The Nones: Seeking the Religiously Unaffiliated in the Pacific Northwest

Proposed 2013 LARC Project jointly with Professor Steven Green (Law; History); Professor David Gutterman (Politics); Professor Stephen Patterson (Religious Studies); Professor Kelley Strawn (Sociology)

In 2012, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that for the first time more that 20% of individuals in the United States claimed no affiliation with any organized religious institution. These are the “Nones.” In the Pacific Northwest the percentage of “Nones” is almost twice the national average. This warrants study. In this LARC Project we will try to understand who these individuals are, what their socio-demographic predictors are, how they live, what they think about religious and spiritual life, how the Pacific Northwest has come to be a home for so many of them, and what the social and political implications of this trend might be for the region and the nation.

  • Professor Green is especially interested in tracing the legal history of the state of Oregon to explore how state laws might have provided a receptive home for the religiously unaffiliated. Of additional interest will be to document which denominations settled and flourished (or declined) in the Pacific Northwest over the past 150 years as possibly indicating a receptivity to religious non-affiliation.
  • Professor Gutterman is particularly interested in the ways the growth of the religiously unaffiliated in the region are informing both the political direction of the region and the response of religious institutions and behavior.
  • Professor Patterson is interested in the Gospel of Thomas, an early Christian seekers gospel that has proven to be appealing to twenty-first century seekers.
  • Professor Strawn will examine the demographic profile of Pacific Northwest versus those of other parts of the country using data from the Pew Report, the General Social Survey (GSS), and other recent surveys on the religious landscape of the nation to determine what the numbers reveal about regional vs. national trends.

We welcome student interest, questions, comments, and ideas.

Willamette University

Liberal Arts Research Collaborative

900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

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