What If I'm Not Sure What I Believe?

Close-up of hands, Diego Cervo /

Close-up of hands, Diego Cervo /

I get asked questions sometimes that I feel are useful for a larger audience to consider and discuss. One such question was submitted to me by a reader a while back, which echoes the sentiments within many other similar questions I’ve received. Here’s the essence at the heart of those questions.

What do I do if I’m not sure what I believe?

First of all, don’t freak out. Most of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament is about a priest suffering a crisis of faith. And though some argue it was more a fulfillment of prophecy (quoting a psalm) rather than a personal cry of distress, it’s hard not to feel Jesus’ own existential suffering when he cries out from the cross for a God who seems to be missing.

The Power of None

Empty seats, LU HUANFENG /

Empty seats, LU HUANFENG /

A couple years ago, a survey found that one in five Americans don’t identify with any religion. For Americans under 30, the number was far higher – more like one third. This report is being cited constantly throughout the religious-nonprofit world. In many quarters, there seems to be a deep sense of shock at the decline in religious membership.

Me? I’m not surprised at all. What does surprise me is our failure to see that affiliation with a traditional, God-centered religion is no longer the primary way that many Americans express their deeply rooted need for faith. We humans are relentlessly religious animals, and post-modern America is no exception. We’re just embracing a different kind of faith.

‘None’ could be religion’s new normal in Britain, USA

Sally Morrow via RNS

Empty pews in a church in Kansas City, Missouri, show the trend in the West away from religious identity/Sally Morrow Via RNS

Merry what? Just in time for Christmas, new statistics show “no religion is the new religion” in Great Britain, according to a study released Monday.

The study, by Westminster Faith Debates, finds 38 percent adults in Great Britain, and 48 percent of those ages 18 to 29, checked no religion in online surveys conducted in January and June by YouGov.

These numbers fall midway between the findings of two other British studies that both show a trend away from the pews.

Talking Taboo: The Christian ‘Lean In’?

In recently released Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank about Faith, edited by Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro, 40  women under age 40 write essays in, what Femmevangelical’s blogger Rev. Jennifer Crumpton calls, “the Christian version of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In.”
Crumpton, interviewed this fall by Fox News' Lauren Green, asks “How can we ‘lean in’ to our faith in a way that empowers us and makes us know that we have a voice, know that we have value and worth, know that we can do anything, even that we can be leaders in the church, even be reverends behind a pulpit?”

Hispanics Increasingly Identify as 'Nones'

Graphic courtesy Public Religion Research Institute. Via RNS.

The number of Hispanic-Americans who say they adhere to no religion is growing and now rivals the number of Hispanic evangelicals, a new study has found.

The share of Hispanics living in the U.S. who say they are atheist, agnostic, or have no religious affiliation has reached 12 percent, according to the 2013 Hispanic Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. That is double the rate reported in 1990 by the American Religious Identification Survey.

Researchers say Hispanic “nones” are now statistically equal to the number of U.S. Hispanic evangelical Protestants — 13 percent — and warn of a religious divide in the Hispanic community that will be felt for decades to come.

‘Gravity’ and the Unanswered Questions of Unbelief

Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone in  'Gravity.' Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone in 'Gravity.' Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

Reviews of the new hit movie Gravity note that it’s an unusually fine science fiction film. What they don’t mention is that the main character represents an increasingly common theme in American religion: The spiritual “none of the above.”

Yes, the special effects are splendid. And I’ll take the word of astronauts who say the visuals capture amazingly well what it’s like to work in the microgravity of near-Earth orbit.

But there are moments where spiritual and philosophical themes take center stage.

(Spoiler alert: I’ll give no more away than I’ve seen in most reviews, but if you really want to know nothing about the movie, see it first.)

Meet the ‘Nominals’ Who Are Drifting From Judaism and Christianity

 Renata Sedmakova /

Deposition from the cross. Renata Sedmakova /

They’re rarely at worship services and indifferent to doctrine. And they’re surprisingly fuzzy on Jesus.

These are the Jewish Americans sketched in a new Pew Research Center survey, 62 percent of whom said Jewishness is largely about culture or ancestry and just 15 percent who said it’s about religious belief.

But it’s not just Jews. It’s a phenomenon among U.S. Christians, too.

Meet the “Nominals” — people who claim a religious identity but may live it in name only.