The voices of the "nones" rise as religious affiliation declines

May 8, 2013

The number of people who say they affiliate with religion is at its lowest point in our nation’s history. Now only one in five Americans are "Nones" or people with no religious affiliation. 

The Pew Research Center published a big report in 2012 looking at this trend. You don't have to be an atheist to be a None. Interestingly, the Pew report found that 68 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say they believe in God. A None could even be someone who regularly attends services at a church, mosque or synagogue, but remains generic with their system of beliefs.

Debra Mason, director of the Center on Religion and the Professions, said it would be a mistake to assume Nones aren’t spiritual. While Nones don’t generally go to a formal institution, they still claim to pray. Though Nones are likely finding meaning outside of traditional religious institutions, Mason said research doesn’t clearly show how they’re finding it.

Project 573, a student reporting project at the University of Missouri, decided to find a way to tell the stories of the Nones and put faces to the phenomenon.

Credit Lukas Udstuen / Project 573

Karissa Brickey, one of the many Nones in our project is a 15-year-old sophomore at Hickman High School in Columbia she was raised Muslim and spent many of her younger years at an Islamic School. Still, at a young age, she decided to leave Islam. 

The full story is at the Project 573 website. There, we've assembled 12 stories from 12 different nones into a "quilt" of photos and sound. Visit the website to see the story quilt and the rest of our series on the Nones. Some of these stories will be published on KBIA in the coming days.