My critical commentary final project is about the rapid decline of religion within the United States, but more specifically the increasing numbers of the “nones”, or in other words people who don’t identify as being religiously affiliated. Throughout this essay I will be analyzing the reasons why this new trend has become increasingly popular, the portrayal of this new nonreligious category by the media, and the reasons different media sources cast such differing views on the religiously unaffiliated.
First and foremost, more than half of my sources either quoted directly, or referenced statistics from the 2012 Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center estimated that approximately 46 million Americans are currently religiously unaffiliated. These 46 million Americans include atheists (2.4%) and agnostics (3.3%). Surprisingly, nearly 2/3 of those polled believe in God, 21% pray every day, and 37% claim to be spiritual and not religious. The perceived reasons for this dramatic shift over the last decade depends a lot on who you ask, and what articles you choose to read. The demographics of the “nones” are mostly young, white, male, liberal democrats who have rejected or fallen away from the church because of the increasingly conservative agenda of most religious institutions like opposing same-sex marriage and abortion. A shocking 75% of religiously unaffiliated believe in same-sex marriage and pro-choice lifestyles. Similarly, this shift could be attributed to the abundance of information available to the general public. The secrets and inner working of most religious gatherings are no longer a secret, as well as what is taught in the science classroom, severely contradicts what is being taught at Sunday mass. Churches teach that the world was created in 6 days while the science classroom favors the theory of evolution. Additionally, many people have fallen away from the churches because of the amount of things that simply cannot be proven. The fact that these two ideas oppose each other in every way creates a lot of confusion, especially amongst our younger generation that has limitless information at the tips of our fingers. Another reason that many attribute to the increasing numbers of the religiously unaffiliated is the fact that the majority of people that claim “none” are young adults who have become distracted, seduced, and diluted by technology and the idea of I want religion “my way”. The “nones” are portrayed by those who see this movement as an abomination that the religiously unaffiliated are borne out of rebellion, lack a moral compass, and that this younger generation distances itself from community institutions, and have become less involved as a whole. Some people even attribute the shift to the fact that there is now an official demographic category for the “nones”, or in other words they have an option nowadays to select none, and society frowns less upon someone saying they have no religious affiliation today compared to if you would have said that a couple centuries ago. What makes this anti-religious movement different than many others is how diverse this population has become. Low income, high income, men, women, educated, and uneducated people have all joined this movement.
“Nones” have climbed the ranks to the second most popular “religion” in the United States, only behind Catholicism. This category of the “nones”, as an article in USA Today stated, “it’s not the fact that they’re number 2, it’s the diversity. They’re everyone, everywhere, and not coming back.” Additionally, some people believe that the only savior of religion would be the collapse of the internet, world war, catastrophe, or some event that causes mass fear and misery; the soil in which religion thrives. Many people who strongly support this expansion and acceptance of the religiously unaffiliated believe that churches and religious institutions are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules, and too involved in politics. Many of the religiously unaffiliated want what has been described as a customized religion, or in other words, the like the idea of what religion has to offer but they can’t deal with the authoritarian style and often power craving religious institutions. Sources who aren’t fond of the religious fallout movement often portray this demographic category as lazy and unmotivated because of their lack of involvement in the community as well as the precedence that new media has over religious scriptures. Life without sin in today’s world is nearly impossible because of the media, notions of what is pure versus normal, and the overall lack of commitment and importance that religion as a while plays in our world compared to when Sunday mass was an expectation and not an option. The astronomical growth of the people who don’t attend mass on a regular basis are much more willing to admit to being unaffiliated compared to those who make it a point to attend religious gatherings of some degree on a regular basis. Many of those opposed to the religious abandonment aren’t too concerned yet however, mass numbers of immigrants replace the religiously unaffiliated, which will make it harder for the “nones” to close the gap between them and Catholicism, similarly the “nones” are less likely to marry, and when they do they often times marry another person who isn’t religiously affiliated. In addition, the religiously unaffiliated tend to have less children, which makes many people wonder whether this movement will become a short term or long term shift.
In conclusion, it’s undeniable that in America, a major religious shift is occurring. However, the perceived reasons and attitudes about why the shift is happening are numerous and range from incredibly obvious to more obscure and stretched. The media as well as religious institutions will offer their own opinions and present them as facts or common knowledge but in my opinion it’s best to look at the statistics and draw your own conclusions. Those who oppose the religiously unaffiliated movement are of course people who believe strongly in their own faith and prefer a more conservative political agenda whereas those who are strongly in favor of this movement usually have strong politically liberal opinions about the church and the rules they attempt to impose on others. Either way, both sides believe they are on the right side of the fence, and likely won’t change their views. Only time can tell how religion in America will play out, Pew Forum stated that 1/6 of all adults are religiously unaffiliated in America, and at the rate this movement has climbed at, it’s estimated that by the year 2050 nearly ¼ of all adults may become what are now known as the “nones”.
“”Nones” on the Rise.” Pew Research iographyCenters Religion Public Life Project RSS. 8 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/>.
Laderman, Gary. “The Rise of Religious “Nones” Indicates the End of Religion As We Know It.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gary-laderman/the-rise-of-religious-non_b_2913000.html>.
“Losing Our Religion: The Growth Of The ‘Nones'” NPR. NPR. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/01/14/169164840/losing-our-religion-the-growth-of-the-nones>.
Grossman, Cathy. “The Emerging Social, Political Force: ‘Nones'” USA Today. Gannett, 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/10/09/nones-religion-pew-study/1618607/>.
“Rise of the.” The American Prospect. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <https://prospect.org/article/rise-“nones”>.
Mitrano, EricaMitr. “Nones on the Rise Not on the Run.” 25 Jan. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.somdnews.com/article/20130125/NEWS/130129400/1075/-x2018-nones-x2019-on-the-rise-not-on-the-run&template=southernMaryland>.
Signorile, Michelangelo. “‘Nones’ on the Rise: How Anti-Gay, Anti-Choice Churches Are Creating Their Own Demise.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/nones-on-the-rise-how-ant_b_1966453.html>.
“Explaining the Rise of the Nones – Spiritual Politics.” Spiritual Politics. 7 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://marksilk.religionnews.com/2015/01/07/explaining-rise-nones/>.
“Why the Future of Religion Is Bleak.” WSJ. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.wsj.com/articles/why-the-future-of-religion-is-bleak-1430104785>.
Briggs, David. “Who Are the ‘Nones’? Simple Labels Do Not Apply.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-briggs/who-are-the-nones-simple-_b_1284579.html>.
“Will ‘Nones’ Change The Political Landscape?” Western Journalism. 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.westernjournalism.com/zero-tolerance/>.