Title

Nones and Dones: An Exploration of Secularization as a Continuum of Spirituality

Date of Award

5-2020

Document Type

Thesis

First Advisor

Rebecca Overmyer-Velazquez

Abstract

Research on religious disaffiliation highlights the significant social and political implications of religious disaffiliation in the US as individuals leave religious institutions, specifically Christianity, and become independent in practice or evade any sort of religious belief system. 65% of the US identify as Christian and this number is declining as people leave Christianity (Pew Research Center 2019). I ask what are the factors that lead to religious disaffiliation? This study examines a sample of those who are either Christian or nonreligious in the attempt to elucidate the factors leading to Christian disaffiliation and nonaffiliation. The factors explored point to secularization as a continuum. Eleven interviews and survey data from 124 respondents point to uncomfortable experiences, upbringing, politics, and social influence as factors affecting the decision one makes to leave Christianity or to not ever affiliate with it at any point in life. The issues of focus are why former members of Christianity are disaffiliating and why many choose to not affiliate at all while also examining reasons active Christians choose to remain in practice. Most participants raised in Catholicism and Christianity left due to socio-political reasons such as the church’s exclusion of LGBTQ members and issues of abortion. Participants were also pushed from church due to familial reasons such as feeling forced to attend weekly church services and Mass. Participants who were not raised in religion and chose not to ever affiliate cite faith in human goodness and the lack of necessity for religious belief or religious community support as reasons for not participating in institutional religion. Secularization is the belief that overtime, people disengage from religious institutional authority in the center of their lives (Bruce 2011; Gorski and Altinordu 2008), however, findings show that although many choose to not participate in the institutional aspects of Christianity such as attending church, they still have their own beliefs, faiths, and practices. I argue that informed decisions to disaffiliate or not affiliate from Christianity are made with spiritual and humanistic implications that go against the secular notion that all forms of religion and spirituality will seek to exist.

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