I read with interest “The Coming Age Of The Nones” in Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish blog.
Apparently, I’m not alone in my agnostic ways. A growing number of people, referred to as “Nones”, are reporting that they have no religious beliefs and are turning away from organized religion. They are not becoming atheists but are skeptical and distancing themselves from organized religion, particularly Catholicism and fundamentalist Protestant denominations.
No doubt, some of this is a reflection of the sex abuse crisis. But the intellectual collapse of Christianity under the leadership of Protestant fundamentalists and Catholic theocons is surely relevant. The well-deserved inability of literalists to win many converts among educated people is also surely salient. The emergence of the politicized Christianist right – and its assault on Christianity as a freely chosen spiritual process – will surely lead to a continued and accelerating flight from organized religion.
Mr. Sullivan’s analysis of the political breakdown is interesting. The numbers of Independents and Democrats among the Nones has grown over the last decade while the number of Republicans who are Nones has decreased dramatically. He sees the Republican party as becoming an essentially Christianist fundamentalist party. I’ve casually noticed that a lot of fundamentalist zealots also tend to be Republicans.
And yet they do not dismiss the possibility of a God they do not understand; and refuse to call themselves atheists. This is the fertile ground on which a new Christianity will at some point grow. In the end, the intellectual bankruptcy of the theocon right and Christianist movement counts. Very few people with brains are listening to these people any more. They have discredited Christianity as much as they have tarnished conservatism.
The idea of a new form of Christianity arising is interesting though I’d be hesitant to align myself with such a movement. As in my political thoughts, I tend to be like Franklin and Jefferson in my approach to religion. Like Franklin, I tend to be tolerant and accepting of people’s religious beliefs although I do get a little peeved when their practice of religious freedom infringes upon the rights of others to practice theirs. And like Jefferson, I like Christ’s precepts and I’m a bit put off by mythology, the rituals, and the supernatural concepts that seem to require blind faith at the expense of reason. I have nothing against faith but there should be a balance.
Am I a None? Possibly, if only for the sake of choosing a category. My sister once described our religious affiliation as “non-church-goer” which summed it up pretty well. Still, I think I’ve gone beyond that. Christianity forms the foundation of my “God concept” but I see no problem in investigating and adapting other ideas. Like the foundation of a building, you don’t just mixed sand with the concrete. You add gravel, stones, and rebar to strengthen it.
Don’t look for me in a church, a synagogue, a mosque or a temple. You probably won’t find me dancing naked around a bonfire in some pagan or Wiccan ritual either, although you may find me dancing naked around a fire just for fun. Oh, don’t call me spiritual. I acknowledge spirituality but it is not any sort of focus or driving force. I have found that most people who call themselves spiritual are really lost and desperately grasping at any belief structure that gives them momentary comfort.