“ ‘Nones’ now 15% of population” mocked the headline of the USA Today article about the percentage of Americans who claim to have no religion.* And that percentage is up from 8% in 1990. (What might the percentage be in your country?) Barry Kosmin, one of the researchers for the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), expects this number to increase with each new generation.
But what the USA Today article didn’t deal with was why people are turning away from religion. Neither could I discover a definitive answer in the ARIS survey itself. A few readers’ comments regarding the article suggested that all the bickering among Christians might have something to do with the increase. And others commented on how religious people generally want to force their beliefs on everyone else. These remarks reminded me of what a nonreligious woman with whom I do community volunteer work said a few months ago. She was talking about the local churches of a particular denomination in the Washington, D.C., area, whose members are viciously fighting with each other about a specific social issue. The ensuing hostility has even been fodder for newspaper headlines. “Now doesn’t that just make you want to be a Christian!” she sneered.
So what would make people want to be a Christian? Perhaps Ellen G. White gave the best answer to that question when she wrote the following:
“What a man is has more influence than what he says. . . .
“It is our own character and experience that determine our influence upon others. In order to convince others of the power of Christ’s grace, we must know its power in our own hearts and lives. . . .
“By the power of His grace manifested in the transformation of character the world is to be convinced that God has sent His Son as its Redeemer. No other influence that can surround the human soul has such power as the influence of an unselfish life. The strongest argument in favor of the gospel is a loving and lovable Christian.”2
Indeed, people are watching. What is my life and yours telling them about our faith?
1. Cathy Lynn Grossman. “ ‘Nones’ now 15% of population.” USA TODAY. http://usatoday.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=%27Nones%27+now+ 15... (accessed March 18, 2009).
2. The Ministry of Healing, p. 470.