Flyover: American faith and the rise of the 'nones'

The "nones" are on the rise in America as fewer and fewer identify with a particular faith background. Why is this? And what are people of faith doing to make their beliefs more dynamic, urgent and relevant? Tell us your experience with faith to help inform this week's Flyover.

  • I was raised Roman Catholic and still consider myself a Catholic but a "fallen away" member.

    I had started attending services again, even filling in as a cantor (worship/song leader) but the recent developments in the Archdiocese of Minneapolis/St.Paul and the recent election has kept me away for the last two years.

    I realized my views and opinions would not be welcome at the small church I attended due to the strong conservative bent of the parish members.

    My grandson was recently baptized a Catholic so I see a role for me to play in his upbringing to make him aware of role faith can play in his life and to dispel the fallacies many people still have about the Catholic Church i.e., we pray to idols, worship saints, etc.

    I recall an incident many years ago when a co-worker was curious about the finger rosary I was using at lunch. I explained that the Rosary is a form of faith meditation and an anchor in times of stress. The repeated prayers act as a mantra and the beads give one something to hold on to in times of extreme duress.

    When I overhear people attacking Catholics, I try to find out what they find so upsetting about the faith and try to address their concerns. Sometimes they'll listen but more often than not, they just walk away.
  • I'm definitely one of these people. For me, I had an intense experience that connected every piece of sacred text together, despite having been raised without church or religion, and in that one moment I completely understood myself. Therefore I am spiritual and so is every living thing. Sciençe and spirit work in unison as opposed to in dischord. So many things are connected, simply because they are, and none of it has anything to do with dogma. I think religion has a nice community based effort to it and I'm glad its becoming more progressive, but its still not for me. It complicates spirit, less is more.
  • 1. - Many people today, especially younger ones, are aware of or in some way sense a feeling of over-regulation, of being externally controlled from too many directions at once. If it's not government regulations and an overwhelming number of laws to know and observe, then societal norms and peer pressure constraints, the divisiveness and disarray of the current political scene, and the economic uncertainty underlying their perceptions of the future.

    Where religion once provided the appearance of a path that would help one to make it through the struggles and seeming chaos of everyday life, it now seems to many to be just another set of external pressures to conform. The question then becomes "is it necessary to conform to the beliefs and norms of a culture that lived thousands of years ago -- why?"

    2 - Today, the world is vastly different than it was when just one or a couple of religions provided cultural leadership and ser ved as the communal center for the populations of entire countries. That is no longer true.

    In the U.S. there are a number of major religions, many of which have splintered into various doctrinal sub-groups, each professing to be the one true faith. It doesn't take much thought to know that only one can be correct, if any. The extreme level of dilution this causes, makes one question where, or even if, one would want to wade into those unsettling waters in search of validity.

    3 - There is a growing perception that religion is no different than other large industries and, in the case of mega-churches, televangelists, profit-gospel and stadium-sized traveling religious promotions, there is little ethical difference to be found.

    4 - Many people are unwilling to accept the intractable intolerance of religious doctrine against reproductive rights, sexual preferences, gender equality, racial equality and other current cultural issues, and do not wish to add their voice or provide support to positions they find discriminatory and unfair.
  • I abandoned organized religion in the 70's and even the concept of the 'teacher' in the 90's due to the inherent corrupting influences of the power dynamic that occurs when we set up a hierarchy. Religious institutions are just that, institutions and as such they quickly develop into self-perpetuating entities more concerned with survival, expansion, power and control than with the spiritual well-being of their 'followers'. I think humans are becoming self-actualizing beings rather than 'followers' in need of leaders and gurus to tell them how to live. Some continue to be slaves to doctrine due to their fear of being responsible for their own conscience and behavior. Unfortunately this leaves them open to being manipulated by those in power, who learn to simply push the right buttons to get the response they want - the response programmed in by the religious indoctrination of their 'subjects'.
  • Nature is my church.
  • The only viable answer to religious peace and tranquility is absolute tolerance. All "religions" really really need to respect each other's "beliefs" and allow them to "worship" in the way that they wish. The caveat to this is a supposedly ancient phrase: "Do as thou will, as it harms none". Doing what you want is great, but you must not step on (harm) anyone else in the process. An example of this is: your "religion" dictates that you must fast on a certain day or days. Great. Do that, but do not close down all the food vendors in the area and try and force fasting on others who do not feel that way. Same with clothing, haircuts, or face paint. You want to dress like that and prohibit your followers from it, so be it. Do not run around beating up other people who dress differently. The Amish dress different than me, but we each do not try and force the other to dress alike. Then there are intrusive practices like bells, chimes, scents, perfumes, music, burial rites, etc. If you want to do that, OK, but forcing me to listen to or smell your incense. This can all get very tricky to deal with, I admit. It is not a simple plan. Take for instance education. We have a public school system in this country (so far), that requires education to age 18 depending on state. Public, private, and home school systems all must conform to certain educational standards, but a religious exemption can be procured, and so some sects are privately instructing their children as they see fit. When these children grow up and leave the sect, and some of them do, they are thrust out into the 21st century with very few survival skills. These people must then become a burden on the state in one form or another until they can be assimilated into the larger social stream, much like immigrants from an isolated 3rd world. Now, having said that, I wonder: Is this to be allowed to continue? Does this constitute "harm"? If so, to whom? You can see how fast this gets complicated. Military service, taxes, even pictures on driver's permits are complicated by religion. I personally see no end to all this, especially since October 6, 2017, when the Atty General issued Federal Law Protections for Religious Liberty. 25 pages of guarantee that the court system will be clogged for years and years to come, and very, very scary.
  • If more people are not identifying with a particular faith, I hope it's because the human race is getting smarter. Religions are the sources of many, many bad things that occur in the world. The few good things that come from religions aren't enough to get the non-identifiers to sign on. Hopefully, more people are realizing that you don't need to belong to a church or believe in a god in order to be an ethical, compassionate, generous, kind person. We learn and practice those and other good values just fine without any religious influence. In fact, I think those values without religion are probably more authentic, more deeply held, than if you practice them because a religion told you to do so or you'd go to Hell (or whatever other bad consequence they might hold over you). I really hope it's because people are getting smarter about this.
  • I had been a Catholic for all of my life until my mid 20s when I stumbled upon a few arguments for and against religion and I decided to look into apologetics the answers I found were unsatisfactory. Almost every end-all to the arguments was faith. And then I started looking in to faith. Blind faith in something outside of yourself . I started thinking about how one could test face so I went straight back to the source what the Jesus supposedly said "the faith of a mustard seed can move a mountain." And I started thinking about all these people who had faith, Who undeniably had faith. And nothing came of it. The poor were not fed. The hurt or not healed. The faith of mountains could not move the Mustardseed. I could no longer reconcile any of it and I came out the other side and atheist hidden in a religious state .
  • Traditional orthodox Christian faith provides the only answers to the pain and suffering of our world. Just because “evangelicals” have hijacked the practice of Christian faith into a counterfeit society full of hypocrites doesn’t mean the tenants of the faith need to be changed. If anything we need to just rediscover the truths inherent in the gospel of Jesus Christ who laid down his life for us all so we may have eternal live and hope in him.
  • As the Faith Formation Director for a Parish that has recently had to close the doors to 2 churches within our Triparish due to funding change has thrown us all in a situation that what our Faith tells us shouldn't be. My challenge is to change the perspective of using guilt and judgement to guarantee participation to finding what will make people feel that our church is a sanctuary, a safe and loving place that all are not only welcomed but a part of our story. Throw in social media, outside demands of work/sports/school and parents who are not actively participating is turning into having to strip everything away and go back to the core basics. Knowing God's love & treating others as we want to be treated. No matter what I do, no matter what I come up with to build this community of Faith, what keeps humbling me is watching God work through each of our children and seeing it with them that our religion is the touchstone to finding our own humanity, potential and love-ability. I don't coordinate a way to teach others what their Faith should be, but show the whole parish that Faith is always growing and changing and evolving and that we find it together.
  • Faith does not require religion. Be true to yourself. Religions divide. God does not.
  • There is a disconnect between the words of Jesus and christianity. Jesus taught giving to the poor, healing the sick, and love one another. He never spoke of sexual orientation, abortion, division, prosperity, or hatred. I am not associated with any form of 'christianity' as I perceive that it is practiced today.
  • Check out Unitarian Universalist them for a pluralistic view of religion and social justice
  • Jesus would sit & talk to the prostitutes. Have you ever seen YOUR priest or minister do that?
  • I had a hard time with the following the church dogma, my way or the highway, everyone else is wrong system that the Christian faith I grew up in. I drifted away until finally finding a faith community that emphasizes a way of life, living compassion, and being involved in the community. Ironically, it wasnt the Big Three, but Zen Buddhism.
  • I’ve not left my “faith’. However, I have left organized religion as being irrelevant, even antagonistic toward the people the god of my understanding directs us to minister to.
  • I believe in a creator. I do not believe in religion.
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