The Devout and the Nones

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First Things - Web Exclusives

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According to new data from the General Social Survey, America is increasingly divided between the very religious and the “Nones,” while the number of people in-between the two extremes—those with a weak religious affiliation, who consider themselves only somewhat religious—is declining.

In recent years, sociologists have focused on the so-called “rise of the Nones,” a sharp increase in the percentage of Americans who claim no religious affiliation. According to most surveys, roughly one-fifth of Americans now belong in this category—a remarkable increase since the 1990s. Among young Americans, the figure is even higher: Roughly one-third are Nones. Sociologists attribute this rise to several factors, including demographic changes and the sexual revolution (many Nones say they reject organized religion because of its retrograde attitudes about sexuality, especially homosexuality and gender identity). The rise of the Nones is often considered a confirmation of the so-called secularization thesis, according to which America—like other Western liberal democracies—will inevitably become less and less religious over time until religion withers away.