At the “Values Voter Summit” of conservative Christian activists I attended last week in Washington, more than one participant lamented the “secularization” of America.
That will come as a surprise perhaps to more than one foreign reader of this blog, given America’s famously high rates of religiosity which set it apart from much of the rest of the developed world. And the evangelical tradition which much of the U.S. “religious right” comes from has been fast growing in recent decades.
But Americans who claim no religion are fast growing and Trinity College in Hartford offers a detailed portrait of this group in a new report released this week called “American Nones: The Profile of the No Religion Population.”
“The 1990s was the decade of the “secular boom.” Regarding the percentage of adult Americans who claim no religious affiliation, the researchers found that it had grown from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2001 and to 15 percent in 2008. The growth of the Nones is a national phenomenon. They are the only group that increased in every state and region of the country during the past 18 years,” the report says.
“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,” it says.