According to the Pew Research Center's data gathered in 2007 and 2014, the “nones,” a category that includes people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, as well as those who say their religion is “nothing in particular,” now make up 23% of U.S. adults, up from 16% in 2007. (1) Using simple mathematics, one can see that the difference between 23 and 16 is 7%. That's 7% in 7 years, which amounts to a 1% increase in this group per year. At that rate, if nothing happens to interrupt this trend, theistic religions could be extinct by 2091.
Not only are the nones growing, but they are becoming more secular. Of the nones that don't identify as atheist or agnostic, only 27% say they are absolutely certain of a god's existence, down from 36% in 2007.
Why is this happening? I believe there are two reasons. The first involves a change in parenting strategies for the better. When I was a child, the popular parenting tag line was "because I said so." Children were supposed to just accept something because an older and supposedly wiser person told them to. Thankfully, we have finally started encouraging children to question, to think critically, and given them the freedom and the right to make up their own minds about things. Consequently, they are challenging the traditional paradigms because when evaluated in the light of day, many of the traditional paradigms do not reflect the positive, progressive values which reside in every human being and which we want to encourage society to embrace. Secondly, human beings are tired of being told how bad they are. How flawed, imperfect, sinful, unacceptable and broken they are. This approach never accomplishes anything constructive and, in fact, it encourages an egregious error in thinking about the nature of humanity.
Does this mean churches will close? It doesn't have to. If churches can remain relevant and change with the times, they might stand a chance. Because believe it or not, one does not have to believe in a god, a creed, or a particular doctrine to find a church that is relevant to one's needs, ideology or lifestyle. Enter the Unitarian Universalist Church.
Are you one of those people who describes themselves as "spiritual but not religious?" This is the place for you. Are you LGBTQ and having a hard time finding a community that is accepting and inclusive? We've got your back. Are you absolutely convinced there is no god but still want to be part of a loving community of fellow life travelers? We welcome you. Are you having trouble fitting into the conservative fundamentalist paradigm because it seems rigid and judgmental? No problem.
We celebrate our differences and urge you to do the same. Join us as we combat hate with love and compassion. Combine your talents with ours as we try to find ways to take on the social challenges of our society. Explore how to find purpose and meaning in life outside the traditional paradigm. Don't want to get up and come on Sunday morning? Come to one of our weekly covenant groups or affinity groups instead. Feel uncomfortable with dogma? We'll encourage you to engage in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning tht takes you down your own individual path. Conformity is not necessary or encouraged.
Judie C. McMath is a member of All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church, 730 N. Tejon Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Visit http://www.uua.org/ to find a Unitarian Universalist congregation near you.
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Copyright 2017 Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living
Why Our Children Will Be Atheists: The Last 100 Years of Religion and the Dawn of a world without Gods. By Albert Williams