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We’re leaving and we’re (most likely) not coming back

We’re leaving and we’re (most likely) not coming back

Two months ago the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) released a research report on the rise of the Nones in US religion. Referring to them as the unaffiliated, the research has been published as Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back. In the publication of their research, the research team articulates their findings regarding the growth of the unaffiliated as the largest category of religious identification in the last few generations of folks in the US.

In the body of the report, the research team covers a variety of angles regarding being unaffiliated; raised in a non-religious household, no longer believing their religion’s teachings, divorce, parents with two different religions, only one religious parent, clergy sexual scandals and the treatment of the LGBTQ community, to name a few.

subgroups-chart
Click to enlarge.

The research also identifies that all unaffiliated are not the same, they break into three subgroups; rejectionists (the largest group), apathiests and the unattached believers. The research team then explores the dynamics of each of these subgroups; their race & ethnicity, their level of education, their concepts of religion & morality, their feelings about religion and their political influence.

That last bit, their political influence, explores the fact that the unaffiliated group is growing, but not always voting. And so the last section of the paper examines the unaffiliated and the 2016 Presidential campaign.

This information and the charts (just two of many) are from the PRRI report in its postscript document format which is available for download.

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James Pratt

One interesting point: "Americans raised in mixed religious households—where parents identified with different religious traditions—are more likely to identify as unaffiliated than those raised in households where parents shared the same faith (31% vs. 22%, respectively)"

I talk to a lot of parents from mixed backgrounds coming to have their child baptized, who say they want their child to be able to choose their path and not have one forced on them. But very often, that means no real experience in or connection to either tradition. I think we need to be more encouraging of mixed-tradition families to give their children full immersion in each tradition, so that they have something to compare and ultimately to choose between.

What I find missing from the study is the age break-down of the 3 categories of unaffiliated. The study notes an increasing percentage of young people raised without any affiliation. But are these young people rejectionists, apatheists, or unattached believers? My hunch is most of them are in the latter two categories, not having had a religious upbringing would likely leave them apathetic or uncertain/searching, rather than outwardly hostile to religion.

As Bishop Epting notes, we have already lost the older rejectionists -- they are not likely to reconsider. But young apatheists and unattached believers could be a significant subset of the unaffiliated, and open to evangelism if done right.

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Christopher Epting

I think this is probably right. We've already lost this generation. They're not coming back. Unless...they get converted.

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Mitchell McClain

seems like more are thinking for themselves, and can that be a bad thing. but wait... speaking as an Atheist, I see the importance of community, so lets not throw the baby out with the bath water. I am Atheist and I go to church they really are great people!

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SL Forsburg

Please follow the posted policy and use first & last names with comments. - ed

I am glad that I am not the only community minded, music-loving, Episcopal Church-attending atheist!

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Prof Christopher Seitz

That says it all!

Enjoy your Sunday.

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