The religious unaffiliated and politics in 2019

Hope, a difficult virtue to maintain these days in the midst of political and religious strife where the future of our democracy seems uncertain and seemingly religious and political leaders have lost all credibility.

Generally, religion has either become extraneous or a continued cause of conflict, rather than a source of healing, peace and reconciliation. In the modern world, as young people continue to retreat from religious affiliation, so does religious literacy, while religious enthusiasts leaning towards fanaticism battle against those who do not share their beliefs.

{mosads}As we end 2018, we see an inability to deal with the real issues of our day: climate change, economic imbalances and instabilities, racial injustice and conflict among peoples. This leads to my excitement about secular Americans, who have long ignored and been ignored in the realm of politics and religion. This is finally changing as this demographic is finally starting to be seen as a group to be reckoned with.

In April, four members of Congress established the Congressional Freethought Caucus designed to, among other goals, “oppose discrimination against atheists, agnostics, humanists, seekers, religious and nonreligious persons, and to champion the value of freedom of thought and conscience worldwide.” At a time when mainline Christianity has been upended in the United States, there is an opportunity to chart a new course for spiritual and political life in the modern world to address this challenge by improving public understanding of religion’s and reason’s places in the 21st century politics.

No major party or caucus has ever so expressly acknowledged the importance of the nonreligious sector sometimes referred to as the “Nones,” for answering “none” on surveys asking for religious affiliation. It is important to note, however that though this demographic doesn’t identify it doesn’t mean they are not religious or spiritual.

Some views “Nones” as more specifically ‘negators’, which means that their “noneness” is more reaction to the lack of perfection of those segments that claim virtue and authority of the divine more than deep exploration of meaning. According to Pew Research, 35 percent of millennials in the United States poll as religiously unaffiliated, comparted to 24 percent of the American population overall.

This demographic is liberal, urban, richer, and more educated than the average population, and surpass every other single religious voting bloc in the United States. By contrast, white evangelicals — the most consistent right-leaning conservative voting bloc — include less than 15 percent of the voting population.

“Spiritual Innovation”, as I’m defining it, is reaching people beyond traditional methods of religion and spirituality that bridge, impact and inspire. This does not necessarily mean abandoning faith or exclusively being nonreligious, but creating spaces and challenging traditional notions of religion and spirituality that lead to transformative conversations and political action that engage both the religious and nonreligious.  By what spiritual-chemical principles should our amalgamated compositions be refined?

This is the intersection where faith and world meet and politics is at the center of it.

Religion and the cultural wars are central to many of the day’s biggest news stories including the populartist wave sweeping global politics, the Middle East peace economic inequality. Will this demographic become the spiritual innovators to speak to the world and country with hope?

How will this group – the “Nones” – the secularists, humanists and the religiously unaffiliated further find their voice and activism in 2019 in American politics life and globally? Such remains to be seen. But they have a friend and ally in this evangelical, born-again, theologically and religiously universally ecumenical liberal progressive humanist Christian minister.

I’m excited to find out.

Professor Quardricos Bernard Driskell is a graduate of Morehouse College and Harvard Divinity School with 10 years of federal lobbying and ministerial experience. He is an adjunct professor of religion and politics at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Follow him on Twitter @q_driskell4.


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