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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Are we losing our religion?
Organized worship's grip in U.S. loosens
 
Published Thursday, October 18, 2012 10:27 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Brandon “A. Black” Jones, 26, was raised in a religious family that went to church every Sunday.

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One in five U.S. adults has no religious affiliation, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.


For him, it was something he did out of obligation. He says his mother expected him to go so he went. That changed when he went away to college. Jones began going to church less and less until he stopped going altogether. Now he no longer considers himself a Christian.


“I stopped calling myself a Christian probably about a year ago,” he says. “For a while, I really didn’t feel like one, but, of course, I would never say it out of political correctness… There are so many people who feel like that is the craziest thing you can say, especially as a black person. They think if you are not a Christian, then you must be a Muslim or something.”


Jones is not a Muslim. He is not an atheist. He is not completely sold on the divinity of Christ, but he does believe in a “higher power.”


Jones is among a rapidly growing group of Americans who do not identify or associate themselves with any one religion.


According to a study recently released by the Pew Research Center, one in five adults in America has no religious affiliation, and those numbers are much higher for younger adults.


Researchers say one third of U.S. adults under the age of 30 are religiously unaffiliated, the highest percentage ever in Pew’s polling history. Furthermore, the study found that the overwhelming majority of people who do not affiliate themselves with a religion, think religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and regulations and too involved in politics.


Jones says his misgivings about the church began at an early age.


“I felt like the people were so money oriented and always talking about prosperity,” he says.


Spiritual, not religious
Of the country’s 46 million religiously unaffiliated adults, more than a third (37 percent) classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious,” according to Pew.


Eshe Glover, 37, is among them.


Growing up, Glover says she went to church every single Sunday. Now she goes maybe four to six times per year.


She and her son “go to church” online. They pray together daily and read the Bible. Glover also reads the Koran.


“I come from a family of many different religions,” she says. “My brother is Muslim. I have another family member that is Jewish so even though I did grow up in the church, I also went to the synagogue and [other religious temples]. I feel like I am more of a spiritual person than a religious person.”


She studies various religions and believes they all have positive aspects to them.


“I try to pull the best from all of them and lead a good spiritual life,” she says. “I try to be kind to people and treat people the way I want to be treated.”


A church of one
When Simone McDowell, 33, moved to Charlotte from Maryland five years ago, she had a hard time finding a church home. Like Glover, she began attending church online.


Still, the self-described “church hopper” says she does enjoy physically attending services on occasion.


“I feel like it is important to be in a church sometimes and actually sit in a pew,” she says. “It’s a different vibe being in a space with like-minded people who are all there for the same reasons and getting a connection from them as well.”


Kojo Nantambu, pastor of Green Oaks Missionary Baptist Church, agrees.


“I think there is always a need for corporate worship,” he says. “Our collective prayer and our collective engagement bring about a stronger manifestation and response from God.”


Nantambu says many churches no longer preach the power of collective worship but a message of individual prosperity.


“A lot of people with success now feel like the things that happen are the result of their own efforts and abilities,” he says “People feel they are getting what they need and want anyway so figure why go to church?”

Nantambu says over the last 25 years, many churches have moved away from preaching the power of collective faith, worship and prayer. He says now the message for many is one of individual prosperity.


“A lot of people with success now feel like the things that happen are the result of their own efforts and abilities,” he says “People feel they are getting what they need and want anyway so figure why go to church?”

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