The Pew Research Centre reports that Americans identifying themselves as having no religion has grown from 16% to 24% since 2007.
Naturally the increase has been at the cost of Christian affirmation which remains high at 71% (down from 78%). The increase in non-affiliates is found across America, highest in the west (28%), while even the South has seen a doubling from about 10% to about 20%.
The trend is welcome, not because we don’t want spirituality, but because dogmatic opinion must be replaced by thoughtful consideration of facts (science) in our virtual world built of science. It is unhelpful to base ones morals on someone else’s mantra when they seem to go against one’s inner sense, and that is why there is a fall-off in religiosity – people feel they are more free to choose what they think without being vilified by society. Expect the trend to continue and accelerate.
But there is a danger: “throwing out the baby with the bathwater”. Giving up religious faith can also lead to a neglect of one’s spiritual nourishment. That happened to me and it took a year or so for me to recognise it and remedy the situation.
There is no doubt that there is a spiritual dimension, an invisible dimension to existence. In science the electro-magnetic spectrum is critical to understanding life even though it can not be seen. We have thoughts and emotions, which can not be seen. For humans to fulfil their potential they must nurture their capacities in this arena as well as their physical health. How? Thinking helps. And meditation or prayer. And in time one can manage your physical body to allow it to more easily interact with the metaphysical dynamics of the universe.
Let us hope that the trend to atheism, which is healthy, if not easy, is not accompanied by a trend to amorality or worse.