Jerry Johnston Interviews Alan Cooperman on the Religiously Unaffiliated

15 September 2016

There are 50 million adult Americans who do not identify with any particular religion. Documenting the rising numbers are the highly respected men and women at Pew Research. While in Washington, DC, I spoke with Alan Cooperman, the Director of Religion Research at the Pew Research Center. Alan made an interesting reflection regarding the the non-religious reaction to the rise in nones. Alan observed,

“I do think that one of the important things for people; I sometimes ask this question, why should nones care about the rise of the nones?  Why should someone who isn’t religious or who doesn’t think that religion is necessarily a vital thing in American life, why should a person like that possibly care about the rise of the nones?  And I think I have an answer for it at least potentially.  And the answer is a little bit complicated, but it basically goes like this.  Religious affiliation and religiosity in general are associated in American life with civic participation.  People who are more participatory tend to be more participatory across a wide range of things.  It may not be that religion makes people more participatory.  It may be on the contrary.  The people who are  characterlogically more participatory, more engaged, more outgoing, think of them as joiners, are more likely to join churches, synagogues, mosques.  What we can see in our data when we’ve asked people about their participation in various kinds of civic and communal activities is that people who are more religiously engaged are also more engaged in everything we’ve asked about. 

Cristie Jo and I are traveling around the world, tracking the shocking rise in nones with the top theologians and researchers of today. Our research will be highlighted in our  documentary, publications, and digital resources for all ages.

Alan Cooperman is the Director of Religion Research at the Pew Research Center.

Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick- paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise and revealing the seismic shift of the non-religious demographic known as the NONES, the fastest-growing sociological trend unique to America.