meetthenones

Introducing Meet the Nones: We Don't Need Your Labels

Photo illustration, Ciaran Griffin / Getty Images

Photo illustration, Ciaran Griffin / Getty Images

Editor's Note: Sojourners has launched this new blog series to help shed light on the nation's latest "religious" affiliation. Scroll down to read their stories. Or EMAIL US to share your own.

Which religious tradition do you most closely identify with?

  • Protestant
  • Catholic
  • Mormon
  • Muslim
  • Jewish
  • Orthodox
  • Other Faith
  • Unaffiliated

Given these options — or even if you throw in a few more like Buddhist, Hindu, Agnostic — I would choose “Unaffiliated.” That puts me into a category with one-in-five other Americans, and one-in-three millennials, aptly named the “nones.” 

In that vein, I introduce our new blog series: Meet the Nones. Through this series, I hope to encourage discussion, debate, and elucidate the full picture of what it means to be losing your religion in America.

Editor's Note: Would you like to share your story on this topic? Email us HERE.

 

A Dissident None On The Rising Unaffiliated

Gary John Norman / Getty Images

Gary John Norman / Getty Images

There has been much speculation about “the nones,” the increasing number of people who do not identify with any particular religious denomination. The poll, conducted by the Pew Research Center, shows that nearly one-fifth of all Americans and nearly one-third of young people under 30 are unaffiliated with a particular religion or denomination. There have been varying reactions. As Mark Tooley points out, this isn’t necessarily a crisis of faith in America; many “nones” still profess to believe in God or some ultimate being. The rise of the “nones” could then be pointing to a crisis in denominational loyalty.

There are also those who wish to eschew the label of religious all together, seeing it as increasingly connected to political conservatism, homophobia,  and sexism (according to the poll, a “none” is more likely to vote Democratic and affirm the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage).  

In one of an ongoing series of blog posts entitled “Meet the Nones," Alyssa Bain writes, “I am more and more hesitant to label myself Christian as I see traditional denominations come to the spotlight for being closely affiliated with so-called right-wing politics. Instead, I distance myself.”

I write today to add my two cents. The truth is for most of my life I was a “none." I’ve only been a professing Christian for a very short time and I was not raised in any particular religious tradition at all. Though I identify as Eastern Orthodox and have been going to Orthodox services for over a year now as a catechumen, I have not been formally received into the church and still await my baptism and chrismation (I have never been baptized in any denomination, even as an infant).

Meet the Nones: Building Bridges Between Nones and Nuns

Photo: SVLuma / Shutterstock.com

Photo: SVLuma / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: Alyssa Bain tells her story of why she's part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular." Find more stories (or share your own) HERE. Read about the study HERE.

Last weekend I watched Sister Act (both of them, actually) with some friends (who also happen to be nuns)

I am not a nun. I am not a novice. I am not Catholic. Some days I wonder if I am even Christian.

According to a recent study by the Pew Forum, I actually just might be a “none.”

The research is out, and it seems that my generation is stumping the world as the generation that, for whatever reason, refuses to label itself. 

Personally, I’ve been having trouble with labeling myself for quite some time. Lutheran. Non-denominational. Methodist. Universalist. Evangelical. Protestant.

But none of them quite fit right. The problem with labels is that there are always exceptions. Nothing is black and white. The label “none” lumps together atheists, agnostics, and, well, me. I am not an atheist. I might be kind of agnostic, but there really is just something about that Jesus guy. 

Meet the Nones: From Pastor to Unaffiliated

Pastor collar, Andrejs Zavadskis / Shutterstock.com

Pastor collar, Andrejs Zavadskis / Shutterstock.com

Editor's Note: Kevin Gonzaga tells his story of why he's part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular." Find more stories (or share your own) HERE. Read about the study HERE.

Three years ago when I arrived at seminary to pursue my calling to fulltime pastoral ministry, one would probably have struggled to find someone in my generation more committed to the ministry and vitality of the local church.

While imperfect, I believed the church was the best hope of the world, and it was better to stay and work toward change than abandon the church and look for greener pastures. A year and a half later, I wrote a blog post explaining that I was no longer a Christian. I fear that this would only deepen the stereotype that seminary is a place where people lose their faith, so I should explain. 

The truth is I am one of growing number of people who choose not to affiliate with any organized religion. I am a “none,” and my journey to “none” started a long before I left for seminary. My disillusionment with, and eventual abandonment of, Christianity did not center around one traumatic event that shattered my faith, but rather it was something that coalesced from numerous experiences over a long time. 

It really started when I began studying the scriptures for myself in college. I was shocked to find many things I had been taught by the Church were wrong, were not in the Bible, or were even contrary to what the scriptures actually taught.

Meet the Nones: Pouring Out Love

Photo: WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

Photo: WIN-Initiative / Getty Images

Editor's Note: Megan Monaghan Rivas tells her story of why she's part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular." Find more stories (or share your own) HERE. Read about the study HERE.

There are never really two kinds of people in the world. But for purposes of this post, I’ll posit that there are two kinds of “nones” in the world – “nones” who would be part of a church if they could just find the right one, and “nones” who have no desire to be part of a church even if it matched them perfectly. I place myself in the latter category.

Like many “nones,” I started out as a “some.” I was reared in the Roman Catholic Church and educated in Catholic schools. As luck and the development curve would have it, just after confirmation (at age 14) I started finding out things about the church that I could not stand up and be counted for. The church’s policies concerning women and homosexuals seemed to me to stand in deliberate polar opposition to the Gospel message. And the church is not known for willingness to change from the inside. I didn’t have another 2,000 years to wait. My first “adult” move in the church was to leave it.

Meet the Nones: Words Are Unnecessary

Loch Raven Reservoir, Timonium. Photo by Melissa Otterbein

Loch Raven Reservoir, Timonium. Photo by Melissa Otterbein

Editor's Note:  Melissa Otterbein tells her story of why she's part of the 20 percent of Americans who identify with "no religion in particular."Find more stories (or share your own) HERE. Read about the study HERE.

A "recovering Evangelical," author Melissa identifies with the "nones" after church experiences in the non-denominational Church, Lutheran Church, Church of God, United Church of Christ, and the kind of Church that happens when you have hour-long conversations with people who are materially poor yet rich in spirit. Each of these "Churches" (and those not mentioned) depict Christ in beautiful ways, she believes, but feels that solely identifying with a denominational designation hasn't seemed to fully capture her faith experience. Though "none" might seem like a shocking response to "which religious tradition do you closely identify with?" it's one that, "offers freedom in Christ that brings me to closer to the Kingdom of God in the here and now."

I am tired of explaining away my faith.

I am tired of defending, “proving,” withholding my true feelings for fear of religious retaliation.
I’m tired of watching some people argue their faith, trying to “win people to Christ” with their cogent, convincing “answers.”
I’m tired of watching Jesus be sold, marketed, put on display.

I’m tired of watching certain people try to convince the world why their God is the right God.
I’m tired of listening to people deify their Bible by retorting this verse and that verse when our God is so much bigger than the sole medium of Genesis-Revelation.
I’m tired of platitudes about the Word and faith and sin and grace that I’ve heard over and over again; for every time I hear these trite remarks, I question if we’ve lost the unadulterated beauty behind such venerable passages.

Meet the Nones: A General Profile of the Unaffiliated

 RNS photo by Tyrone Turner

Thousands of atheists and unbelievers, including Alberto Valdez from Del Rio, Texas. RNS photo by Tyrone Turner

Meet John Q. Nones, a young, white male who is making a big impression on the American religious landscape for something he doesn't do: align with any religious group.

The rise of the religiously unaffiliated, or “nones,” as documented in a new study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, has major implications for almost all aspects of American life -- from religion to business to culture.

Whether you believe the proliferation of Mr. Nones is a depressing or hopeful trend, it pays to get to know him.

Who is John Q. Nones? Here's a snapshot drawn from the Pew Forum’s new poll.

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