< Previous Page
This is also particularly true among the young. A separate LifeWay study of 1,200 young adults under age 30 found:
• Nearly three in four (72 percent) call themselves "more spiritual than religious."
• More than two in three say they rarely or never pray with others, attend worship services, or read the Bible or other sacred texts.
• More than one in four (28 percent) said God is "just a concept," and four in 10 said the devil is merely a symbol.
• Only half said that "Believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to get to heaven."
Thom Rainer, the president of LifeWay Christian Resources who cited the research in his book on these 18-to-29-year-old millennials, called the Nominals "mushy Christians."
"Most," he said, "are just indifferent."
Still, Nominals care enough to choose some kind of label to identify, however thinly, with a religious tradition. Put another way, Nominals are not synonymous with the "Nones," the one in five Americans who claim no religious identification.
Yet both groups may share a characteristic: They are unlikely to age into religious practice beyond personal prayer, said author and scholar Phyllis Tickle. She is working on a new book about the growing closeness of Jewish and Christian expression in America.
"The old saw is that after they married and had children, people would come back to organized faith. It is not true now. People under 40 are not returning to their inherited church," she said.
In her studies on contemporary Christianity, she sees it morphing from "inherited, hierarchical, location-based (churched) faith" toward forms that discard those strictures.
Believers today are still interested in a communal expression of faith. They just want a more "nimble" religion, she said. She’s also optimistic, saying, "We are in pretty good shape as believers."
Another scholar, Diana Butler Bass, author of "Christianity After Religion," has a slightly different forecast.
"I suspect that many Nominals will move toward None, while a smaller percentage will embrace their inherited faiths in more personal, experiential ways," said Bass. "Generally, being part of a faith tradition ‘in name only’ will be increasingly hard to maintain as society grows more accepting of people who have no religious ties."
Copyright 2013 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.