The Northwest is known as the “None Zone,” which is precisely the focus of this month’s Christian Century (HT: Crosscut). Amy Fykholm’s article “In the None Zone: Religion in the Pacific Northwest” has this to say:

Earlier this year a study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life concluded that Americans are embracing a “nondogmatic approach to faith.” Pew’s “Religious Landscape Survey” noted that religious believers increasingly have an accepting attitude toward other faiths and different ways of interpreting their own faith.

Given these trends, what will American religious life be like in another generation?

For some scholars, the Pacific Northwest provides a preview. The region is sometimes called the None Zone, based on the fact that in a 2001 poll (the American Religious Identification Survey) 63 percent of Northwesterners said that they were not affiliated with a religious group—compared to 41 percent of Americans as a whole who made that statement. And 25 percent of Northwesterners claimed to have no religious identity—compared to a national figure of 14 percent.

By checking “none” on a survey, however, Northwesterners are not necessarily signaling a lack of interest in religion or religious activities. 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.” In other words, Northwesterners are in the process of redefining what it means to be religious.

[read the article on]