This week, Morning Edition explores the “nones” —
Americans who say they don’t identify with any religion. Demographers have given them this name because when asked to identify their religion, that’s their answer: “none.”
In October, the Pew Research Center released a study, ‘Nones’ on the Rise, that takes a closer look at the 46 million people who answered none to the religion question in 2012. According to Pew, one-fifth of American adults have no religious affiliation, a trend that has for years been on the rise. (A more recent Gallup poll shows the uptick in religious nones slowed a bit from 2011 to 2012.)
In a nutshell, the group:
comprises atheists and agnostics as well as those who ally themselves with “nothing in particular”
includes many who say they are spiritual or religious in some way and pray every day
overwhelmingly says they are not looking to find an organized religion that would be right for them
is socially liberal, with three-quarters favoring same-sex marriage and legal abortion
Perhaps most striking is that one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation. When comparing this with previous generations under 30, there’s a new wrinkle, says Greg Smith, a senior research at Pew.
“Young people today are not only more religiously unaffiliated than their elders; they are also more religiously unaffiliated than previous generations of young people ever have been as far back as we can tell,” Smith tells NPR Morning Edition co-host David Greene. “This really is something new.”
According to Harvard professor Robert Putnam, who writes about religion, this young generation has been distancing itself from community institutions and from institutions in general.
“They’re the same people who are also not joining the Elks Club or the Rotary Club,” Putnam tells Greene. “I don’t mean to be casting that as a critique of them, but this same younger generation is much less involved in many of the main institutions of our society than previous younger generations were.” …