They are not flying, not singing, not even nuns. They are "nones" meaning no religious affiliation. They signify significant social change but atheist are doing a victory dance all over the net. This has been the case since Oct 9.2012 when Pew Research study ("nones on the rise") was released showing that the "none" group had risen significantly from 15% to almost 20%, including 1/3 of those under 30 in America. The atheist celebration is premature since the chart relased with the study shows the atheist segment is hardly growing at all. It's still below 5%.
The rise of the none's is significant in spite of this. It signals a move away form organized religion. These people are not merely looking for a new religion, they are not looking for a church where they feel at home, the study itself shows these are people who have had it with chruch. That's bad news for Christianity. Christianity depends upon churches becuase it does it what it does in churches. Without churches there's no base for the faith. These guys don't want churches. They want something new. Maybe not social at all. It's good news because it does not mean they are through with God. I have argued on Atheistwatch by triangulating this study and some other Gallup polls with a Harris poll that shows religon in America is way down, that it's really more a matte of the questions asked. It shows that this new segement of young people want to think of God and religion in radically different ways. They are not giving up God but they may not express belief in God in the same way at all.
That's bad news for Christianity becuase not only does it means less strength in chruch groups but screwed up doctrine. It means missing understanding of the Gospel. It means less youth to renew the chruch it doesn't necessarily mean a loss for the Gospel. There is cause for concern it could mean a very serious loss. There is not reason at this point to come unglued because it could simply be that it just represents a different way of looking at things. Christianity has changed profoundly in the past. We shiould have known it would again. It may prove to be a bigger and more profound change that I thought I would live to see, but I always knew it would change.
Belief in miracles, heaven and other religious teachings also declined in the latest poll, as follows:–72 percent believe in miracles, down from 79 percent in 2005;–68 percent believe in heaven, down from 75 percent;
–68 percent believe that Jesus is God or the Son of God, down from 72 percent;–65 percent believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, down from 70 percent;–64 percent believe in the survival of the soul after death, down from 69 percent;–58 percent believe in the devil and hell, down from 62 percent;–57 percent believe in the Virgin birth, down from 60 percent
The extent to which this means a serious loss for Christianity just depends upon the theory of social change to which one subscribes, among other things.The theory I use to analyze it is Wallace's notion of the Mazeways. Anthony Wallace (b. 1923, he's 90) was one of the most influential anthropologists of the twentieth century. His theory of the Mazeways deals with cultural icons and pathways they mark that enable us to navigate our way through society and life."Mental maps that join personalities with cultures, and thereby illustrate how individuals embrace their cultures and conduct everyday life and cope with stress." It can seem very scary when the Mazeways change. It's confusing and we can be left feeling lost and not knowing what to do. Changing Mazeways have no doubt spawned many an end times movement. It doesn't mean or it doesn't have to mean disaster.
The changes we are looking at are fundamental changes in the way the fabric of society embraces religious beilef. That's a monumental change but there are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, we take note that this is a pure case of the chickens coming home to roost. The chruch has acted irresponsibility for a long time now, refusing to respond prgressively to the changes already wrought in the 60s. Long before that they basically separated the laity from the clergy and essentually said "don't worry your pertty little heads about all that doctrine just get entertained and let us seminary guys do the heavy thinking. They bred a simplistic chruch that reacts in a reactionary fashion to the most basic forms of social problems, a chruch doesn't understand it's own intellectual traditions, that has no concept of how to apply abstruse doctrines to daily life. People alienated from society often find themselves aliented form the chruch as well.
We've seen changes on a magnitude like this before, within my life time. The difference in society of 1960 vs. 1970 was profound. We went from a nation of crew cut college students who were considered children, who listened to Frankie Avalon and Elvis and Bobby Vinton and in early '71 radical Sheik had college kids planing careers in the Weather men and listening to John Lennon sing "Imagine." The average college student of 1960 was concerned with joining a frat, what busienss to major in, getting a good suit that looked business-like and fitting in. In 1971 he or she was concerned with going to jail in a protest, being tear gassed on campus, the guys with going to Vietnam and dying like their friends and brothers had done, the girls with how help their boy friends get to Canada. Sociologists had been predicting the death of religion for decades. The new morality, the drug culture, they seemed the most unlikely origin for a Jesus movement of all things; yet we had that too. They patterned Jesus in the role of a hippie and drew parallels between him and social protesters. The sharper chruch youth leaders jumped on it and began opening coffee houses for the young. I bought an underground news paper after a Moody Blues concert, in between thinly disguised adds for "head shops" (places to buy drug perifenalia) was one of the most heavily researched articles I've ever seen on what the Bible says about hell. I'm sure it was all wrong but it was bursting with scripture and scholarly commentary.
A lot of that came out of that era was silly a lot of it didn't last. I new a bunch of former stoner Jesus freaks in Toas New Mexico who had been genuine commune members during the Taos hippie wars. This was the 80s they were still there. They still sat up all night arguing about hte Bible and slept all day. In their own burnt out half conscoius way there very sincere. The point is we can't know or predict the forms that faith will take. Faith is like water flowing through a stream and the culture is like the bed of the stream. The faith fits the shape of the bed but it flows over it and keeps moving. It's not held up by rocks even though if we could freeze it and lift it out we would see the imprints of the rocks. But since the faith is fluid it just flows over them and moves on. Because of our mazeways we have preconceived notions about how faith should be, we don't see change coming. Then new forms fit the needs of those who have the faith.
The new version of faith may seem very different and valuable things may pass away. New forms will come into being that speak to the hearts of the new generation. I doubt seriously that they will remain unchruched. They may not be looking for a chruch. The sad part is one article in Sojourners suggested that they were burned out by the culture wars. This may be the unchurched generation, because they sick of the culture wars. The messages boards have done their part in burning people out. In that sense all they had to do is just show up and they ruin people on the faith, words and arguments and ideas aside they just show up and people are ruined. Now those people just stay away from organized faith.
On the other hand, people are social animals. Whatever we do we like to do it in groups. I doubt that they will remain unorganized. They may find other forms of the social and share their faith in ways we don't imagine. perhaps they are forever ruined on the confrontational form of the faith, that may not be such a bad thing. It may not be chruch as such. It may have a different relationship to doctrine and may have a different attitude toward what it can enforce or tell people to believe,but there will be some form of social encouragement.
Several of these articles imply that they are not looking for Atheism. These guys are not going for new this. I think atheism is a different phenomenon than the "nones" and they should not be lumped in with them.  They are ruined by the culture wars they see atheism as the same problem as organized religion. They are looking for spirituality, some without God, some with thinking of God in other ways. The vast majority of them are still believers in God, but they not necessarily as fixed about what they believe concerning God.
The chruch needs to start listening to these guys and reaction to their concerns. We need to start teaching the doctrines so everyone who we all understand it. That probably means Sunday school will have to be more like real school, reaching real history classes and conducting dangerous discussions. In my experience it was avoiding the stuff that created the problem. The youth ministers would try to deal with it but when the students didn't accept easy answers they quite talking and ostracized them. Usually because they had to deal with Elders who didn't' want them talking about anything big. These are he kinds of things we have to get past and learn to deal with people in terms of their real problems. That's what the chruch has to do to be effective, because people are not going to stop reaching out.
 Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, "Rise of the None." The American Prospect.September 19, 2013
 staff, "Rise of the Nones," Religion in Public Life Project, Pew Research. 10/9/20. http://www.pewforum.org/2012/10/09/nones-on-the-rise/ accessed 1/7/14.
 Staff, "Americans Belief in God, Miracles, and Heaven, Declines--belief in Darwin's theory of evolution rises." Harris Interactive. Harris Polls (Dec. 16, 2013). On line resource.
http://www.harrisinteractive.com/NewsRoom/HarrisPolls/tabid/447/ctl/ReadCustom%20Default/mid/1508/ArticleId/1353/Default.aspx accessed 1/5/14.
 Ilias Sabbir, "Theory of Revitalization Movement by Anthony Wallace." Academia.edu. platform for academics to share research papers. on line blog http://www.academia.edu/839547/Theory_of_Revitalization_Movement_by_Anthony_F._C._Wallace accessed 1/7/14.
 Sandi Villarreal, "meet the nones: Introducing Meet the nones we don't need your labels" Sojourners: Faith in Action. 10/09/12. http://sojo.net/blogs/series/meet-the-nones accessed 1/7/14.
Sojourners has launced a whole blog on the different segements of the Nones.
 both the so sojourners article and the Thomson-DeVeaux article say that the nones are moving beyond atheism.