Religious leaders respond to the rise of the “Nones”
Religion News Service has interviewed a slew of religious leaders, asking them their thoughts on the increase of non-religious Americans–now 19.6% of the population.
One in five adults does not belong to an organized religion. Nearly a third of Americans age 18-29 don’t have a spiritual home.
“I think it goes without saying these are pretty significant changes in the American religious landscape,” said Greg Smith, a lead researcher on the Pew study.
Needless to say, this study hits home for religious leaders. So we asked a number of them why they thought so many Americans were walking away from organized religion. Their intriguing responses are below. We’ll keep adding perspectives as they come in, so return here for updates, and please feel free to suggest additional sources.
Read the responses HERE.
The respondents generally fall into one of two broad categories: Those in complete denial, and those who blame the action or inaction of their church for its failings. Yep, there’s some overlap.
Those in denial insist that ‘the spiritual longings’ of the younger generation are just as strong as previous generations.
Those blaming ‘the church’ insist that religious leaders as a whole have not reached out to or understood the younger generation, and this is why they don’t come to church any more. Or maybe they just aren’t ‘living the Word’ adequately to attract these younger folks.
A smattering of ‘consumerist culture’ and the like is sprinkled sparingly throughout the responses.
The louder message comes in what these leaders didn’t say. Nobody acknowledged that the abuses and excesses of many religious bodies has turned people off to organized religion. Nobody mentioned that as scientific knowledge expands, the gaps into which to fit one’s god grow ever-smaller. Not a peep was heard about an increase in critical thinking.
Religion News Service did not track down any Humanists for their opinions; I’ll share those of Roy Speckardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. He explained, “We’re seeing evidence that our numbers are bolstered when there’s religious opposition to progress on issues like same-sex marriage, women’s reproductive freedom, and concern for the environment. Young people especially can’t stomach such backward thinking.”
Speckhardt continues, “Millions of Americans are discovering that religion isn’t required in order to lead a moral and purposeful life . . . More and more are recognizing that you can be good without a belief in a god.”
Edwina Rogers of the Secular Coalition for America adds, “We are seeing that the ‘nones’ are growing rapidly–and one thing they agree on is that they do not want religion inserted into government.”
Will we see a stronger push to separate church and state? Will religious leaders ever admit that the reason their numbers are dropping isn’t because they aren’t marketing themselves well enough, but because they are anachronistic?
What do you think?