NEED-BASED OUTREACH & Researcher says … “The better questions we should ask instead of how to get the nones back is, where do we meet them and what do they need?”

by Jamie Manson, NCR Online, 10/19/19.

.., Kaya Oakes, the Oct. 15 event’s opening panelist and author of the 2015 book The Nones Are Alright: A New Generation of Seekers, Believers, and Those In Between. 

“The better questions we should ask instead of how to get the nones back is, where do we meet them and what do they need?” said Oakes.

…Oakes has been intentional about not using the term “nones,” preferring instead to call them the “religiously unaffiliated.”

“It’s a negation,” said Oakes, that is not reflective of their spiritual longings.

A second panelist, Tara Isabella Burton, also questioned whether the term “nones” should be used at all.

The author of the forthcoming book, Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, Burton says that the nones nomenclature is “profoundly incorrect.”

According to her research, “About 72% of the self-identified religiously unaffiliated say they believe in a higher power of some sort and about 20% say they believe in the Judeo-Christian God.”

“There is an enormous number of people,” Burton said, “who see themselves as spiritual persons, who have a spiritual hunger.”

Read more at … https://www.ncronline.org/news/opinion/grace-margins/us-nones-increase-we-must-start-asking-different-questions

CHURCH HISTORY & Christian Smith explains what happened in the 1990s that led to a surge in the “nones” – the religiously unaffiliated.

by

In the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wade decision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms…

The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church. It also shocked the conscience of moderates, who preferred a wide berth between their faith and their politics. Smith said it’s possible that young liberals and loosely affiliated Christians first registered their aversion to the Christian right in the early 1990s, after a decade of observing its powerful role in conservative politics.

Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.

Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/atheism-fastest-growing-religion-us/598843/

DENOMINATIONS & Mainline Protestants make up shrinking number of U.S. adults #PewResearch

by MICHAEL LIPKA, Pew Research, 5/18/15.

Most of the Founding Fathers of the United States – not to mention a majority of U.S. presidents – were members of Christian denominations that fall into the mainline Protestant tradition. But in recent years, the share of Americans who identify with mainline Protestantism has been shrinking significantly, a trend driven partly by generational change.

5 Million Fewer Mainline Protestant Adults Than in 2007Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study finds that 14.7% of U.S. adults are affiliated with the mainline Protestant tradition – a sharp decline from 18.1% when our last Religious Landscape Study was conducted in 2007. Mainline Protestants have declined at a faster rate than any other major Christian group, including Catholics and evangelical Protestants, and as a result also are shrinking as a share of all Protestants and Christians.

Indeed, despite overall U.S. population growth between 2007 and 2014, the total number of mainline Protestant adults has decreased by roughly 5 million during that time (from about 41 million in 2007 to 36 million in 2014).

Generational replacement appears to be playing a significant role. Older generations have larger shares of mainline Protestants, including 26% of members of the Greatest generation (those born before 1928) and 22% of members of the Silent generation (those born 1928-1945). Mainline Protestant adults in the U.S. have a median age of 52, higher than the group’s median age in 2007 (50) and older than any other major religious tradition.

While older generations die out, the young Americans rising into adulthood are significantly less likely to identify with mainline denominations. Among Millennial adults (born since 1981), 11% are mainline Protestants. By contrast, 16% of Millennials are Catholics, 21% are evangelical Protestants and 35% are religiously unaffiliated.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/18/mainline-protestants-make-up-shrinking-number-of-u-s-adults/