Pacific Northwest’s “none-zone” expands, challenges religious institutions

The Pacific Northwest continues to be the bastion of religious non-affiliation it has been since the early 2000s, only more so, having a significant impact on religious communities, writes Mark Silk in his blog for Religion News Service, Spiritual Politics (May 31). Silk cites recent research conducted by the University of Victoria’s Centre for Studies in Religion and Society that confirms how the Pacific Northwest (which included British Columbia in the study and is known as Cascadia) remains a “none zone,” with the proportion of adults who say they have no religion rising from the low twenties to 32 percent in Washington and Oregon, and from 35 to 44 percent in British Columbia. As with the nones in general, the young adult proportions are considerably higher, Silk adds.

He sees Cascadia as a “regional laboratory of demography indicating where North America north of the Mexican border is headed when it comes to religion.” Equally striking to Silk is the study’s findings about the region’s evangelicals. “Two decades ago, they saw Cascadia as a mission territory ripe for making major inroads on the vast number of the unchurched. Then, they understood themselves as at the crest of a powerful evangelical wave sweeping over America. Now they see themselves as living on the shore of ebb-tide Christianity and are finding ways to accommodate to the dominant culture. Increasingly, they have become open to (if not quite affirming of) LGBTQ members. They are soft on abortion. They embrace the environment. Some even go so far as to foreswear evangelization.” Silk cites sociologist Michael Wilkinson of Trinity Western University in British Columbia, who observes “an effort on the part of evangelicals [in the region] to redefine themselves. Their confidence is gone.”

(Spiritual Politics,