Source: Los Angeles Times
By Stephen Asma
In the 1980s, only 10% of Americans said that they had no religious affiliation. Three decades later, more than 23% of Americans describe themselves as nonreligious, according to the Pew Research Center. This growing group is referred to as the “nones,” meaning those whose religious affiliation is “none.”
Millennials, in particular, are much more likely to reject organized religion, Pew found. About a third of all millennials are nones. And who can blame them? They were raised in an era of sex abuse scandals and jihadist extremism. Corruption of institutions and ideologies have turned many young people away.
But contrary to the hopes of neo-Enlightenment thinkers like Steven Pinker, millennial nones are not abandoning organized religion to become secular, science-loving humanists. Rather, they are turning toward more individual forms of spiritualism, including yoga, meditation, healing stones, Wiccan spell casting and astrology.
These nones tend to believe in the soul, divine energy, mystical realities, ghosts, fate and myriad other superstitions that traditionally fell under the umbrella of religion. They also tend to eschew formal social gatherings and regular group activities.
Young nones, in other words, are adopting one of the least helpful aspects of organized religion (magical thinking) while abandoning one of the most beneficial (social bonding).
According to a number of studies and surveys, religious people tend to be happier, have better health, stay married, live longer and commit less crime. In recent years, a growing body of research has suggested that organized religion reduces the risk of depression.
But these advantages don’t come as a result of beliefs alone, nor from inner mental states achieved by the individual. Rather, they are obtained through the social activity of a group.