Losing Our Religion

How Unaffiliated Parents Are Raising Their Children

256 pages

2 tables

November, 2015

ISBN: 9781479883202



Also available in



Part of the Secular Studies series


Christel Manning is Professor of Religious Studies at Sacred Heart University (CT). She is the author of God Gave Us the Right and co-editor of Sex & Religion.

All books by Christel J. Manning

The fastest growing religion in America is—none! One fifth of Americans now list their religion as “none,” up from only 7 percent two decades ago. Among adults under 30, those poised to be the parents of the next generation, fully one third are religiously unaffiliated. Yet these “Nones,” especially parents, still face prejudice in a culture where religion is widely seen as good for your kids. What do Nones believe, and how do they negotiate tensions with those convinced that they ought to provide their children with a religious upbringing?
Drawing on survey data and in-depth personal interviews with religiously unaffiliated parents across the country, Christel Manning provides important demographic data on American “Nones” and offers critical nuance to our understanding of the term.  She shows that context is crucial in understanding how those without religious ties define themselves and raise their families. Indeed, she demonstrates that Nones hold a wide variety of worldviews, ranging from deeply religious to highly secular, and transmit them in diverse ways. What ties them all together is a commitment to spiritual choice—a belief in the moral equivalence of religions and secular worldviews and in the individual’s right to choose—and it is that choice they seek to pass on to their children.
The volume weaves in stories from the author’s interviews throughout, showing how non-religious parents grapple with pressure from their community and how they think about religious issues. Engagingly written and thoroughly researched, Losing Our Religion will appeal to scholars, parents, and anyone interested in understanding the changing American religious landscape.


  • "Manning explores the incredible diversity to be found among Nones, who include everyone from the esoteric spiritual seekers to devout Christians who simply don't identify with a particular denomination...a thorough primer."

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Refreshingly nonpolemical—will be of special interest to secular parents struggling with some of the issues presented.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “In this impressive book, [Manning] presents a detailed profile of religiously unaffiliated or disinterested parents and reveals the variety of ways in which they are raising the next generation. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”


  • "Will be of interest to the very population it examines, as it unwittingly reads a little like a how-to manual. I write this weeks away from the birth of my first child, and I found this book informative, since I will soon be joining the ranks of the unaffiliated parents."

    Sociology of Religion

  • "Manning offers a thorough and incisive examination of the salience of choice in unaffiliated parents' moral world views."

    Review of Religious Research

  • “This book should be required reading for anyone interested in the changing contours of American religious and nonreligious life.”

    Reading Religion

  • “[T]he most interesting insight in this book comes from Manning’s characterization of what Nones are looking for in their own lives and the way they bring up their children.”

    Books & Culture

  • "This book is lively, readable, and provocative."

    Nova Religio

  • “[…] Christel Manning’s interesting new analysis of the unaffiliated, also known as ‘Nones’ for their stated preference for no religion in particular…are…a diverse lot but even the secularists, like Manning herself, still commonly struggle with the default religiosity of American society and with the assumption that religion is inherently good or necessary for individual goodness.”

    Anthropology Review Database

  • "Complicates our scholarly understanding of religious Nones and advances our understanding of how religion functions in their lives as parents." 
    "Losing Our Religion offers important nuances in the picture of religious Nones in the early 21st century in the United States. Manning also makes important contributions to painting a more finely grained picture of Nones, their diversity, their motivation and longings, and the families they create." 

    Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

  • “[Manning] explores how parents of these varying worldviews raise their children, some in parts of the country where not attending church is viewed with great suspicion, and how they respond when a child asks the big questions—about God, about death, about going to church.”

    VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates

  • "Full of new insights both conceptual and practical about the growing religiously unaffiliated population today. Manning offers a new typology for understanding its diverse constituency, beliefs and identities. For 'none' parents, she addresses many questions and issues likely to arise with their children. And does so in an honest and engaging manner drawing on insights gleaned from dealing with her own teenage daughter. A good and informative read."

    —Wade Clark Roof, J.F. Rowny Professor of Religion and Society Emeritus, University of California at Santa Barbara

  • “A very useful and timely addition to the sociological literature on the fast growing population of Nones, which is having a growing impact on 21st century American society. The dilemmas facing the current generation of parents who self-identify with no religion and have to grapple with the question of how to raise their children can be a real challenge for many couples. This book provides valuable insights and guidance by offering a rich body of material including a societal overview, interviewees’ stories, and the author’s own experience as a parent."

    — Barry A. Kosmin, Director, Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture, Trinity College

  • “The 'rise of the Nones' has been the decade's most important story about religion in America, but we know very little about what distinguishes the religiously unaffiliated from other Americans. In this sophisticated yet accessible qualitative study, Christel Manning provides a fascinating view of how None parents negotiate the moral and spiritual upbringing of their children.”

    —Mark Silk, Trinity College