Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood

Homosexual Acceptance = Spiritual But Not Religious? “American Grace” and the Rise of the Nones


There’s an interesting Q&A over at the Faith and Leadership Network today with Robert Putnam, co-author of the book American Grace, which I and others have blogged about recently. One of the book’s most surprising findings is the dramatic increase in the “nones”– those Americans, particularly young adults, who have no religious affiliation. That number could be as high as 25 or 30 percent in the young adult age group, a percentage that has increased rapidly.


Putnam says in the interview:

The fraction of Americans who disclaimed religious identity until 1990 had been essentially flat for a very long time — as long as we have records, actually. It was flat at about 5 or 7 percent.

But then, especially among young people, that has grown very rapidly since 1990. I think there’s a misunderstanding by all sides that it’s somehow to do with atheism. But it actually isn’t to do with atheism hardly at all. Most of these young nones say they believe in God. Most of them were raised in a religious home, and indeed most of them went to Sunday school or religious education of some sort. These are not people who have no exposure to religion, and they’re not people who reject the whole idea of religion. Many of them say that religion is important to them personally. A significant number of them even attend church occasionally.


But they reject the existing menu of organized religious alternatives in America. Most of the explanation for the rise — and this is another misunderstanding — by far the largest single cause, is that these are young people who are moderate to liberal.

According to Putnam, one of the greatest single indicators of whether someone will be affiliated with an organized religion is how he or she feels about homosexuality. Those who embrace homosexuals as equals are far more likely to reject organized religion, even if they pray regularly or have a belief in God.

Apparently the American church’s judgmentalism is one of its greatest turnoffs.

  • Jay

    “Apparently the American church’s judgmentalism is one of its greatest turnoffs.”
    As a gay man and an ex-Catholic, I can relate. As more and more people realize that homosexuality isn’t something one chooses, it becomes harder and harder to accept those that continue to use it as a way to divide people rather than bring them together. If you believe for a second that Jesus would have shunned anyone for being different, then you don’t understand His teachings.
    Thankfully, I was able to find my way back to God through His words and teachings, not through those that purport to be His representatives.

  • Mark Baker-Wright

    I don’t feel this way personally, but I feel it deserves noting that, for many (especially those who are conservative on the issue) an “embrace” of homosexuals would be considered a textbook definition of being “liberal.” If one wants to demonstrate that these things are not synonymous, it seems that some time needs to be spent unpacking what the term “liberal” means–or, perhaps, to demonstrate the existence of those who “embrace” those who are homosexual while remaining conservative on other grounds.
    This shouldn’t be too hard to do, but it seems to me work that still needs to be done.

  • kenneth

    This younger generation is smart enough to see that most of organized religion is people using God as a sock puppet to promote their own political and economic agendas.

  • Larry Ogan

    Mark: I’m not sure if your implying that all Gays are liberals but I asure you that homosexuality crosses all political, reglious and social lines. Search Log Cabin Republicans.
    As for the “Nones”, that is a complex issue and a major disscussion that needs to happen in all religions.

  • Course Correction

    Interesting that Putnam finds homosexuality is the issue which turns most young Americans from organized religion. Mars Hill Church, a reformed Calvinist church in Seattle, has experienced phenomenal growth in the traditionally non-religious Pacific NW. Mars Hill is a very conservative church: no pre-marital sex, men support their families and are head of the home–but Mars Hill takes no stand against gay marriage.

  • Mr. Incredible, in the Name of Jesus

    ==Homosexual Acceptance = Spiritual But Not Religious?==
    Mr. Incredible asks:
    Which spirit we talkin’ about? See 1 John 4:1 [KJV]

  • Mark Baker-Wright

    I’m specifically saying that it is NOT true that “all gays are liberal.” However, this is a widely enough held assumption that any report that seeks to demonstrate the feelings about homosexuality have more to do (in this case) why people don’t want to be called “Christian” than being “liberal”, simply must spend the time to demonstrate that there IS a disconnect between being liberal and embracing gays as equals.

  • Shawn

    Woah, easy there on the use of loaded word “judgmentalism.” I’d say a good number of modern churches are fairly open and accepting of homosexuals. Even Mormons have come a long way in the past 2 years. And then again, since when did taking a stand on an issue equate with judgmentalism? Christ loved the sinner to be sure, but he was anything but tolerant of sin itself. I think you’d have to put Christ in your “judgmental” column.

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