An uptick in the number of Americans who answer surveys on religious affiliation and answer “none” has grown over the last few years, but their influence in the media outweighs their numbers. According to PewForum, “In 2007, 15.3% of U.S. adults answered a question about their current religion by saying they were atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular.’ The number of religiously unaffiliated respondents has ticked up each year since, and now stands at 19.6%.”
None is rightly identified as a religious identity. Those who answer none on surveys of religion have a specific understanding of the nature of reality, truth, goodness, etc. just like any other religion. In order to function, everyone must have a coherent religion-like system of views that could be called a religion, a world and life view, or a philosophy. Like adherents of other religions the Nones have a range of highly committed followers and of apathetic followers. Like other religions None is claimed by those who hold to the faith system as a result of a sound reasoning process and those who pick it for no good reason or simply because they don’t like the alternatives. None is a religion and should be treated like any religion.
The problem comes when the Nones deny their world and life view is a religion per se and then invalidate the religion based justification of arguments of anyone in public discourse. They don’t get that it is never a question of religion or no religion in conversation, but which religion. The Nones are trying to pull a fast one by saying that theirs is not a religion and then go on to disqualify every opposing view that has religious justification. For Nones, other religions are harmless as long as they are completely internal or otherworldly and stay in their assigned realm of irrelevant ceremony and emotional support for the weak. Public discourse based on religious justification? Not allowed! An example is the Hobby Lobby debacle, where the Nones were shocked that religious convictions are not just emotions for Sunday mornings, but as the foundation for operating a large business.
The final step to to establish the None’s narrow orthodoxy of “non”-religion will be to eliminate religious language even from the ceremonies of public life. As evidenced by the Louie Giglio debacle, no slight deviation from a tight orthodoxy of the established faith can be tolerated. He was invited to do the inaugural benediction because of his well-known efforts to end human trafficking. Even though no one suspected that Giglio would mention the gay issue in an inaugural benediction, he nonetheless was disqualified to speak because he failed a test of orthodoxy: believe the Bible says it’s a sin=disqualified, believe the Bible says it’s not a sin=qualify. With many courts and media on their side, their denomination has more power to establish their state sponsored religion than any church.
Not so fast Nones. We’re on to you. It is a dangerous thing to try to eliminate opposing ideas from the unorthodox in public discussion. An established religion in one generation becomes a target of scorn in the next. You may someday discover that an old heresy may become the new orthodoxy. In the mean time, the rest of us will wait for you to get back in the conversation where ideas must be justified with sound arguments rather than through using the power of the state to dismiss competing points of view.