January 2, 2013

Rise of the Nones to Continue in 2013

In writing his end-of-the-year piece for CNN's Belief Blog, Dan Gilgoff explained five things he has learned while editing the blog. The whole list is interesting, but take a look at #2:
2.) The explosion of people with no religion will be a huge story in this century, and the news media have only begun to explore its many implications. CNN reporter Dan Merica has led the news media pack in reporting on what the growth of “religious nones” means for American politics and for the burgeoning movement of activist atheists, which represents only a small portion of those with no religion. There are countless other stories to be found among the tens of millions of religious “nones” - about making meaning, tradition and ethics in a post-religious existence. These stories won’t be provoked by press releases. If you’re a religious “none,” speak up. Let the news media know what we should be covering in your world.
He's right. This story gained real traction in 2012, and is likely to continue in 2013.

I really like Gilgoff's point about the importance of us speaking up and helping the news media decide what to cover. As new as this all seems for some of us, we have to expect it will seem even less familiar for people working in the traditional news media. We should be ready to work with them where possible.

Assuming the trends continue, those without religious affiliation may soon become a powerful voting block, an important demographic for business, and a group that can no longer be ignored or marginalized. If it is beginning to feel like we are approaching a critical time, I think that may be because we are. It is up to us to take charge of our narrative before it is done for us.

As we all know, a relatively small number of the religiously unaffiliated identify themselves as atheists. Their numbers include unaffiliated theists and atheists who do not realize they are atheists or do not want to acknowledge it. I believe that one of the most important things we could do this year involves reaching out to both of these groups. Those who are already atheists and simply unaware or reluctant to admit it should be fairly easy to reach, but we need to be ready and willing to reach out. And of course, it would be a mistake to ignore the religiously unaffiliated theists. I expect that some of them could prove to be powerful allies in protecting the separation of church and state and other common goals.