The most dramatic change in American religion over the past two decades is the rise of the so-called “nones.” Nearly one-in-five Americans now have no connection to religion. But surveys show that many of these “nones” still hold to identities that are tied to spirituality.
In the 2012 American National Election Study, 16 percent of Americans were part of the “nones.” People in this group did not belong to any religious group, never attended church, and said religion wasn’t important in their lives.
The survey asked these “nones” how they identified themselves. They were asked to pick from a list of words that might describe them.
Of those with no religion, few considered themselves to be atheists (12 percent) or agnostic (16 percent). Instead, most saw themselves as having a spiritual life. The most common identity was “spiritual but not religious.” Another one-in-ten said they were “non-traditional believers.”
The “nones” are a growing segment of the population, but in this stubbornly religious country, even those with no religion still hold to an identity that is tied to spirituality or belief.