?

We know that the politicization of faith has turned off many.  And, as one who believes that faith needs to engage public life, one wonders how we can avoid becoming so caught up in politics and nationalism that we lose our ability to reflect the values and message of our faith?  

We know that scandal has plagued our faith communities, and not just the Roman Catholic Church.  That has played a part.

People are looking for community, but not necessarily wanting to be part of an institutional structure.

So, is the future in the hands of the "nones"?  If so, then how does the church respond?  How does it reform in order to connect with where people are today?  

4 comments:

David said...

"People are looking for community".

Doesn't that describe our species?

This has never been truer, in spite of the online social revolution.

Hopefully, this revolution will continue serve to highlight the best communities on offer and cause people to engage in the "real world". Modern people simply are letting "rational selection" rule their spirit. That's good!

People simply want to share and be accepted as they are. Hiding behind a shared mask is never very fulfilling.

John said...

Do we know the reasons why so many people say they believe, and/or hope to find a church but never find their way into a church family?

Are they being frightened into stay away?
By misunderstanding the message?
By rightly understanding the message and rejecting it for any number of reasons?

Are they being enticed into stay away?
By idols?
By spiritual confusion?

What did the early church offer that attracted the whole world? Can we today offer the same thing or a more contemporary version of it?

Robert Cornwall said...

John, there is lots of studies being done, and Diana Butler Bass's new book takes aim at them.

The reasons are numerous:

Theological, political, cultural, and more.

Our society is moving away from "joining" as important. It's interesting that even as people are stepping away from institutional religion and trying out alternatives (like Bahai and other non-traditional faiths), they are enjoying being alone, doing what they want when they want. Institutional religion is too confining.

The numbers are climbing fast, so we don't know what the future holds for the institution!

David said...

It's college. It destroys faith!

At the age of 13 I shocked my Sunday School class by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus. From the age of thirteen on doubts began to spring forth unrelentingly. At the age of fifteen I entered college and more and more could I see a gap between what I had learned in Sunday School and what I was learning in college. This conflict continued until I studied a course in Bible in which I came to see that behind the legends and myths of the Book were many profound truths which one could not escape... http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/kingweb/publications/papers/vol1/501122-An_Autobiography_of_Religious_Development.htm