There’s been much ado made lately about the growing number of nones in the US and Western Europe. A recent Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study cited that an increasing number of people, especially millennials, answered “none”, or unaffiliated, to the survey questions about their religious affiliation. The discussion about this study got me thinking.
I’m a cradle Catholic who still attends mass and actively volunteers in my parish. So if I were given the survey today, I’d probably choose Catholic/Christian as my answer; but the spiritual journey that I have been on has expanded my view of God, faith and truth so much beyond what I learned in catechism, I kind of understand where many of the nones are coming from. These are the unaffiliated who consider themselves more spiritual than religious.
Throughout my life, I have always had a deep connection to God and my Divine Guidance, and for the most part I understood that connection through the lens of the Catholic church. I loved the proximity to God that I felt when I was in church. I connected to all the beings who are part of my Divine guidance, whether I was conscious of it at the time or not. I loved the saints so much that when I was 10, I wanted to grow up to be a saint after watching a TV movie about the life of Elizabeth Ann Seaton. (Little did I know that pre-requisites for Catholic sainthood are death and miracles attributed to me, so that was out as a career choice!)
When I identify now as more spiritual than religious, I haven’t thrown away any of the intimate Divine connection that I developed through the Catholic church. I am building on it. Through my spiritual journey, I’ve expanded that single-focus understanding of the Divine.
Knowing what I know, see or understand now as a spiritual person, I can reassure my 10-year-old self that there’s more than one way to be a saint. There’s more than one way to have a relationship with God. There are many beautiful paths to truth. God is greater than any one religious institution or belief system can contain.
So when I hear that a rising number of people choose none on the religion questionnaire, I don’t freak out as many have. I see it as a sign that while many people are no longer choosing an affiliation to a single religious institution, people are still spiritually seeking and forging a relationship with God outside of any one church or belief system. And that is okay.