Questioning the label “nones” for the religiously unaffiliated

March 5, 2013

“Don’t call us ‘the nones’: In praise of religious independence”
Writing for the Washington Post, Christian Piatt says, “In politics, someone can officially identify as “independent,” and they are considered to be a cut-above the fray. We think highly of those independent thinkers. So why is it that, when it comes to religion, you can’t be independent, but instead you have to be a ‘none’?”  He says that using the term “nones” for people simply because they are not affiliated with institutional religion implies something negative— an absence, a lack of something. But in actuality, many unaffiliated people may have found other ways to connect with God and/or with other people in distinctly spiritual ways apart from a recognized religious body. Often, however, headlines and media reports on survey findings aren’t nuanced in a way that captures that fact. Take some time also to read a response to Piatt’s piece from Alan Cooperman of the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.