There was a time when even the unchurched came to church for at least one occasion — their deaths. It was an era when nearly everyone, even those who rejected religion, had some connection to faith, however distant.
But today, the number of Americans with no religious affiliation at all has grown so much they’ve achieved their own name: the “nones.”
Pew Research has found that a fifth of the American population — including a third of adults under 30 — are connected to no faith communities. Many have never had any association with church, synagogue, mosque or other house of worship.
And when they die?
“They’re not coming to us,” said George Mason, the senior pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.
Mason and other Baptist pastors tell ABPnews/Herald that the number of requests they receive from the religiously unaffiliated has decreased over the years, instead of increasing as that population grows.
Mason said it makes sense.
“If you put yourself in their mindset, they don’t suddenly, at the point of death, say ‘let me go find the expert on this sort of thing,” he said. “Instead, they will create their own ritual.”
Preachers aren’t the only ones noticing those new rituals. Funeral homes are scrambling to meet the challenge posed by the do-it-yourself and home-funeral movements.
The Huffington Post reported last year about a small but growing number of Americans opting out of the after-death industry in favor of home-preparation of bodies; simple, wooden caskets; and even backyard burials in some cases.
In response, the National Funeral Directors Association reports that mortuaries have responded with a variety of services aimed at attracting consumers, including more personalized services and the use of information technology.
The Waco Tribune-Herald recently published a story detailing how digital media is transforming the way Americans mourn. Online guest books, grieving on Facebook, video and electronic photo tributes of the deceased and music streamed from iPods have become the norm, the newspaper reported.
And the demand for such services is increasing.
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SOURCE: Associated Baptist Press