The 'nones' – why some Americans are forgoing religious labels
Aug. 9, 2018
Among the growing share of religious “nones” in the U.S., a majority say that questioning religious teachings is one important factor in their lack of religious affiliation.
A Pew Research analysis released Aug. 8 explored the reasons that people give for being “nones.”
As of 2014, roughly 23 percent of U.S. adults said their religion is “nothing in particular,” according to Pew, an increase from 16 percent in 2007.
Pew’s new analysis – based on a survey conducted in late 2017 – asks more than 1,300 religiously unaffiliated adults about why they do not identify with a religion. The vast majority of religious “nones” were raised in a religion, but have since fallen away.
Sixty percent of respondents said questioning “a lot of religious teachings” was an influential factor in their lack of religious affiliation. Nearly half said they dislike positions that religious groups take on social and political issues.
Forty-one percent said they do not like religious organizations, and 34 percent said they do not like religious leaders. Just over one-third said they do not believe in God, and a similar percentage said religion is irrelevant in their lives.
The data indicated some differences among subgroups of unaffiliated individuals. Among atheists, nearly 90 percent said that not believing in God was a significant factor in their lack of religious affiliation. In contrast, just 37 percent of agnostics gave the same answer, and 21 percent of those who are “nothing in particular.”
Sixty-three percent of atheists said religion is irrelevant to them, compared to 40 percent of agnostics and 26 percent of those who are “nothing in particular.”
Other answers saw more consistent responses. About half of all subgroups said they dislike the positions churches take on social or political issues. Between 31 and 42 percent of each subgroup said they dislike religious leaders.
Asked about the single most important reason they are not affiliated with a religion, atheists pointed to their lack of belief in God, while agnostics cited their questioning of many religious teachings. Among those who are “nothing in particular,” no single reason predominated.
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