The decline of the Nones!

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"αθεοι" (atheoi), Greek for "those without god", as it appears in the Epistle to the Ephesians on a third-century papyrus.

Nones by region, 2015 Pew estimate

Nones by region, 2015 Pew estimate

In a new set of religious population projections, the Pew Research Center contends that Nones are declining proportionally worldwide. Or as Pew Fact Tank blogger Michael Lipka couches it:

For years, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has been rising, a trend similar to what has been happening in much of Europe (including the United Kingdom). Despite this trend, in coming decades, the global share of religiously unaffiliated people is expected to fall, according to the Pew Research Center’s new study on the future of world religion.

Now one could argue that ideas of religious identity and affiliation vary too greatly around the globe for this to mean very much, but let’s leave the methodological debate to the professionals. If we’re prepared to compare apples and oranges, then it seems to me that somewhere, somehow, the good folks at Pew could have seen fit to mention that, according to their projections, North America will be the world leader in Nones by the middle of this century — bounding ahead of both Europe and the Asia-Pacific to over one-quarter of the population.

This would indicate that it’s time to retire the piece of American exceptionalism that celebrates the United States as an outlier among the advanced, industrial nations in its degree of religious commitment. It would suggest that Europe and America are more alike than different when it comes to religious identification. It would invite a useful discussion of comparative religiosity among the world’s regions.

In other words, it’s a “fact” worth highlighting.