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They are being called the “Nones.”  They are Americans who say they don’t identify with any religion. The name came from polling demographers who gave them this name because when asked to identify their religion, their answer is “none.”

Last October, the Pew Research Center released a study called “Nones’ on the Rise” that zoomed in on the 46 million people who answered “none” to the religion question in 2012. According to Pew, one-fifth of American adults have no religious affiliation, a trend that has for years been on the rise.

Who are the Nones?  They are atheists and agnostics as well as people who say they classify themselves as “nothing in particular.” Some of the Nones say they are spiritual or religious in some way. Some say that they pray every day. But they are not looking for an organized religion to belong to or have as their label.

I guess I am a None. Like most Nones, I wasn’t always. I identified with a group because I was raised with a label on my hospital record, church records, school records. If I had been a soldier, I suppose it would have been on my dog tags.

As a group, Nones are socially liberal. For example, 75% favor same-sex marriage and legal abortion.

The growth of Nones is even higher when you look at younger Americans.  One-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation. And this younger population carries this philosophy over to other community institutions and from institutions in general. The trend began to spike in 1990. Not a time when we were saying that young people were rebellious, as we said in the 1960s. These were the “Me Generation” and the Millennials.

Some researchers are saying that it might be explained as a time when religion publicly became associated with a particular brand of politics. It seems that as the country moved to the left on social issues, a number of visible religious leaders moved to the right.

In politics, religious groups have always been courted by candidates. The Nones who voted last November favored and aided President Obama gain a second-term victory. They are now a politically consequential group. Nones are almost as strongly Democratic as white evangelicals are Republican, according to polls.

Harvard professor Robert Putnam, who writes about religion, says that “Even with these recent changes the American religious commitments are incredibly stronger than in most other advanced countries in the world. The average American is slightly more religious than the average Iranian, so we are a very religious country even today.”

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