Thinking About the Nones and Semi-Nones


Tonight I was thinking about a couple of articles I recently read. I am sure most of you have stumbled across the term "nones," that refers to people living without organized religion. They may or may not believe in the divine, but are not interested in religion, scriptures, ordinances such as baptism, etc.

The current Archbishop of Canterbury, John Welby, of the Anglican Church, was addressing a meeting of Anglican ministers in Accra, Ghana and gave these remarks:

"Mr Welby said that when he has been approached by Christians who fear that Islam would 'take over Europe', he told them the 'greater danger' is posed by a growing number of atheists, who he refers to as 'nones'.

'I don't mean N-U-N-s,' he said. 'I mean those who when asked about their faith, say: 'None. I have no faith'.

'The result is clear. In the last few weeks, as part of our discussions about sexuality and the rules around sexuality in the Church of England, I talked of our interdependence with all Christians, not just Anglicans, particularly those in the global south with other faith majorities.

'As a result I was summoned twice to Parliament, and threatened with parliamentary action to force same-sex marriage on us, called in England equal marriage.

'When I speak of the impact that actions by the Church of England will have on those abroad in the Anglican communion, those concerns are dismissed by many, not all, but by many in the General Synod.'

"Mr Welby said that in the Church of England, archbishops do not chair the General Synod or organise its debates.

'In the UK and in many parts of Europe the majority of people now belong to no faith at all,' he said.

'They are not Christians, they are not Muslims, they are not pagans, they are not Jews, they are not Hindus. They do not belong.'

"The archbishop also appeared critical of movements towards greater bodily autonomy and assisted suicide.

'We are in a completely different culture in the financially richer world, to where we were 30 years ago,' he said.

'We've replaced morality and Christian faith with personal control over our bodies. Birth with genetically-designed babies is not far away.

'And death is something that so many believe we have a right to choose in the way and at the time we want.

'Even my predecessor but one, George Carey, has spoken strongly in favour of assisted suicide in the Houses of Parliament - in the House of Lords.

'Modern European global north morality is a morality for the wealthy, the powerful and the intellectually well-educated, it is a morality that does not believe in human sinfulness and failure.

'It does not believe in forgiveness, it does not believe in hope.

'This is where the Church struggles.'

Gosh . . . he says it straightforwardly, doesn't he? The nones are the wealthy, the elite, those in positions of power and authority, and they do not believe they are sinful. They have no need for forgiveness, and so will never extend it to others. The only thing they hope for is to hang on to their riches and elite status. There is no need to hope for anything more. I think we also see this religion among swaggering men, who think of themselves as kings over all they survey. It is the intoxication and poison of power. It used to be an esoteric or secret religion--now it is revealed in all its ignominy. It's very proud now, very much out of the closet.

Thank goodness there is still death and suffering, or there would be no way out of that false religion for its adherents. Even the billionaire gets cancer. Even the swaggering man gets old and feeble.

But sometimes I think there is even a worse religion than that of the nones. I call it the "semi-nones," those who say they adhere to an organized religion and then warp that religion into none-ness. Here's the Right Reverend Iain Greenshields, the Presbyterian moderator of the Church of Scotland:

'There is nowhere in the four Gospels where I see anything other than Jesus expressing love to whomever he meets,' the reverend explained.

'And as Christians, that is the only expression that we can possibly give to any human being, in any circumstance.'

That is, of course, true at one level. Christ loves us, gave His life for us, and wants the best for all of us. But it is not true--as is strongly implied--that He accepts everyone as they are. Indeed, He may say "come as you are," but it accompanied by "but don't expect to stay as you are." This idea that no one need change, that anything and everything a man does is no sin and even should be celebrated and blessed, is a perversion of Christianity. Christ did not come to "save us in our sins," but rather to "save us from our sins, if we repent." There's a huge difference there.

And thus organized religion begins to turn into none-ness. There is no sinfulness, for whatever a man chooses is his authentic self, and Jesus loves you. There is no need for forgiveness, because there is nothing to forgive. And there is no need for hope, because everything is just ducky. These purveyors of false religion turns Christ's love from something powerful and salvific into something like a pat on the head.

Frankly, I see very little difference between the nones and the semi-nones, except that the nones are more honest concerning what they are about. The semi-nones, on the other hand, are those for whom the scripture about salt that has lost its savor was written. And Christ tells us what happens to such salt--it is cast out and trodden under foot.

No wonder people are so lost . . . these false religions are like hay--fills the belly, but has no nutritive value. How the heavens must weep! Somehow I don't think the purveyors of these false religions will get the pats on the head they might think they deserve. Millstones, more like . . .