Religious “Nones” are Growing, but Where are the Non-Religious Politicians to Cater to Them?


The number of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation has hit an all-time high and still politicians are unaffected by this result.

America’s religious landscape is changing profoundly, an extensive survey by the Pew Research Center showed in May. The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of American adults who don’t identify with any organized religion is growing – some even say “skyrocketing.”

This phenomenon, however, isn’t reflected in American politics. Non-religious politicians are still remarkably rare, as are politicians who would pander to the religious “nones,” meaning people lacking religious affiliation.

Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research, told NPR that it’s often solely the religious right which is taken into consideration when thinking about religion in politics.

“But we also have this large and growing group in the U.S. that say they have no religion. And that group is a kind of counterweight at the other end of the religious spectrum from evangelicals,” Smith pointed out.

Exit polls from the last two presidential elections have shown that majority of religiously unaffiliated voters are Democrats or lean Democratic. President Barack Obama was the first president to acknowledge non-believers in his first inaugural address in 2009. “Nones” as a whole tend to be more on the politically liberal side.

Many feel, however, that religion is still a basic requirement in American politics. This is proven by statistics, too. Only two U.S. presidents, allegedly Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, have been religiously unaffiliated. According to Pew only one member of the current Congress is unaffiliated with additional nine saying they didn’t know or refused to answer.

The religiously unaffiliated are a growing, but a diverse group. Some still believe in God and view religion as important to some extent. On the other end there are atheists, agnostics and people who say that religion simply isn’t important to them. This is thought be one of the reasons why so few politicians pander to them at the moment.

The other main reason is that the “nones” are underrepresented at the political polls. In 2012, for example, non-believers made up only 12 percent of the electorate, meaning that they are viewed as less likely to vote.

It’s also a fact that Americans also, really, really like voting for religious people. NPR quotes two polls – in a 2014 Pew poll, 53 percent of Americans said they’d be less likely to vote for an atheist, another poll showed that 53 percent is Americans believe that it’s necessary to believe in God to be moral.

Being religious in one way or another is probably a winning card in the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, but parties and candidates, especially the Republicans, need to take into consideration the growing group of religiously unaffiliated Americans.


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