Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 5, 2013

RANDOM THOUGHTS: What about the ‘nones’?

By Dorothy Copus Brush
Chronicle correspondent

CROSSVILLE — It was not a surprise when I saw that both Knoxville and Chattanooga were named one and three in being the most Bible-minded of ten cities in the United States listed by the American Bible Society.

The Barna Group conducted a study over a seven-year period which ended in late 2012. Online and television interviews were held with nation-wide random samples of 42,855 adults during that time. These interviews were held to learn if the respondents were regular Bible readers and if they believed in the accuracy of the Bible.

I was heartened by the results of this study because just a week earlier I felt despair when I read of what is happening in many states. The long article appeared in Boston Magazine and was written by a concerned mother. It all began when her 9-year-old son watched a religious parade and then asked her, “What are we?” She realized her only answer had to be, “We’re nothing.” That was the time to ask how much her children were missing by not having some religion in their lives.

We have all taken surveys about our lives. Often churches are listed with the question of which is attended. That answer is rapidly becoming none of the above. It has become almost standard and as such those who answer that way are known as the “nones.”

Twenty percent of American adults believe in nothing in particular when speaking of religious matters. Forty-six million adults identify themselves as unaffiliated with any religion. Eighty-eight percent have no interest in joining a religious institution. These are the adult nones. But what of their children? 

That is the question this “none” mother pondered because she, as many other parents, had early teaching in the Bible and only as they became adults chose to put it aside.

Recently Dr. Carol E. Lytch, president of Lancaster Theological Seminary, visited Pleasant Hill, TN. While there she spoke to a large gathering on the subject of  “Opportunities and Challenges of the Mainline Protestant Witness in These Times.”

She too found that in the United States about 83 percent profess to have a religious affiliation, but only 40 percent actually attend weekly services. That figure has been going down since 1972. Lytch said Americans often turn from the denomination they were born into. Members of mainline Protestant religions are having fewer children and don’t attend church as often as before.

Speaking of the “nones” she said they turn to the spiritual and caring for the poor and hungry through organized religious communities. Churches that are growing today are 39 percent conservative and 35 percent liberal.

The mother who wrote the article “Losing Our Religion” felt concern about the kids left with nothing. She consulted with many experts on the subject and gave their opinions. In concluding the article she decided that as parents they had taught their children a good work ethic, how to get along and love each other, and to see the good in giving to those in need. To her that took away the guilt she had felt because religion was not being taught.

I discussed these thoughts with a younger woman and she asked a simple question. When that child faces a troubling situation if they know nothing of prayer or talking to God, where do they turn?

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Dorothy Copus Brush is a Fairfield Glade resident and Crossville Chronicle staffwriter whose column is published each Wednesday. She may be reached at dcb1@frontiernet.net.