© 2014 Robert Osburn
Meet the Nones and their numbers: 20, 25, or 33.
The first number describes the percentage of Americans without religious affiliation, the second captures the percentage of first-year American college students who are likewise, and the third number is the percentage of 18 to 30 year olds with no self-identified connection to religious faith in the USA.
Compared to 1978 when I was a fresh seminary graduate, this is a pretty dramatic change that is linked to growing Internet use, college education, lack of religious upbringing, and many other phenomena.
So, what is a None, anyway? According to researchers, this term includes agnostics, atheists, those who are “spiritual but not religious,” and even some who claim to have discovered Jesus but who apparently have nothing else happening religiously.
Besides the fact that “None” sounds very lonely and bereft of significance and meaning (as in, say, nihilism), I am quite sure that Nones do in fact embrace some perspective on reality, or worldview that they are willing to argue for, would like to live by, and which has the ability to congregate people around their ideas (think of the new Atheist churches, for example). Nones really are something, and we need to quit imagining that they are neutral souls waiting to be mobilized by exciting political and cultural movements. No, they are already taking political and cultural stances because they already possess worldviews.
Nones are people who deserve to be persuaded, reasoned with, confronted, and loved. From a Christian perspective, they are humans for whom a Savior was torturously killed and who, in his Resurrection, invites them to give Him their first allegiance in His Kingdom. Some Nones are willing to explore His reasoning, His life, His community, and His path of service, and some do place their ultimate faith in Him and embrace a Christian worldview.
Some advice, first for Nones: Consider the Kingdom of Christ. As for Christ followers: Do not despair; instead, love and communicate intelligently and compassionately the Gospel among Nones. And, finally, researchers: Please stop asking people just their religious affiliations; instead, start asking about their worldviews. Researchers will need to discover that these perspectives (as has always been true with classic religions) are constituted by assumptions and presuppositions, shape allegiances, provide frameworks for cultivating community (either in person or virtually), and inform ways of living. Researchers may have to use new methodologies (such as the use of worldviews surveys) to get this information, but when they do, they will discover that Nones are something.
Because we each possess a worldview, the correct number for Nones is 0.