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NPR: 'Nones' A Backlash Against Politicization of Religion

empty church; prayingNPR reviewed Robert Putnam and David Campbell's book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, today. The book examines how religion has changed since America's founding, with countless new denominations such as the Mormon church and emergence of megachurches. The book attributes interfaith marriages to the tolerance of diverse faiths.

The most significant change in the religious landscape, the authors say, is the emergence of the "nones;" that is, people who are not affiliated with any religion. In NPR's review,

One of the biggest changes over the past 20 years has been that more and more Americans, when polled, cite no religious affiliation at all. That group, which Putnam and Campbell call the "the nones," "has been skyrocketing actually in the last 15, 20 years," Putnam says.

So it's now, roughly speaking, 35 percent [to] 40 percent of younger Americans … who say that they have no religious affiliation."

That's a big change. For many years, the researchers say, only about 5 to 7 percent of Americans felt they belonged to no religion. The shift, Putnam says, is "a quite novel and interesting, significant development."

The researchers say that during the Eisenhower era, the link between voting and religion was non-existent. Nowadays, however, the intensity of religious commitment, not necessarily the denomination, is associated with politics. The politicization has resulted in an adjustment of people's faiths. The article continues,

One big reason for that growth among the nones is precisely such an adjustment.

"There's been a kind of a quiet backlash among young people against this politicization of religion," says Putnam. And as a result, young liberal-minded people have often ended up avoiding religion because they associate it with conservative Republicanism.

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