The rise of the ‘nonreligious’

The March 12 issue of Time magazine featured ten trends changing American life. One of them was the rise of people who mark “none” on surveys asking them to identify their religious affiliation.

The article, “The Rise of the Nones,” notes that about seventy-five percent of Americans between 18 and 29 consider themselves “spiritual but not religious” and that traditional forms of Christian practice have sharply declined from previous decades—including church attendance, Bible study, and prayer.

The entire article is available by online subscription. A longer essay on the same topic can be found on the Los Angeles Times website where author Philip Clayton could have been talking about Unitarian Universalism when he wrote:

In my experience, the nones are not rejecting God. They are rejecting doctrinal requirements that they no longer find believable, along with the rigid structures of many organized religions. For that reason, the rise of the nones may well be a new kind of spiritual awakening, one in which doubters are welcome.

In the Christian tradition, for example, the Emerging Church (meeting in homes, bars, parks, and churches) invites participation from all who find themselves attracted to the teachings, actions, and person of Jesus. It isn’t crucial that members call themselves Christians, or that they believe Bible stories literally (rather than metaphorically), or even that they are believers rather than agnostics and atheists. As long as people want to sincerely engage with the teachings of Jesus and with the communities that seek to live by those values—”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” “Love your neighbor,” “Blessed are the peacemakers”—they are welcome.

The discussion also complements the UUA’s current dialogue about what constitutes a congregation and how to connect with the many people who say they are UUs, but don’t attend a bricks-and-mortar congregation.