A lot of (mostly dull) things have been said about the Pew study: I’ll blog about it properly soon- but this is one of the more interesting comments, which I thought picked out key issues…
Originally posted on irritually:
As I noted earlier, the Pew Forum released a report two days ago about religious disaffiliation in the United States entitled “‘Nones’ on the Rise.” As one might imagine Pew has been publicizing this report in a variety of ways, but often by emphasizing one particular finding at a time. That’s why they tweeted a table not long ago that shows how those who claim to be “spiritual, not religious” stack up against the “religious” and those who claim to be neither spiritual, nor religious.
So what does the table tell us? Well a lot of things actually, but what struck me from the outset was how a good number of Protestants and Catholics are identifying as nonreligious. The largest group in the “spiritual, not religious category” are Protestants. In fact only a third of the people in this category claim no religious affiliation at all. So what does “not religious” mean to those who are linking their own identities to religious institutions and communities? I’m tempted to interpret those who are both Christian and “spiritual, not religious” through the sentiments expressed by the creator of the (in)famous “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.” But if that’s the case then what does identifying with a specific denomination mean? What does it mean to reject religion in it’s institutional sense while still identifying with specific religious institutions? Or put another way if you’re an anti-institutional follower of Jesus what sense does it make to say you’re Catholic or Protestant as well?
The “neither” group is perhaps more perplexing because it includes those who are not even “spiritual” while still identifying as Catholic, Protestant and so on. In fact a full 45% of those who aren’t religious or spiritual still identify with specific religions. Here it makes little to no sense to apply the guess from above. These are clearly not devout, spiritual anti-institutionalists. So what are they? Do they adhere to a European style “cultural religion,” which would make some of them, for instance, “lapsed Catholics?” If that is the case then why are they rejecting the “religion” label? Why accept the label of a specific religion but not the generic?