By Neil Carter
By now you may have heard of “the nones,” those religiously non-affiliated Americans who now make up nearly a quarter of the overall population and a full third of Americans under the age of thirty. The press and the media have begun to take notice and lately we’ve seen a growing number of stories drawing attention to their presence. In fact, since the Pew Research Center first alerted us to this startling development in 2012, the nones have added another 7.5 million to their number. That’s over a period of only two years.
The problem with this designation is that it lacks precision and includes a wide range of categories from full-on atheist to merely disinterested to “spiritual but not religious.” It sometimes even means a Christian who just doesn’t like going to church much and doesn’t like getting labeled. “Unaffiliated” can mean a lot of things, and it doesn’t really tell me enough about what matters to people when I hear they’re a part of “the nones.” Some of them grew up entirely removed from a religious subculture. To them, all the Jesus talk just sounds strange and foreign, and for the life of them they can’t figure out what people are getting worked up about. Others had at least a minimal exposure to religious indoctrination but it never really sank in. They shrugged it off and went on their merry way, unaffected by it all.
But there is a subcategory among the nones that hasn’t gotten as much attention because too often they get lost in the shuffle. I’m talking about the “dones.” The dones are those who have been there and done that, and probably have a t-shirt (or thirty). I’ve got drawers full of them in fact, as does anybody else who has spent any amount of time in church youth culture. People like me aren’t just unaffiliated, we are anti-affiliated. We were once in the thick of it, but then we left and have no interest in going back. Unlike many of our counterparts among the nones, we know much more intimately what it is that we’re staying away from because we spent years inside that world and we’ve had enough to last us a lifetime, thankyouverymuch.
We’re not unchurched, we’re “done churched.”
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