Why “Nones” Are Leaving the Church

Public Orthodoxy

by Michael Peppard

This essay originally appeared on dotCommonweal on September 23, 2016. 

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The most significant demographic trend in American religion today is the rapidly growing numbers of “unaffiliated” or “nones.” The data has spoken clearly for years, with a rise from about 5% in 1972 to about 25% in 2016. More importantly, almost 40% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 are religiously unaffiliated. This is no mere life-cycle effect, as has been so common in the past. If you find yourself gazing at empty pews this weekend and thinking, They’ll come back when they have kids of their own, you’re in denial.

To the contrary, this is an epochal societal shift disguised as a life-cycle effect, and it remains foolish to avoid the numbers. Recent books by Kaya Oakes and Elizabeth Drescher, among others, have given voices to these numbers. Queries about what the nones…

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