The Rise of the Nones
Christianity is on the decline. But even this staunch atheist thinks we lose something important when we lose our religion.
In less than fifty years, Christians may be a minority in the United States, a Pew analysis released this week projects. And that’s not because people are converting to something else, or even because many new immigrants hold different beliefs. The decline of Christianity in America is largely thanks to a growing number of religious “nones”: Americans who don’t adhere to any particular faith at all. And for that, Christians have Christians to thank.
As one of those religious “nones,” this hardly spells the end of a culturally Christian country. Like most American “nones,” I celebrate Christmas and go to church on other people’s important occasions — weddings, baptisms, funerals. An America of more nonbelievers doesn’t mean an end to cultural expressions of Christianity (Christmas trees, Santa, twinkling lights that you are permitted to put up the day after Thanksgiving). Hopefully, though, it will mean the end of a particularly American kind of Christianity: a Christianity that is aggressive, spiteful, misogynist, and extreme.
One question, though, remains unanswered: Without the organizing power of religion, what can we create in its place to maintain strong community ties, imbue our lives with a greater sense of purpose and humility, place us in our family lineage and broader cultural history, and provide a forum for considering life’s biggest questions?