We know the percentage of people who are non-religious (although some of them might be “spiritual”) is on the rise, and has been for a number of years now, as indicated in this graphic by NPR’s Matt Stiles:
The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, knowing the trends, asked people if they thought the rise of the “Nones” was a good thing. Specifically, they asked (PDF):
Please tell me if you think each of the following trends is generally a good thing for American society, a bad thing for American society, or doesn’t make much difference?
[Item C] More people who are not religious
Nearly half of all American adults think it’s a bad thing that more people are not religious. Only 11% of them find it to be a good thing.
You know what that means? Even some Nones think it’s a bad thing that more people are Nones.
There are some self-hating Nones out there…
Even among adults who do not identify with any religion, only about a quarter (24%) say the trend is good, while nearly as many say it is bad (19%); a majority (55%) of the unaffiliated say it does not make much difference for society.
I don’t know what’s weirder: That there are evangelical Christians out there who are happy that more people are becoming non-religious… or that there are a lot of unaffiliated people who are upset by it.
But still. What the hell. Even with the margins of error taken into account, those numbers are still really surprising.
Pew also informs us that there’s really no significant difference between men and women on this issue, but (as expected) there is a big difference when we looks at the different age groups. Millennials tend to find the increase of Nones a good thing… not by much, though — a third of them think it’s bad:
That difference evaporates, though, when we look only at people who are religious, as you can see at the bottom of that graphic.
So what’s the explanation for this?
It’s possible there are people out there who believe in a higher power — who don’t call themselves “religious” and are therefore lumped in with us — who are disturbed by the increase in vocal atheism.
Or perhaps there are Nones who are disappointed by the fact that when you lose your faith, you also tend to lose the community and camaraderie that comes along with it.
What this says to me is that while organized religion is doing a good job of pushing people in our direction, we still need to do a better job of improving our self-image. People ought to be proud of being non-religious; right now, too many of them, for whatever reasons, are not.