You can call them “unaffiliated,” as in a recent Pew poll, or “nones” -- or even just “ not very religious .” A new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute divides this group further (and somewhat counterintuitively) into “unattached,” “atheists/agnostics,” and “seculars.” But whatever you call them, this ever-growing cohort of unchurched Americans makes up, at 23 percent , the single largest segment of Barack Obama’s “religious coalition” (compared to the 37 percent of white evangelicals who support Mitt Romney).
While we have yet to see a “Seculars for Obama” bumper sticker, the unaffliated are clearly having a moment . Media analysis, however, has not gone very deep -- there is a story here that goes beyond names and numbers.
Recent sociological work from Courtney Bender , Christian Smith , and others does help us understand who the current crop of unaffiliated are and what they do and believe. Yet we have precious little historical understanding of this critical and growing demographic. What are their roots? What religious, cultural, economic, demographic, and political processes shaped their sensibilities, habits, and makeup?
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