Religion in America, 2015: The ‘Nones’ vs. the ‘Dones’

May 26, 2015

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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25 comments on “Religion in America, 2015: The ‘Nones’ vs. the ‘Dones’

  • I think this is a great idea. I could never be a “done” since religion has been a non-issue all my life, so I cannot relate since I have not seen it from the inside, but this distinction is worth noting. I find those who more vehemently oppose religion are those who have indeed “been there and done that.” They know what they’re talking about. There’s no better way to make an atheist than to insist s/he join the ranks of the self-proclaimed holy.
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  • The problem with many surveys and census questions, is the lack of clarity in the questions – sometimes though poor planning, sometimes through religious political interference in avoiding questions which reveal unpalatable truths!
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  • Doesn’t apply to me – I didn’t go in a church unless it was a wedding / funeral / christening and that was obviously unavoidable if I wanted to be at the party – so to speak….
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  • M27Holts
    May 27, 2015 at 7:26 am

    Doesn’t apply to me – I didn’t go in a church unless it was a wedding / funeral / christening and that was obviously unavoidable if I wanted to be at the party

    My grand-daughter had a social “naming ceremony” in an hotel – a bit like a wedding reception.
    No churches or religious features involved. (Apart from some parody jokes.)
    Just a social gathering to introduce and welcome a new family member.
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  • Phew, I’m lucky ! Always a non-believer, and always free of superstition. In case the author gets the idea that people like me have had it easy, let’s just say, that there are plenty of other obstacles out there in life, without having to get on your knees and pray. Religion provides a foggy view of reality, I prefer a clear one.
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  • I have never liked the fact that “a theist” sounds exactly like “atheist”. And I’m not getting on the “bright” bandwagon because it sounds like we’d need our own special olympics. Nones, Dones, you’d think since atheists are usually high on the intelligence scale, we’d come up with something that says it, means it, and doesn’t tip toe around the subject matter with cute and coy titles.
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  • I worry that with the demise of Christianity the void may be filled by Islam; and it seems to be so, at least in western society.
    There is , of course NO equivalence between the two, Islam being much more cultish, IMO.
    Please tell me I’m wrong.
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  • You’re wrong in the politest possible way. Sorry Jimbo. All religions are equivalent. All are identical the the psychology employed. The only difference is how they manifest themselves. The funny hats and beards on / beards off stuff. Yes Xtianity is on the decline, but you can see from this poll that it is not Islam that is the replacement, but NONE’s (What an appalling name) Everything you find appalling about Islam, is the same thing you would feel if you travel back in time a couple of hundred years about Xtianity. So when you see something terrible about Islam, just substitute the world Christianity and the prose will still be valid, just a little out of date.

    There’s nothing like a prospering middle class to defeat oppressive regimes. This will happen in China in the next 20 years with communism (The Chinese version is capitalism within a one party state, but I digress.) And it will happen in Islamic countries as well. Prospering people don’t go to war. It costs too much.

    There is a sign of the future in this poll with The United Theocratic States of America slowly waning. And its about time. The rest of the free western world did this around 30 years ago.
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  • Why should I take that author’s word for the varieties of modes of relationship to religion? Most people have mixed feelings about religion – even strong atheists such as myself. But my thoughts and feelings with regard to this subject vary, are – dare I say it – complex.
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  • More categorising of something quite simple. Blind faith is absurd and eventually anyone whom gives it some thought will abandon it. What is the point of trimming “nones” and “dones” it is dividing what is essentially indivisible. You either believe or you don’t believe. If you believe you can (and do) split and chop and divide quite simply because the absurdity of faith allows any and every interpretation the non-critical imagination can dream up. But if you don’t believe – that’s it; you don’t believe in any of it. So I suppose I’m a “GONE” seeing as it has to rhyme, “Gone” from all the bullshit plopped onto our impressionable younger selves and unsympathetic to those whom remain in the mental chains of faith
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  • Ditto… also always a non-believer though one that was forced to attend church in his youth. Not because my parents were devout or control freaks but because they wanted us kids off their hands for a few hours and that’s the way their parents i did it. So I played table tennis and football at the church youth clubs and treated the religious crap as a bit of a joke.
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  • It is comforting to take a Marxist view and substitute “religion” for “capitalism”. According to Marx, capitalism with go through a series of ever more frequent and desperate crises before disappearing up its own arse and begetting a Utopia of (well … utopian stuff). Religion has at various times in history been in apparent terminal decline only to revive. Let’s hope modern scientific rationalism makes the current crisis: the last.
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  • All religions are equivalent. All are identical the the psychology employed.

    You think so?

    Islam=Christianity=Buddhism=Jainism

    Do you not think there is more scope for justifying violent actions in some religions than others?
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  • Is it a distinction worth making that the incitement to “violence” is better than the incitement to “extreme violence” or “some violence” to “lots of violence”. When does a murderer become a serial killer become a genocidal maniac and does the victim of the former feel any better than the victims of the latter?
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  • Is it a distinction worth making that the incitement to “violence” is better than the incitement to “extreme violence” or “some violence” to “lots of violence”.

    Is that a distinction you want to make? Is lots of violence worse than some violence? Where in Jainism do you detect incitement to violence?

    When does a murderer become a serial killer become a genocidal maniac…

    It’s a matter of numbers.

    …and does the victim of the former feel any better than the victims of the latter?

    The victim of the former feels nothing. All the victims of the latter feel nothing. They are dead. The friends and family of the former probably feel very bad. As do the multiplied friends and family of the latter. It’s a matter of numbers.
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  • Numbers add an emotional horror, no one would deny that. But if it is about numbers then; logically, we ought to be able to quantify each religion with a sort of “violence quotient”? I struggle to see how that is possible in scientific terms, though (like you?) I might be inclined to give Islam the highest marks on that basis, but it would be purely subjective. I would be interested to consider an objective scorecard. Perhaps tabulating all the deaths ascribed to religions throughout history including crusades, jihads, assassins, heretic burning, lynch mobs… One might just know where to begin, but where to end? Now that is the question.
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  • Yes. The qualification was the “psychology employed” The God Delusion.

    It’s them the humans who fills out the frills, bells and whistles. Some like Islam and Christianity, are brutal and genocidal. Some like Buddhism and Jainism are more peaceful and contemplative. Although it was sad to see Buddhist terrorists in the Sri Lankan conflict. The point is, it’s the humans who are the killing machines.

    I suspect if religions had never been invented, ISIS would still exist, with some other inane justification. The Lord of the Flies lies just below the surface in us all. We are the epitome of a Shakespearean tragedy. Brilliantly intelligent but fatally flawed species.
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  • To be more clear, I think you could have worded it:

    Not all religions are equivalent. Some like Islam and Christianity, are brutal and genocidal. Some like Buddhism and Jainism are more peaceful and contemplative. But they all are identical in the psychology employed – The God Delusion.

    .

    The point is, it’s the humans who are the killing machines.

    No shit Sherlock. Sounds like something the NRA might say when discussing gun control.

    I suspect if religions had never been invented, ISIS would still exist, with some other inane justification.

    I suspect the world would be less violent without all the brutal and genocidal religions. Removes a number of inane (and insane) justifications. Of course there would still be other causes of conflict (politics, resources, ..) but I think they would be easier to resolve if the people involved did not believe God was on their side.
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