Almost one-third of Americans (28%) are religiously unaffiliated or “nones,” according to a new study from the Pew Research Center released on January 24. The report aims to field frequently asked questions about this group.

Religion scholars have used the term “nones” since the 1960s to categorize people who identify as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” When asked to describe their religion, “nones” identify most as “nothing in particular” (63%), followed by agnostic (20%) and atheist (17%). 

When asked why they are nonreligious, 60% of “nones” are skeptical of religious teachings, and 32% don’t believe in God or a higher power. Nearly 50% of “nones” claim to not “like religious organizations,” and 30% of those surveyed say they have had “bad experiences with religious people.”

Regarding civic and political engagement, Pew found this group is “less civically engaged and socially connected than people who identify with a religion.” 

Seventeen percent of “nones” volunteered in their communities last year, compared to 27% of religiously affiliated respondents. Thirty-nine percent of “nones” voted in the 2022 election compared to 51% of those religiously affiliated. Twenty- seven percent of “nones” contacted an elected official or attended a government meeting last year compared to 30% of religiously affiliated respondents.

The research organization found that “nones” aren’t regular attendees of religious services, though most “believe in God as described in the Bible” (13%) or “another higher power” (56%). Twenty-nine percent of “nones” believe in neither. 

Most “nones” don’t believe in heaven (61%) or hell (69%). But most (67%) believe that people have both a soul/ spirit and a physical body. 

Almost half (49%) of “nones” see themselves as spiritual and say that spirituality is “very important to them.” In comparison, Pew points out that 79% of respondents who are religiously affiliated feel the same way while noting that “these spiritual identities and beliefs are not unique to ‘nones.’”

Most “nones” (90%) “seldom/ never” attend religious services. Only 3% say they attend a religious service monthly, and 7% attend “a few times a year.” 

This is compared to 1 in 4 of the religiously affiliated respondents who attend a religious service monthly (41%) and 19% who say they attend “a few times a year.” The survey also found that forty percent of religiously affiliated respondents say they “seldom/ never” attend religious services.

“Nones” have mixed views when it comes to religion. Overall, 43% believe religion does “more harm than good” whereas 14% say it “does more good than harm.” Forty-one percent of respondents say religion does “equal amounts of good and harm.”

More than half (56%) believe science “does more good than harm in American society” compared to 40% of the religiously affiliated. “Nones” also say there is “something spiritual beyond the natural world” (63%) and science “can’t possibly explain” everything (56%).

“Nones” were also asked what they think about morality. Most (83%) say the “desire to avoid hurting people” is essential when deciding between right and wrong. This is followed closely by logic and reason (82%).

To read the survey questions, click here. For the survey’s methodology, click here. To read the full report, click here.

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