Just Call Us 'ORENONE': 'No Religion' Is Most Common Response in Church Membership Surveys

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 18, 2003 | Go to article overview

Just Call Us 'ORENONE': 'No Religion' Is Most Common Response in Church Membership Surveys


Byline: Jeff Wright The Register-Guard

When Christopher James of Eugene feels the need for introspection, he often straps on his backpack.

"When I get out into nature, immediately I can feel my body chemistry change," he says. "It's such a physical experience, it affects the rest of me."

James, 28, sees the outdoors as a place to cultivate his spirituality. But ask him about his religion and he'll tell you he has none.

He has plenty of company, throughout the country and especially here in Oregon. The number of Americans who claim no religious identity in surveys, dubbed "nones" by experts, has roughly doubled in the past decade, making them possibly the third-largest group in the nation, after Catholics and Baptists.

They rank No. 1 in Oregon - one of only four states where "no religion" was the most common answer in a religious identification survey commissioned by City University of New York in 2001. The other states were Washington, Idaho and Wyoming.

Other recent studies draw similar conclusions, including a 2002 survey commissioned by the Glenmary Research Center in Tennessee that identifies several cities in Southern Oregon and Northern California - including Corvallis, Eugene, Medford and Redding - as those where Americans are least likely to have a religious affiliation.

Yet most of the 29 million Americans who pick no religion say they believe in God and often pray or meditate - habits not that different from the folks who fill the pews each Sunday.

James, who works for the nonprofit Sustainable Forestry Project, fits the mold. While asserting he's not religious, "I do believe in a higher power," he says. "For me, it exists more in the order of the universe and everyday life."

It's a mistake to assume Oregonians aren't religious just because many of them avoid organized religion, says Mark Shibley, who teaches sociology of religion at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. He's also a contributor to a book due out next spring, "Religion in Public Life in the Pacific Northwest: The `None' Zone."

"Religion is about fundamental questions of meaning and purpose," Shibley says. "If dominant institutions aren't providing that for individuals, they'll seek and explore and find those things in other arenas."

Leading edge of trend

The trend lines present intriguing questions: Are Oregonians "ahead of the curve," leading the way as more Americans move away from traditional denominations? And just where do people uncomfortable with mainstream religion go for spiritual nourishment?

While Mormons in Utah and other dominant regional faiths will persist for a long time, Shibley says the trend of fewer people identifying with historical traditions is likely to continue across the country - especially in places such as the Northwest where one denomination has never dominated.

As for spiritual alternatives, Shibley identifies three he says are predominant in the Northwest:

A "nature religion" embraced by people such as James who find their spirituality amid snow-capped mountains and ocean surf.

A New Age spirituality manifested in everything from channeling to crystals to astrology.

An "anti-government milleniallism" movement that encompasses survivalism and end-of-the-world scenarios.

Other experts, of course, have other theories. Two University of California at Berkeley professors, for example, contend that most people who say they have no religion are political moderates and liberals who feel the "religious right" has co-opted organized religion, and so want nothing to do with it.

So-called "nones" tend to be politically active and care about such things as the environment and corporate and personal ethics, says Patricia O'Connell Killen, who teaches American religious history at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.

"For many people, the religious institutions out there aren't effectively addressing what they see as truly significant issues - mainly the environment and how we can and should be a human community," Killen says. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Just Call Us 'ORENONE': 'No Religion' Is Most Common Response in Church Membership Surveys
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.