Religious “nones”—those who answer “none of the above” on religious identification surveys—are the fastest-growing cohort of young adults in the United States, Western Europe and parts of Latin America. They are also among the most stigmatized groups in religiously conservative parts of the developing world. Yet many of them are deeply committed to values like tolerance, service and economic justice that are vital to healthy, stable societies.
Their sheer numbers in the West have already begun to reshape conversations about ethics and belief. And the deep penetration of social media in the global South, particularly among Millennials, will likely mean that individualism—the touchstone of both globalization and religious disaffiliation—will shape religious culture even in parts of the world where affiliation trends remains high.
Photo Credit: Sarah Gould
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“While spirituality without religion appears to be a new phenomenon today, the historical emergence of contemporary Eastern spirituality movements like Vipassana in the 1970s suggests that the groundwork for this type of spirituality was laid by counter-culture segments of earlier generations.”
“A Meditation on the Nones”
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- Steven Barrie-AnthonyContributing FellowSteven Barrie-Anthony is a scholar and writer who examines spiritual and religious innovation and change and its impacts on public life, such as on styles of civic and political action.
- Richard FlorySenior Director of Research and EvaluationRichard Flory is a sociologist whose work focuses on religion and urban life, religious and cultural change, and youth and young adults.
- Jonathan RussellContributing FellowJonnie Russell is a scholar engaging religion, philosophy and politics, and a chaplain working for social justice on Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles.
- Nick StreetSenior WriterNick Street is a journalist covering religious change and innovation, Buddhism, Pentecostalism and LGBT issues.
- Megan SweasEditor and Director of CommunicationsMegan Sweas is a journalist specializing in social and economic justice issues and world religions.