NPR is having a series of reports this week around the theme ‘Losing Our Religion’, on the rise of those now being referred to as the ‘nones’, people who say they are unaffiliated with any religion. In their report today they showed a graph with a sharp rise in the nones in the 1970s, a plateau until 2000, followed by another sharp rise. This trend is especially pronounced among young people.
In this first episode they also interviewed Greg Smith of the Pew Research Center (which has tracked the rise of the nones over time) and Harvard’s Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, who has been arguing for some time that people are disengaging from institutions in general, not just religious ones.
This news should not be a surprise to readers of this blog as we have been regularly documenting the evidence for this phenomenon so I do not expect any significant new data to be revealed in the series. What is significant is that as more and more mainstream media start reporting on this and it sinks into the general consciousness, being unaffiliated with religion will be seen as normal. This should encourage more people who secretly wish they were unaffiliated but have hesitated to openly say so (because they feared being seen as weird and exceptional and consequently frowned upon by society) to be more frank about their views.
It is still the case that although the numbers of religious people are dropping, America is more religious than other developed countries.