The Nones

By Paul Bawden

Recently some research was done by the Pew Research Center regarding the moral practices of a relatively new and growing group within the religious life of America called the “nones.”

Nones are people who, when asked about their religious affiliation, say that they are atheistic, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” It was discovered that the “unaffiliated,” the nones, are the second largest religious group in America just under evangelical Christians.

As unaffiliated, the nones tend to be less religious in attendance at worship services, or daily prayer. Since they are not religious by these measurements, it was wondered what it meant for them to be a “moral person.”

The Pew Research Center asked the unaffiliated whether 16 pre-selected beliefs and behaviors were essential, important but not essential, or not important to what they think it means to be a moral person.

Topping the list was honesty. In fact, 58% of the nones said that honesty was essential to being a moral person. Some other essentials to the nones for being a moral person were: being grateful for what you have (53 percent), committing to spend time with family (47 percent), forgiving those who have wronged you (39 percent), and working to protect the environment (35 percent). About 10 percent of the unaffiliated believe praying regularly is essential to being moral. Two percent believe attending religious services is part of a moral life.

It appears from this research that one can be good without God in personal, family, and community relationships. In fact, the Chaplain of Harvard, Greg Epstein, the author of, “Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe,” said that the results of the Pew survey are evidence that the religiously unaffiliated community values action over belief in the supernatural.

This research causes me to ask several questions. (1) Is there an ultimate standard for good? (2) Why do people do good? (3) What happens when one doesn’t come up to the ultimate standard of good?

The Psalmist put it this way, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1). The word, LORD, is capitalized, telling us that He is the self-existent, eternal God, and He is good. The word, good, means that the biblical God does everything perfectly without any flaw, for He is holy, transcendent moral purity.

The reason people can do good in so many different ways, even being honest, is that all of us have been created by the good God (Genesis 1:26-31). Our non-material part, our personalities, created like His, can demonstrate good because God is good.

Finally, it is obvious that we don’t do good at all times. In fact, we sin, we say and do things that don’t display that we are good, which means we don’t measure up to God’s standard of good (cf. Romans 3:10-18). We need His forgiveness and grace. That’s where the God-man, Jesus Christ, steps in for us. Since He is totally good, He can through His death, burial, and bodily resurrection provide for us His forgiveness and eternal life. The one who accepts Him as personal Savior, can now, depending on His power, display His good in life (Galatians 5:22-23), while having lasting fulfillment in time with eternity in God’s presence guaranteed.

Although the nones will likely not agree with these facts and neither the Harvard Chaplain, that in no way does away with their reality. The eternal biblical God is the ultimate and absolute standard of good. I trust you know Him by faith and His good is evident in your life!

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