Jake Remsing, Maria Carrillo

According to a study released by Pew Research Center, the fastest growing religious denomination in America is known as the “Nones,”or the religiously unaffiliated. The Pew Research Center released its findings in October, showing that 46 million Americans professed to being unaffiliated with any religion.

The study revealed that one-fifth of Americans identify themselves as “Nones.”

Despite the name, the group is not solely composed of atheists and agnostics. A large portion of the group still claims to be religious in some way, with many saying that they pray frequently.

This same pool identifies as socially liberal, with three-fourths in favor of same-sex marriage and legal abortions. This conglomerate was a driving force behind President Obama’s re-election.

One-third of Americans under age 30 are religiously unaffiliated today and represent these “Nones.”

“Young people today are not only more religiously unaffiliated than their elders; they are also more religiously unaffiliated than previous generations of young people ever have been as far as we can tell,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Center.

But why have we seen such a change?

According to religious professor Robert Putnam, the answer comes from a rebellious attitude.

“I think the single most important reason for the rise of the unknowns is … younger people moving to the left on social issues,” Putnam said.

Students exhibited mixed feeling over the rise of the “Nones.”

“The only beef I have with religion is when it’s used to conform or oppress others, as with issues like abortion or gay marriage. If someone decides to believe in one religion or another, or none at all, as many are, it’s their choice and I respect that,” said junior Scott Munro.

“I hope a change like this might bring people to more closely consider decisions and laws that don’t fully fit to the idea of separation of church and state,” he said.

“I think this change is good for America,” said sophomore Willy Frankl. “I’m fine with personal religion, but I feel there is too much religion in politics today, which isn’t what the founding fathers wanted for this country.”

Other students feel that the rising number of “Nones” is hurting America.

“Society has been drifting away from religion, more, and more people have begun to reject the ‘older’ teachings in order to try to find their own path to ‘enlightenment,’ as some may call it,” said junior Dylan Nelson.

“As a Christian, it does make me sad to see the increasing number of atheists in America, because I know that Jesus plainly said ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’”

Some students took a neutral stance regarding America’s changing religious landscape.

“People are of course free to choose what religion, if any at all, is right for them, although I don’t like how some people bash religion in general,” said junior Alyssa Moore.

“I would just say that while no one needs a specific religion, or any religion at all, a lot of people get scared away from positive ideas that religions might have because the churches are usually controlled by really conservative, religiously not politically, people, and that’s sad.”

What does this changing religious landscape mean for America and its future?

According to recent studies, this rising group of “Nones” has helped to propel the Democratic Party and form a strong backbone for them in recent elections.

However, religion still dominates American life.

Religious professor Robert Putnam states that even though society is less religiously affiliated than before, we still are relatively religious compared to other nations.

“Even with these recent changes the American religious commitments are incredibly stronger than in most other advanced countries in the world. The average American is slightly more religious than the average Iranian, so we are a very religious country even today,” Putnam said.

Reprinted from The Puma Prensa student newspaper.