The Rise of the "Nones"
J. Peter Nixon October 10, 2012 - 4:20pm
The new Pew Forum study is getting a lot of publicity for its finding that one American in five now responds none when asked about their religious affiliation. This is up from around 15 percent in 2007. The future of organized religion in the United States may look even bleaker because almost a third of individuals under 30 can be classified as nones.Numerous press reports have covered the study so Im not going to describe it in detail. I encourage you to read the summary orif you are an unreconstructed data geek like medownload the entire report.There were a couple of interesting findings buried in the demographic data. The first was that the growth in nones was heavily concentrated among the white population. The share of Hispanics who are nones did not change at all between 2007 and 2012.A second finding that was interesting was the difference between unmarried and married individuals. The share of married individuals who were nones did not change at all between 2007 and 2012, while the share of unmarried individuals who did increased by 4 percentage points. This means that unmarried individuals accounted for virtually all the increase in the nones over the last five years.If marriage has a protective effect on religious practice, then one of the things that may be driving decline in religious practice is the decline in marriage. Of course, the reverse may also be true in the sense that the religiously unaffiliated may be less likely to take the step of getting married. If you read the full report, youll find that the nones cohabit at a slightly higher rate than those affiliated with a religious tradition.Since weve been talking about the New Evangelization this week, this data seems to confirm that the window between leaving home and getting married is the space where the churches lose many of their adherents. Ill be interested to see of any of the interventions at the Synod discuss this particular challenge.