Several years ago, the actress Evan Rachel Wood proclaimed on Twitter, “I believe in god but I am not religious. I am spiritual. My definition of God isn’t in any religion. It’s very personal. [sic]”. Her sentiments are not alone in Hollywood only but across America. In today’s religious landscape, we hear so many people, not just millennials, uttering the phrase, “I am not religious; I am just spiritual.” It has become so commonplace that we do not even give it much thought any longer when we hear it. This has become the case just within the last four decades.
To a previous generation, this phrase would bear no real meaning. Religious identity was a part and parcel testament to where their roots of heritage lay and as to where they stood on a variety of moral, ethical, cultural, and social issues. Needless to say, that is no longer the case. Even for those that were nominally Christian, you would hear the responses when asked: “I grew up Catholic.” or “I am Presbyterian, but I don’t attend regularly.”
Now before you stop reading this article thinking that this is just another screed against the non-churchgoers, I emphatically say it is not. This article is a challenge and a clarion call to the majority of mainline churches of all denominations as to why their pews have emptied and their memberships have dwindled. According to a Pew Research Center white paper “America’s Changing Religious Landscape” published in 2014, 23% percent of Americans identify themselves as “nones” (unaffiliated to any organized religious tradition). This was a 7% increase since the last similar study was done in 2007. Also noted was the number of Christians had declined from 78% percent to 71% percent. To be sure, the bulk of those who identified themselves as “nones” lie mostly among the millennial population.