Can You Ever Really Leave Religion Behind?
Are 'Always Nones' Different Than Converted Nones?
Here’s a new phenomenon that I haven’t really discussed yet: always nones.
These are folks who report that they were raised without a religious tradition and they also indicate that they have no religion as an adult. What got me thinking in this direction was the work that I was doing on the survey questions related to our Making Meaning project that is being funded by the Templeton Foundation.
I have two possible theories about these always nones.
They are farther from religion than those who converted from a religious tradition because they just never had a ton of contact with religious life. Thus, they have very low levels of religious attendance and feelings of religiosity.
Or, converted nones are the ones who are the least religious. The logic there is that they had to actively reject their religious upbringing and in doing so they moved very far away from all the trappings of a religious life.
Here’s what is fun about social science - both theories seemed pretty plausible to me before I started this analysis. But before we get there, I wanted to provide some background on how many “cradle nones” there are out there and how that number has changed over time.
The General Social Survey asks folks about the religion in which they were raised and it also asks them about their current religion. What a great question that opens up all kinds of pathways for research by folks like me. Let’s just calculate the share of current nones, the share of folks who were raised without religion, and then the percentage of the sample that says that they were raised without religion and still have no religious affiliation.