As the number of Americans walking away from organized religion continues to rise, the group of religious “nones” has become the fastest growing category — surpassing the number of all mainline Protestant Christians combined.
According to the Star Tribune, about 56 million people make up this group of the religiously unaffiliated — which comes out to nearly one in four Americans.
> The surge has Minnesota religious leaders wrestling with implications for the future of their churches, the future of Christianity. More than half of U.S. churches now see fewer than 100 worshipers on weekends, and they’re getting older, reports the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
> Particularly alarming is the plunge in church membership by people in their 20s and 30s. One in three are now churchless, according to the Pew Research Center. Faith leaders are racking their brains over how to reach these adults who may never step under a steeple.
> “We are [all] worried,” said the Rev. John Bauer, pastor at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Minneapolis. “We all know it’s an issue, but don’t know what to do about it. It’s clear we can’t rely on the old ways of doing things for this next generation.”
Interviews with more than 30 Minnesotans who walked away from church revealed that most were driven away by a “disconnect between core Christian teachings and real life”.
But not all in this group have entirely forsaken the spiritual: only about 3 percent are full-fledged atheists.
> “Religious Nones are not all nonbelievers,” said Greg Smith, associate research director at the Pew Research Center. “More than a third say they believe in God with absolute certainly.”
> A 2017 Gallup poll of adults who rarely, if ever, go to church showed the biggest reasons were they “preferred to worship on their own” and they “don’t like organized religion.”