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Thread: The Rise of the "Nones"

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    The Rise of the "Nones"

    Although the Nones are now a well-established category of religiously unaffiliated people, it groups together people who still consider themselves religious with those who do not. It has been steadily growing in the US, as more and more people abandon organized religions. For the first time, almost half the country (47%) has polled as unaffiliated with any church. However, these are not the "Nones". This group only includes Nones.

    Link: It’s Not Just Young White Liberals Who Are Leaving Religion

    Only 47 percent of American adults said they were members of a church, mosque or synagogue, according to recently released polling that was conducted by Gallup throughout last year. It marked the first time that a majority of Americans said they were not members of a church, mosque or synagogue since Gallup first started asking Americans about their religious membership in the 1930s. Indeed, Gallup’s finding was a kind of watershed moment in the long-chronicled shift of Americans away from organized religion.
    The growth of the Nones seems to be the largest factor in people dropping away:

    What’s driving this shift? In part, it’s about people who still identify with a religious tradition opting not to be a member of a particular congregation. Only 60 percent of Americans who consider themselves religious are part of a congregation, compared to 70 percent a decade ago, according to Gallup. But the bigger factor, Gallup said, is the surge of religiously unaffiliated Americans — people who are agnostics, atheists or simply say they are not affiliated with a religious tradition. The rise of this group — sometimes referred to as “nones” because they answer “none” when asked about their faith (and, you know, it’s a play on words) — isn’t new...
    The article goes on to give details on why it is so hard to pin down the number of Nones in the US. Basically, there is no standard way to measure the category, so it ranges between a fifth and a quarter of the US population.

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    Formerly Joedad
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    "None" news is good news I say.

    It is a difficult segment to pin down but being 20% to 25% is close enough for me. Self reporting isn't the best either, as I know some very religious people who say they have no religion. I think the word "religion" has negative connotations for a lot of people so they play a mental game and just call it something else, the classic distinction without a difference.

    My kids don't call themselves atheist but they are definitely not religious. They're probably representative of the "none" group. They really are atheist, just don't like the word.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    I suspect that most atheists who reject the label think of atheists as anti-religious militants, so they don't want to be associated with it. It is easier to claim to be an agnostic, because agnostics aren't perceived as a threat to religion. Agnostics don't really have to defend their rejection of religious faith as much as atheists do.

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    yeah let them wear hijab, Copernicus

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    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I suspect that most atheists who reject the label think of atheists as anti-religious militants, so they don't want to be associated with it. It is easier to claim to be an agnostic, because agnostics aren't perceived as a threat to religion. Agnostics don't really have to defend their rejection of religious faith as much as atheists do.
    Ha! Sure.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

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    I tend to think that there are far more nones than we realize because so many of us stay deep in the closet. The reason I suspect this is because when I've been open about my atheism, I've encountered many other people who have shared their lack of belief with me. They felt comfortable discussing it with me because I am an atheist, while they were hesitant to reveal they lacked any firm religious beliefs to other friends or family members. One of them was my dear neighbor who died a few years ago, at the age of 95.

    It wouldn't surprise me if half of the country were non believers, including some who sit in the church pews. Maybe a better description for those who attend church without holding any belief in the supernatural would be Christian agnostics or Christian atheists. I've met at least two regular church goers who attend church but aren't always open in regards to their atheism. Most of those who I've met are older adults, although I did have a conversation with a very young Black male about two years ago, who told me that a belief in god made absolutely no sense to him. I met him at a party for a friend of mine so I don't know how he identifies when he speaks to family members.

    One can be open about their atheism without being militant. I've been that way since I started considering myself an atheist about 45 years ago. Sure, sometimes I've been met with hate, but most of the time, people are accepting of me, even if they disagree with my lack of belief in gods. I don't bring it up unless the other person brings up religion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Copernicus View Post
    I suspect that most atheists who reject the label think of atheists as anti-religious militants, so they don't want to be associated with it. It is easier to claim to be an agnostic, because agnostics aren't perceived as a threat to religion. Agnostics don't really have to defend their rejection of religious faith as much as atheists do.
    I think it's the Madeline Murray O'Hair effect. Once you encounter virulent anti-atheism in a person it makes intelligent sense to soft peddle on the label when meeting new folk. Religion is an important identity for lots of people and they take your atheism as a personal insult to that identity and their ability to make choices.

    On another note I've never met another atheist who disagreed with my version of atheism. That's because we're basically saying "That stuff isn't real."

    Look at all the different religions and religious denominations and how they substantially disagree with each other on what constitutes their theism. If we leave out the atheists then their disagreements with their "fellow believers" will be a very high percentage. They all believe in their particular version of woo, collectively believe that woo is real, but disagree greatly about who's woo is the real woo. Atheists don't have that problem with regards to theism. Atheists may have their woo too, it's just not your classical religious woo.

    I suppose that makes my personal atheism awooism. I'm an awooist. Imagine that! Scientific Naturalist works too.

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    Industrial Grade Linguist Copernicus's Avatar
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    I prefer to define an atheist as one who rejects religion rather than merely as one who lacks religion. That is, atheists are usually people who have been exposed to religion and feel that it isn't a plausible belief. So it is no surprise that those with deep religious faith take offense. It's almost as if they themselves are being rejected, since they do consider their religious faith plausible. Agnosticism is perceived as a much softer approach, because it seems to pass no inherent judgement on plausibility. Still, a great many, if not most, atheists see no real contradiction between atheism and agnosticism, because the former addresses their sense of what is plausible and the latter their sense of what is knowable. Surveys that try to distinguish the two categories are asking the wrong question.

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    I consider myself a strong atheist but I'm not actually anti-religion. In fact, if there was a UU fellowship in my area, I'd give it a try, as I've known some very nice UU atheist humanists. Unitarians are an example of the good that religion can do. They are more interested in doing good works than caring about specific beliefs.

    I view religion as mythology that can have either good or bad influences on people. Secular Humanism is considered a religion by the IRS, but for the most part, Humanism is a positive secular religion, as far as I can tell. And, even Humanism is a type of mythology, imo, because the goals and ideals of humanism are very idealistic, but they do give one an opportunity to endorse a positive philosophy, and sometimes create a community. Still, most humanists probably don't consider themselves as religious. The IRS considered any organized humanist group to be a religion for tax purposes.

    I see religion like most anything that humans have created. It can be used for good or it can be used for destructive purposes. It's sort of like political or financial systems. They are all made up by humans and depending on how extreme they are, they can be positives or negatives for society. It's the hate filled zealots that cause the most problems, regardless if they are religious, or atheist secularists. At least that's how I see it.

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    Veteran Member Brian63's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by southernhybrid View Post
    “I view religion as mythology that can have either good or bad influences on people.”

    “It can be used for good or it can be used for destructive purposes.”

    “…they can be positives or negatives for society.”


    Can’t they be a blend of them? We had discussed this previously in another thread, where the effects of religion really should not be thought of in such in simplistic and binary terms. The impacts of religion cannot be basketed as either being either entirely good or entirely bad. Their actual impacts are much more nuanced and complex, and they can have a wide variety of different effects on people. Some examples that were given of how religious beliefs are not simply good or bad, positive or negative---but are actually more complex:


    They can provide a sense of community, but simultaneously they can also instill fear because of doubts they hold about the canon and things that just do not make sense to them.

    A person’s religious beliefs can also harm themselves, without them being aware that they are doing so. It can lead them to joining a cult and engaging in harmful practices, which on a very superficial level they would report as bringing them joy, but on a deeper level are damaging their critical thinking skills and willingness.

    They can affect a person in different ways at different points in their life. Early in their life they may have been relatively innocuous but the fact that they were present made it easier for more harmful religious beliefs to seep in over time and the rest of their life. Or vice versa, where they were harmfully indoctrinated as a child but later in life became an atheist and felt great relief.



    We need to stop thinking about religion in a simplistic, binary, cartoonish, good vs evil, entirely positive or entirely negative frame of mind. Religious beliefs can have a wide variety of different impacts on an individual. Some of them will simultaneously help them in some ways and hurt them in others, and in different ways, and to different degrees, and at different points in time and in different psychological states. There are also wide varieties of impacts that religious beliefs have on people who are not members of that religion. So even if the member of a religion benefits in some ways, others around that member can still be harmed as a result.

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