The new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life report shows a big increase in what the report calls "Nones", i.e. those Americans who have no religious affiliation. Fully 20% of Americans now qualify as a "None", which includes atheists, agnostics, and those who respond to a question about their faith by replying "Nothing In Particular".
This group includes a record high number of atheists and agnostics, now nearly 6% of the American population. And while the majority of Nones are not atheists, nor are they looking to belong to any church, or have religion be any dominant player in their lives.
The number of Nones has risen dramatically since the beginning of the economic crisis, and particularly since 2010, when the Tea Party thrust many rabidly religious evangelical politicians into positions of power in Congress.
Just this week, for example, a great uproar was created about the remarks of Georgia Congressman Paul Broun, who sits as chairman of the House oversight subcommittee on science, space and technology. Broun, in a video recorded at a gathering of hunters at a Baptist church, said that he believed whole areas of science, including evolution, were products of Satan, and that he used the Bible as his main tool to understand science and craft public policy.
There are now widespread calls for Broun's removal from his science committee positions, and the controversy has focused attention on the domination of public policy by so many of these same, essentially medieval-minded, Christians.
The Pew Religion report also said that, politically, the rise of the Nones benefits Democrats and hurts Republicans. Almost ¾ of Nones who are registered voters are Democrats or lean Democratic Party, and most of these self-describe as "liberal", not "conservative". In fact, ¼ of all Democrats are Nones, and that demographic is larger than many other religiously affiliated groups in the Democratic Party, including Catholics.
Further, the report showed that the increase of Nones is a generational change, with each succeeding generation of Americans having less interest in organized religion. Now, ⅓ of what are described as "Younger Millennials", those born between 1990-1994, identify as a None.
While the USA is still strongly religious, especially for an allegedly modern nation, these trends suggest a long-term erosion of religious faith in America, which, given the disastrous consequences of actually exercising an unlimited freedom of religion, is a hopeful movement.
Give Nones a chance!