Losing My Religion: Are non-religious people bad for America?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Losing My Religin
Deities, angels and saints aglow! These luminous images of godlike figures appear in R.E.M.'s video for 'Losing My Religion.' (See the video below.)

Deities, angels and saints aglow! These luminous images of godlike figures appear in R.E.M.’s video for ‘Losing My Religion.’ (See the video below.)

From Dr. Wayne Baker: Welcome back Terry Gallagher, who last week wrote about values associated with exchanging favors. Here is Terry’s first column in a new series …

Even though Losing My Religion became R.E.M.’s greatest global hit—the fact is that religion and religious affiliation remain strong in most parts around the world.

So, what do we make of the “Nones”—America’s most rapidly growing “religious” group? These are people who respond to pollsters’ standard questions about religious affiliation with the option: “None.” These millions of men and women now comprise nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population and a third of adults under age 30, according to reports from the Pew Research Center.

But the story isn’t as simple as a rejection of religion. In December, Wayne Baker explored this trend in an OurValues column and concluded: “Within this broad category, some people do have spiritual and religious beliefs—they just don’t identify with any specific religious group.”

Certainly, there are plenty of good reasons for thoughtful people to reject traditional religions and their constraints. To be clear, most of the Nones do not consider themselves atheists. In fact, many Nones have rich spiritual lives.

Care to meet someone who is a spiritual counselor to these folks? Tom Stella is the featured author interview this week in the main pages of Read The Spirit. Stella argues that we should welcome them and their points of view, even if they differ sharply from traditional religious beliefs.

The first question I hope you’ll consider this week in Our Values is this: Why are so many of us worried about these men and women? In some interesting new data from the Pew Research Center, nearly half of Americans—48 percent—say the growing number of “people who are not religious” is bad for American society.

While 11 percent say the trend is good for the country, 39 percent say that it doesn’t make much difference. Overall, then, we’re evenly split on whether to worry about our neighbors who have chosen not to make religious affiliation a part of their lives.

But, you’ve got to wonder: Why do these men and women make half of the population so nervous?

How about you?

Does it matter that traditional religious affiliation is declining?

Is it bad for the country? Or doesn’t it matter?

R.E.M.: Losing My Religion

Here is the entire song from the band R.E.M. Released in 1991, the song still ranks as the band’s highest-charting single. In interviews after the song’s release, singer and lyricist Michael Stipe explained the meaning in various ways: Once, he said it was a metaphor for losing one’s temper; more often, he said it was about romantic obsession with a loved one. But as this music video shows, the song has evolved into an anthem for spiritual seekers. (NOTE: If you don’t see a video screen in your version of this column, try clicking on the column’s headline to reload the page.)

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Comments

  1. David Thompson says:

    I am not worried at all about the “nones”, many have rich spiritual lives as has been said. The religious fanatics of any ilk are who worry me!!!!!! The vicious intolerance of any deviance from rigid dogma is where the danger lies for us all. Where there is war and violence; there is religion at the bottom of it everywhere! Muslim vs. Hindu, Muslim vs. Jews, Christian against other Christians, etc., etc. Idealists and fanatics of any religion do the most damage to human beings throughout all of our limited history and the demagogues know and manipulate this endlessly. Organized Religion has done more evil then most political systems to all of us.

  2. Religious types are going to be alarmed, in reality, not because some folks are “nones,” but that the “nones” remind religious folk just how fabricated most of their faith-structures and ideas are. It’s the classic case of the child crying out, “The king is naked.” For me, as a religious person, a christian, for all of my life, I welcome the “nones” – their contribution to thought and politics is needed, and it would be a mistake for a religious person to assume that the “nones” have it all settled in their own minds. Life is flux. For everyone. The greater the mix of people the healthier a society. Christians, by the way, have lived a destructive myth – that christianity is superior to all other faith-expressions. It isn’t. And if track records are compared, christianity’s track record is about as good as or bad as any other religion or political expression. If anything, the changing culture of America calls christians to a new experience – that of humility. If there is a god as Jesus suggested, this god treasures humility; and if Jesus is “god,” then the picture of god so portrayed is one of utmost humility. Clearly, a strange and unnerving experience for “empire christians.”

  3. Sandra Xenakis says:

    I’m one of the “Nones” and I consider myself a very spiritual person. I believe in a Higher Power (call it whatever you like) and that we are all part of it. I just don’t like the constraints of organized religion. I used to be Catholic, but I no longer believe much of what the church teaches so I can’t call myself a Catholic, or even a Christian at this point. I think many people who attend church regularly are threatened by those who don’t. Most of the judgmental and controlling people I’ve met are affiliated with organized religion and don’t even practice what their religions teach about kindness and compassion. I don’t believe any one religion is the “right” one and that all the others are “wrong.” It’s up to the individual to decide what to believe and how to live. Just as I would never force my spiritual views on anyone else, I ask that they not force theirs on me.