GetReligion readers: Please raise your hand if you have read a news report that discusses the "Nones."
OK, I imagine that this is 100 percent of you. I would think that 90-plus percent of you have read a piece in the past week or so that references, in some way, the Pew Forum's famous "Nones on the Rise" research. I would be hard pressed to name a religion-news related survey, during the past quarter century or more, that has received more coverage.
"Nones," of course, fits better in a headline than the term "religiously unaffiliated," meaning the rising number of Americans -- especially the young -- who say that they no longer affiliate with any particular religious organization, tradition or even heritage.
One of the big problems with that blast of data in 2012 is that many people see the term "None" and immediately think that it means "none," in terms of people having no religious beliefs at all or interest in their own solo, improvised, evolving version of spirituality. Yes, think Sheila and her tribe.
Personally, I think the religiously unaffiliated numbers are tremendously important and I've been following that trend -- reading scholar John C. Green and others -- for more than a decade.
We need more research on this, especially in terms of how it affects (1) marriage and family demographics and (2) which religious traditions rise and which ones fall. The bottom line: Demographics is destiny.
This brings me to a recent Religion News Service feature that I think needs to stand on its own as a weekend think piece, pointing readers toward a new study building on all of those Pew numbers. Yes, the political spin is justified. Here's how this piece opens:
(RNS) A quarter of U.S. adults do not affiliate with any religion, a new study shows — an all-time high in a nation where large swaths of Americans are losing faith.