Growth of the “Nones” Show the Continued Importance of Separating Religion and Government

The number of "nones"-religiously unaffiliated Americans-is growing.

In fact, at 19 percent nones have reached an all-time high, up from 6 percent in 1990, and 16 percent just two short years ago. The newest number comes from the Pew Research Center, which based the count on aggregate surveys conducted throughout 2011.

Of course, not all of the nones are nontheists-although nontheists are included in the group, those who identify expressly as atheists or agnostics make up about 5 percent of the American population. 

The growing number of Americans who don't affiliate with any religion places an even greater emphasis on the importance of a strong separation of religion and government. That is because as a group unaffiliated Americans overwhelmingly support secularism.

The religiously unaffiliated stand out as the religious group most inclined to think that religious conservatives have too much political sway-particularly within the GOP-with a full 66 percent expressing this view. This is consistent with the 66 percent of unaffiliated Americans who believe the government has much of a role in "protecting morality".

Yet despite the growth of secular Americans, the political clout of the Religious Right has steadily expanded and is now manifesting itself in often overt attempts to insert religion and religious privileging into law. These attempts focus on everything from religiously-infused laws that attempt to block women's reproductive rights, to discrimination toward gays and lesbians. (Nones overwhelming support women's choice with 70 percent in favor, and societal acceptance of homosexuality with 71 percent in support.)

According to the Pew Forum, full 60 percent of white evangelical Christians say that churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political issues. That's in direct contrast to the  54 percent of Americans in general, that believe churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters.

With each new attempt at passing a religiously-infused law, nearly one in five Americans is being disenfranchised. In fact, at 19 percent nones are now more than triple the combined population of American Jews, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, according to prior studies conducted by Pew.

The consistently expanding growth of the "nones" shows the importance of educating lawmakers at the state and federal level on issues of separation of religion and government.  

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