It’s tempting to dismiss SBNRs as salad-bar spiritualists concerned primarily with themselves. But many assumptions about this group are off target.
Residents of the Pacific Northwest are redefining what it means to be religious. The region is sometimes called the None Zone because 63 percent of those polled for the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey said that they were not affiliated with a religious group, compared to 41 percent of all Americans, and 25 percent claimed to have no religious identity—compared to 14 percent nationally. By checking “none” on a survey, however, Northwesterners are not necessarily signaling a lack of interest in religion. They are indicating, says Patricia Killen, a historian and dean of Pacific Lutheran University, that they do not think “religious identity is connected to a historic religious institution or faith.”