The Rise of the “Nones”

Posted by on Apr 5, 2012

Time magazine’s March 12th cover story, 10 Ideas that are Changing Your Life, includes the news that “the fastest-growing religious group in the U.S. is the category of people who say they have no religious affiliation. Sometimes called “the nones” by social scientists, their numbers have more than doubled since 1990; major surveys put them at 16% of the population.” (The Rise of the Nones, p.68).

To give you a taste of what these people believe, here’s what one of them wrote, in response to a friend’s inquiry about his religious beliefs:

 “You ask me my religious views: you know, I think, that I believe in no religion. There is absolutely no proof for any of them, and from a philosophical standpoint Christianity is not even the best. All religions, that is, all mythologies to give them their proper name are merely man’s own invention – Christ as much as Loki. Primitive man found himself surrounded by all sorts of terrible things he didn’t understand – thunder, pestilence, snakes et cetera: what more natural than to suppose that these were animated by evil spirits trying to torture him. These he kept off by cringing to them, singing songs and making sacrifices et cetera. Gradually from being mere nature-spirits these supposed being[s] were elevated into more elaborate ideas, such as the old gods: and when man became more refined he pretended that these spirits were good as well as powerful.

            Thus religion, that is to say mythology grew up…

            Of course, mind you, I am not laying down as a certainty that there is nothing outside the material world: considering the discoveries that are always being made, this would be foolish. Anything may exist: but until we know that it does, we can’t make any assumptions. The universe is an absolute mystery: man has made many guesses at it, but the answer is yet to seek. Whenever any new light can be got as to such matters, I will be glad to welcome it. In the meantime I am not going to go back to the bondage of believing in any old (and already decaying) superstition.”

Have you heard people say things like this? Do you know some “nones?”

Here’s the surprise: Those words were written by C.S. Lewis when he was 17 years old. Yes, I’m referring to the C.S. Lewis who went on to become an Oxford Don and then become a Christian. You may recall that this former-none went on to have quite a ministry, an evangelistic and apologetic one that countered the very arguments he espoused in his younger days. (You can read the full letter and many more in a delightful collection entitled Yours, Jack).

So while Time magazine reports about “ideas” and trends we need to appreciate, there are forces more powerful than what their glossy pages reveal. Let us engage the “nones” around us with a listening ear, some probing questions, and some carefully crafted arguments that could point them to the Savior. They might even benefit from a book we could give them as a gift…a book such as C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.


1 Comment

  1. Glenn Oeland
    April 7, 2012

    Thanks for this post, Randy. The more I read about the “nones” and the “leavers,” the more concerned I become. But you are spot on: God is greater! He is at work. And what a marvelous example. I never knew this about Lewis, and I’ll never forget it. Thanks again.


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