In 1999, Gallup asked Americans the following question: “Which of the following statements comes closest to describing your beliefs: you are religious, you are spiritual but not religious, or you are neither?”
54% said they were religious, 30% described themselves as spiritual but not religious, and 9% said they were neither. A mere 6% said that they considered themselves to be both religious and spiritual.
They just asked the same question again. Now, less than half of Americans (47%) describe themselves as religious, 33% say they are spiritual but not religious, and 18% said they were neither (only 2% said they were both).
The headline is clear: First, people are continuing to distance themselves from any formal religion or religious practice, instead claiming to be individually spiritual. Second, the number who claim to be neither religious nor spiritual has doubled.
So it’s not simply a move away from religion, but rather an increasingly clear move away from spirituality itself. So rather than someone saying, “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” they are now saying, “I’m not into that kind of stuff at all.” Instead of separating religion and spirituality, they are lumping them together as one “thing,” and that “thing” is being rejected in total.
It brings to mind a rather obscure essay C.S. Lewis once wrote on modern man and his categories of thought that I included in my book Meet Generation Z and mentioned earlier this year in one of my blogs.
It bears repeating.
Lewis argued that when the gospel first broke out, the evangelistic task was essentially to one of three groups: Jews, Judaizing Gentiles and pagans.
All three believed in the supernatural.
All three were conscious of sin and feared divine judgment.
Each offered some form of personal purification and release.
They all believed the world had once been better than it now was.
But now, Lewis argued, the average person shares none of those marks. In fact, he ended the essay by stating, “I sometimes wonder whether we shall not have to re-convert men to real Paganism as a preliminary to converting them to Christianity.”
It would appear that Lewis was as prescient as ever.
This article originally appeared on ChurchAndCulture.org and is reposted here by permission.