I am so, so sorry to repeat a story that will be oh-so familiar to longtime GetReligion readers. Honest, I apologize in advance.
But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. The subject material requires it.
In a way, that’s the Big Idea at the center of this week’s “Crossroads” podcast (click here to tune that in) which returns to one of the biggest religion stories of the late 20th and early 21st centuries — the rise of all of those religiously unaffiliated Americans that headline writers like to call the “Nones.”
That’s a religion story. No doubt about it.
But it has political implications. No doubt about it.
Why is that? Because sometimes ancient religious beliefs have strong political implications in the modern public square.
So where are we going to start, once again? Set the the WABAC Machine for the summer of 2008, when a circle of journalists — mostly from Africa and Asia — met in the old Washington Journalism Center seminar room to discuss how religion and politics collide in modern America. The speaker was scholar-pollster John C. Green of the University of Akron and, at that time, the Pew Researcher Center. The line-graph that he drew on the whiteboard that day was packed with insights that would show up in the seismic 2012 Pew study on the rapid rise of the “Nones.”
As I wrote, several years ago here at GetReligion:
On the right side of the American religious marketplace, defined in terms of doctrine and practice, is a camp of roughly 20 percent (maybe less) of believers who are seriously trying to practice their chosen faith at the level of daily life, said Green. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there is a growing camp of people who are atheists, agnostics or vaguely spiritual believers who define their beliefs primarily in terms of the old doctrines that they no longer believe. This is especially true when it comes to issues of salvation and sex. As the old saying goes, on these issues these spiritual-but-not-religious believers reject all absolute truths except the statement that there are no absolute truths.
This is a natural home for large numbers of the religiously unaffiliated, especially the young.