"The Rise of the Nones" is one of 10 trends changing American life, according to Time magazine's March 12 cover story. That's because the "nones" — those who mark "none" on surveys that ask them to identify their religious affiliation — are the fastest-growing religious group in the United States.
Seminary and church leaders, in particular, are highly motivated to staunch the decline. Unfortunately, many of them believe that what's really needed is a return to the "faith of our fathers," stricter adherence to creeds and (this is America, after all) better marketing methods.
I advocate a radically different solution: the Emerging Church. It's a movement based on understanding the reasons for mainstream religion's dramatic decline: improved scientific understanding, changing social norms, an increasingly pluralistic religious culture and more freedom to doubt and question — a freedom that until the last three centuries was mostly absent or suppressed and that is still resisted, sometimes violently, in much of the world today.
In my experience, the nones are not rejecting God. They are rejecting doctrinal requirements that they no longer find believable, along with the rigid structures of many organized religions. For that reason, the rise of the nones may well be a new kind of spiritual awakening, one in which doubters are welcome.