Episode 84 - The Challenge Of The Rise Of The “Nones”

July 18, 2011

A stimulating discussion of the most important trend in American religion by leading demographer Barry Kosmin.

On October 9, 2010, the Council for Secular Humanism presented its 30th anniversary conference at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. The conference’s concluding session opened with an exclusive presentation by sociologist Barry Kosmin, research professor in the Public Policy & Law Program at Trinity College, founding director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture, and a principal investigator of the American Religious Identification Survey. He is best known for documenting the rapid increase in the number of Americans who report no religious preference, which doubled during the 1990s. Members of this group are called “nones” because when asked their religious preference, they give an answer equivalent to “none of the above.”

In his lecture and the questions that follow, Dr. Kosmin presents the facts and their implications, both for American society as a whole and for the strategy leading atheist, humanist, and freethought organizations might most profitably adopt in response.

The session was chaired by Tom Flynn, executive director of the Council for Secular Humanism and editor of Free Inquiry magazine.


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Episode 84 - The Challenge Of The Rise Of The “Nones”



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I spent most of my life in the anti-clerical group. When I found a group of people who happened to be in a church, with a pastor that I liked, I was recruited. This church was designed for people like me who would never join a church from the standard model. We worked on social issues, walked in gay pride parades and read controversial books from the Jesus Seminar. The point is, they out-marketed the atheist groups. A few are getting the idea that they need to have activities that people can participate in, things that make a difference in the world that express those values formerly associated with gods.

Eventually I had too many questions, but I had to find answers myself. There are plenty of books, but most are a choice between “there is no god, here is why” and “okay, religion has some problems, but try looking at it this way.” That second category is growing and I suspect will do much better than the evangelicals ever did. There are a few that acknowledge the awe and mystery of the universe without using a supernatural explanation and acknowledge the contributions of religious scripture and religious leaders while also acknowledging the evils that have been perpetrated, sometimes by the very same people. We need more of that.

Posted on Jul 26, 2011 at 8:26am by Lausten Comment #1