As an aspiring author I’ve been getting better acquainted with my audience, and it’s an audience I find it easy to self-identify with (Christian ministerial credentials aside). A poll recently released by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has been helpful.
People without a religious affiliation- the so-called “nones” who represent a large proportion of the “restless souls” I’m writing for in Grace Sticks– are on the rise, the poll finds. It also reveals some eye-opening things about the now one out of five Americans who say they are either “spiritual but not religious” or “neither spiritual nor religious”:
- 42% of the unaffiliated describe themselves as neither a religious nor a spiritual person, 18% say they are a religious person, and 37% say they are spiritual but not religious
- nearly half of the “spiritual but not religious” say they pray daily (as opposed to nearly three-quarters of those who are “religious”)
- more than 90 percent of the “spiritual but not religious” claim a belief in God, but are less sure about that belief than self-described “religious” people
- there are more women than men among the “nones”
- the “spiritual but not religious” tend to be older on average than those who describe themselves as neither “spiritual” nor “religious,” and they are more likely to be living with a partner and/or divorced, separated or widowed than those who are neither “spiritual” nor “religious”
- the unaffiliated when considered as a whole (both the “spiritual but not religious” and the “not religious or spiritual”) largely fall within the ages of 18-64
- “about three-in-ten of the unaffiliated describe their religion as either atheist (12%) or agnostic (17%), while about seven-in-ten describe their religion as ‘nothing in particular’ (71%).”
- the unaffiliated are more suspicious of organized religion, citing money and power, rules and politics as the basis for their suspicion; but they also express strong levels of conviction (only a bit weaker than those of religious people) that the church plays an important role in helping the poor and needy of society and building community; this said, they’re much less enthusiastic than the religiously affiliated to claim the church as a guardian of morality
My own sense, attested to by experience, is that you don’t have to be “religiously unaffiliated” to be a “restless soul.” The equation is not exclusively one-to-one. In fact I would venture to guess that there are many of us who, despite attending church worship services (if not regularly then at least occasionally) find ourselves on the margins of the church and/or reluctant to join the church for some of the same reasons that the religiously unaffiliated don’t ever attend (i.e., money and power, rules and politics).
We are restless souls because we seek the “More” that we have not found in our churches: more direction; more meaning and truth; and more real and abundant life. Grace Sticks, I hope, will point us in the direction of an answer to our pursuit- to the One who called Himself The Way, The Truth and The Life. If you’re a fellow restless soul, I hope you’ll consider coming along for the ride!