Nones Just Keep Rising – Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog
I have long argued that the most important religious trend of our time is the rise of no. As I wrote in my book The rise of the nuns, the “nones” are those with no religious affiliation. When asked about their religion or religious affiliation in various surveys and polls, they answer neither “Baptist”, nor “Catholic”, or any other defined religion. They simply say “I am nothing” or tick “none”.
When I first started researching and writing about the noes, they made up one in five Americans, making them the second-largest religious group in the United States, just behind Catholics. And not only that, but they were also the fastest growing religious group in the country.
In 2021, the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as atheists, agnostics, or of no particular religion rose to 29% of all American adults. That’s nearly one in three adults, up 10 percentage points from the 2011 survey. The same survey found that the number of professing Christians rose from 75% in 2011 to 63% in 2021.
Digging deeper, Pew found that over the same 10-year period, those who prayed daily dropped by 13 percentage points, and the number of those who said religion was important to their lives dropped. of 15. The conclusion of the Pew researchers was appropriate: evident in American society so far in the 21st century shows no signs of slowing… The share of the public with no religious affiliation is six percentage points higher than what it was five years ago and 10 points higher than ten years ago.
From around 5% in the 1940s to 29% today, it is clear that we are experiencing a vast cultural realignment. Even more astonishing, when you put aside those who are between 18 and 29 years old, the youngest on the polled side, self-designation scores 39%.
These changes are reflected in church membership. According to a recent Gallup survey, Americans’ membership of places of worship has continued to decline to such a degree that it has now fallen below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend. In 2020, only 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999. As anyone in the social sciences will tell you, this precipitous drop in si short period of time is simply breathtaking.
As you might expect, when analyzed by generation, the younger you are, the more likely you are to be non-religious. Among those whom Gallup calls “traditionalists,” that is, those born before 1946, 66 percent belong to a church. It drops to 58% among baby boomers and drops to just 36% among millennials. Early data on Gen Z suggests the percentage of involvement is at least as low (if not lower) than that of Gen Y, meaning the future of the American church is a generation away from being devastated . So, while Christianity remains the most widespread religion in the world and is even on the rise in countries of the South, it is no longer the dominant cultural force in the West.
It should be noted that the rise in nuns and the decline in church attendance and membership are not the same as a decline in belief in a god. Indeed, in places like the United States, the overwhelming majority are theists. So you can think of it this way: we have a world filled with people who are open to God and even believe in God, but reject religious paths to this God, religious dogmas about this God, and religious groups adhering to this God.
The verdict is in: God, yes. Religion, no.
James Emery White
James Emery White, The rise of the nuns (baker), order on Amazon.
Gregory A. Smith, “About three in ten American adults are no longer religious”, Pew Research CenterDecember 14, 2021, read online.
Betsy Cooper, Daniel Cox, Rachel Lienesch, Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., “Exodus: Why Americans Are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Improbable to Come Back,” PRRI, September 22, 2016, read online.
Jeffrey M. Jones, “American Church Membership Falls Below Majority for the First Time,” GallupMarch 29, 2021, read online.
About the Author
James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His last book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.