Peter Berger dissects Robert Putnam’s latest book (“American Grace”) over at The American Interest, putting special emphasis on the rise of the so-called “nones” in American society. The “nones” are people without religion who, by virtually all estimations (including, first, the empirical), represent one of the fastest growing demographic cohorts in the country. But why is this happening, and do these people really have no interest in any aspect of faith? Berger disagrees with the narrative, so commonly repeated, that what’s happening is progressive children simply being turned off by their parents’ provincialism:
The two authors [Putnam and Campbell] are very probably correct that, broadly speaking, those who are turned off by Evangelicals and conservative Catholics do so because they don’t like the repressive [n.b. a loaded description in and of itself - could this have affected the survey?] sexual morality of those churches (the sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church has not helped). But the “nones” have also exited from mainline Protestantism, which has been much more accommodating to the liberationist ethic. Here, I think, there has been frustration with what my friend and colleague Thomas Luckmann long ago called “secularization from within”—the stripping away of the transcendent dimensions of the Gospel, and its reduction to conventional good deeds, popular psychotherapy and (mostly left -of-center) political agendas. Put differently: My hypothesis implies that some “nones” are put off by churches that preach a repressive morality, some others by churches whose message is mainly secular.
What then do these people believe?
Find out here.