People with no religion, ‘Nones,’ are rising in number

As Protestants decline, people with no religion, “Nones”, are rising in number. Protestants are less than half of Americans, while Nones are one in five.

  • In the 1960s, two in three Americans called themselves Protestant. Now the Protestant group — both evangelical and mainline — has slid below the statistical waters, down to 48%, from 53% in 2007.
  • It’s not because they switched to a different religion; they just let go of any faith affiliation or label — and thus became what sociologists now refer to as ‘Nones.’
  • The figures come from Nones on the Rise, a new study released by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life
  • In its executive summary Pew says that in the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults.
  • Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%)
  • And yet the survey also finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way
  • With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. Overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.
  • Pew also notes that

    In addition to religious behavior, the way that Americans talk about their connection to religion seems to be changing. Increasingly, Americans describe their religious affiliation in terms that more closely match their level of involvement in churches and other religious organizations.

    In 2007, 60% of those who said they seldom or never attend religious services nevertheless described themselves as belonging to a particular religious tradition. In 2012, just 50% of those who say they seldom or never attend religious services still retain a religious affiliation — a 10-point drop in five years.

    These trends suggest that the ranks of the unaffiliated are swelling in surveys partly because Americans who rarely go to services are more willing than in the past to drop their religious attachments altogether.

  • Just 10% of those who describe their current religion as “nothing in particular” say they are looking for a religion that is right for them; 88% say they are not. Nevertheless, there is substantial switching from unaffiliated to affiliated. In the current survey, four-in-ten adults who say they were raised unaffiliated now identify themselves as religiously affiliated.

Download the full reportoffsite PDF file
Why are fewer Americans identifying with a religion?
Just half of Britons now call themselves Christian; ‘nones’ growing
Growing numbers shed organized church for loose spiritual sensibility

From our ‘Only in Italy’ file: a priest arrested for carrying a concealed handgun on a ferry told police he was ‘asked to get rid of it during a confession.’

  • Security guards discovered the .9 calibre handgun when it showed up — nestled between a Bible and set of rosary beads — during an x-ray check as the priest, dressed in black robes and wearing a dog collar, boarded a ferry at Civitavecchia, north of Rome.
  • In jail the priest insisted for several hours that Catholic doctrine banned him from revealing details as the gun had been given to him during a confession.
  • The Daily Mail notes that under the Catholic Church’s Canon Law, ‘it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason’.
  • Eventually the priest told police that it had been handed to him by a ’70 year old parishoner’ who had asked him to get rid of it and he had planned to throw it into the sea mid voyage.
  • The priest will appear before a judge today for a preliminary hearing.

More doctors honor religious objections to blood transfusions: For years, many doctors have resisted accommodating religious tenets that they believe endanger their patients. But more physicians are practicing within the confines of religious restrictions, even when it might put their patients’ lives at risk.

  • Although alternatives to transfusions have been around for years, more physicians are weighing patients’ spiritual well-being and peace of mind as part of their treatment.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses — theologically a cult of Christianity, and thus outside the boundaries of the Christian faith — are well-known for their objections to blood transfusions.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses cite Acts 15 in their own New World translation of the Holy Scriptures to explain their objection to blood transfusions. “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”

    Most Christians believe that verse denounces pagan rituals such as eating and drinking blood. But Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret it as a prohibition on accepting blood that has been removed and stored. They also point to four verses in Leviticus and three verses in Deuteronomy to demonstrate that any blood spilled and not eaten (referring to animal blood) should not be reused, but given back to God.

    Note that the New World Translation is a bible version used only by Jehovah’s Witnesses. It includes inaccurate translations meant to support various unbiblical doctrines of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the legal organization behind the Jehovah’s Witnesses

  • While the Watch Tower claims to represent God on earth, its leaders have flip-flopped on many issues, including their views on blood
  • The website of Witnesses for Jesus, which reaches out to Jehovah’s Witnesses, includes the online book, Biblical Answers To Questions Jehovah’s Witnesses Ask. Several chapters in the book address the movement’s teachings regarding blood.
  • Associated Jehovah’s Witnesses For Reform on Blood is operated by current Jehovah’s Witnesses who wish to see the organization change its stance on the subject.

Pope Benedict launched a campaign to bring lapsed believers back to the Roman Catholic fold on Sunday, Reuters reports.

  • About 300 bishops from around the world are gathered in Rome for the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
  • Headed by the pope, the synod (a Church conference of bishops) has as its theme, “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.”
  • The synod’s working document speaks of the need to address the divergence between Catholic values and the reality of modern life in Europe and North America, and an “educational emergency” of children no longer being taught the faith.

Speaking of the pope, the Religion Newswriters Association has a good primer for religion reporters: Assessing Benedict XVI: Resources for covering the pope. This ReligionLink report will also be of interest to other researchers.

Church of England bans jam and marmalade from fetes because of new food hygiene rules.

Apparently it’s not a belated, or early, April Fool’s joke. Referring to a circular from the Churches’ Legislation Advisory Service, the Church of England has written to parishes warning them that conserves should not be sold in jars that have been previously used because of new food-hygiene regulations.

  • Churches are worried about the ban because jams and marmalades have been a staple of church fetes for centuries, and are a vital source of parish funds.
  • Canon Michael Tristram, of Portsmouth Cathedral is “anxious,” the Telegraph says, “not only from the fund-raising point of view for all our churches, but, also, because it goes against the green agenda of recycling.”
  • The circular cited the FSA’s “Guidance Notes for Food Business Operators on Food Safety, Traceability, Product Withdrawal and Recall.”
  • But an FSA spokesman appears to offer some hope: “With an occasional event, like a fund-raiser, our advice would be that that would probably not be considered to be a food business.”
  • The madness is spreading: Church officials ban plants from graveyards over health and safety fears

After hot yoga, extreme yoga and yoga clubbing, what could be next? How about facial yoga, designed to keep the face youthful-looking?

Here are some things you might not know about yoga


Religion News Blog (RNB) provides an almost-daily selection of religion news — selected by religion- and cult experts.

RNB has a particular focus on issues dealing with groups and movements often referred to as ‘cults,’ ‘sects,’ or ‘abusive churches.’ We also cover related issues — including religious persecution and human rights.

We include a dash of opinion and perhaps a touch of humor, along with links to the original sources plus additional research resources.

Religion News Blog is an excellent way to quickly catch up on today’s top religion news reports, key facts, and other religion information sources.

Make sure you don’t miss a single article: Subscribe by email


If you see anything that you think should be included in Religion News Briefs? Let us know.

Vacation? Short break? Day trip? Get Skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)

Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday October 9, 2012.
Last updated if a date shows here:


More About This Subject


Our website includes affiliate links, which means we get a small commission -- at no additional cost to you -- for each qualifying purpose. For instance, as an Amazon Associate, Religion News Blog earns from qualifying purchases. That is one reason why we can provide this research service free of charge.

Speaking of which: One way in which you can support us — at no additional cost to you — is by shopping at