Several years ago I was shocked when Dr. Jimmy Cobb of the Canadian Baptist Seminary in Cochrane, Alberta, Canada told me the fastest growing religious segment of the population in Canada was those who claimed “no religion.” It looks as if that northern sentiment has filtered south. A July 19, 2012 online article in USA Today notes that 19% of Americans chose “None” as their religion, the highest that answer has ever been. Writes Cathy Lynn Grossman:
People who check “None” for their religious affiliation are now nearly one in five Americans (19%), the highest ever documented, according to the Pew Center for the People and the Press.
The rapid rise of Nones — including atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe “nothing in particular” — defies the usually glacial rate of change in spiritual identity.
The tabulation included surveys of 19,377 people conducted by the Pew Research Center throughout 2011.
Also interesting is this:
But the chief way the category grows is by “switchers.” A 2009 Pew Forum look at “switching” found more than 10% of American adults became Nones after growing up within a religious group.
Simply put, a significant amount of people who grow up in a religious tradition jettison it after becoming adults. Some will return in time, especially after marriage or children, but many never do.
I was asked on Facebook a while back to address the issue of why people who grow up in church often leave it when they grow older never to return. Probably “unsaved church members” would be at the top, but another in my mind is this: there simply is not enough difference between the world and the church to validate the claims made by pastors and teachers every Sunday. Put another way, the content expressed as the Christian ideal is not matched by the lives we lead. The result: people do not “need” the church. The church is not what she claims to be.