Project 573 Investigates Growing Demographic of Nones

5 years 1 month 1 day ago Tuesday, May 21 2013 May 21, 2013 Tuesday, May 21, 2013 5:58:00 PM CDT May 21, 2013 in News
By: Matt Evans and Project 573 Staff

COLUMBIA - Members of a Missouri School of Journalism reporting team called Project 573 spent the last few months diving in-depth into a new and growing religious demographic of people called "Nones." According to a 2012 Pew Report on religion, one in five Americans now identifies him or herself as a None. Nones are a group of people who don't identify with a traditional religious affiliation. Some may remain spiritual and believe in a higher power, but don't affiliate with a particular religion. Others don't believe in a higher power and are atheist or agnostic.

Now in its third year, Project 573 explored the impact of this group that makes up 20 percent of America and the impact of the Nones in mid-Missouri. In a region traditionally located within the Bible Belt, the project examined how the rise of the Nones is affecting our state's politics, schools, churches and family values.

In 1906, the U.S. Census of Religious Bodies reported that more than 98 percent of congregants belonged to Christian or Catholic churches. Now, that number is around 73 percent. Though other non-Christian religions are seeing increases in affiliation, Catholicism, Protestantism and other Christian denominations are undergoing significant declines nationwide.

Debra Mason, director of the Center on Religion and the Professions at the University of Missouri, said there are a few reasons for these declining numbers. Previously, families would stay in the houses of worship and the community in which they were raised, but modern mobility has changed that.

"What has happened now is people move away," Mason said. "They try other sorts of religious institutions. They may or may not feel as though they fit there or are welcome, and so some of them choose not to belong anymore."

Religiosity also has a cyclical nature in which those in their teens and early 20s experiment with different faiths or don't attend worship services. Typically, those who follow the trend return to church after starting families. Mason said this may be changing.

"People aren't coming back to a faith tradition the way they used to with, say, the Baby Boomers," she said.

Mason said it is difficult to track trends in religion because changes in the institution happen very gradually. However, there is a consensus within the religious community that there is a declining trend in religious affiliation in general.

These numbers beg the question: who is replacing the faithful?

The Nones.

The Pew report found one-third of Americans younger than thirty are religiously unaffiliated. These Millennials, or anyone born after 1981, are altering our country's norm by defining themselves as nonreligious, irreligious, anti-religious or anti-clerical.


For a look at the full Project 573 project, go to project573onreligion.com

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Project 573 provides innovative journalism that expands awareness and broadens perspective about a localized issue.
Made up of seniors at the Missouri School of Journalism, the capstone course brings together students from the school's different sequences (print and digital news, radio/TV journalism, magazine, photojournalism, convergence journalism and strategic communication) for an experiment in cross-platform storytelling.


For a look at previous projects, go to project573.com

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