Category Archives: Other

My FAV Word: Rev. Cheryl Walker and the “Freedom from Fear”

Samantha Freda

By SAMANTHA FREDA
WilmingtonFAVS news intern

Before meeting with the Rev. Cheryl Walker, I knew very little about Unitarian Universalists, beside a vague understanding of the belief system’s liberality and tolerance of many different forms of spirituality.

An image from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship foyer. Photo by Samantha Freda

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wilmington is a humble-looking building on Lake Avenue. In its foyer is the symbol of  the flaming chalice (the primary symbol of Unitarian Universalism) within two overlapping circles, signifying the union of different faiths and acceptance of nontraditional religious concepts or interpretations.

The organization of Unitarian Universalism was in the combining of both the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America, which existed separately of one another until May 15, 1961, when the Unitarian Universalist Association was formed.

Universalists, whose belief in universal salvation—that a loving God would not eternally damn anything it created—came into conflict with some traditional Christian concepts. Unitarians exercised faith based in reason, living by a principle that one should not have to believe in something they can not reasonably find to be true. Both came out of the Christian faith, though their beliefs and teachings are drawn from many different sources.

Walker, spiritual leader of UUFW for the past three years, led me into her office where we quickly fell into a casual conversation on the nature of this fellowship.

“I didn’t always do this,” Walker said, speaking of her days working in applications development at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street.

“During the day I was helping to make people more money who had enough but wanted more. Then at night, I was volunteering to feed homeless people. I finally just realized that, these two things I did every day were opposing each other. It had to be one or the other,” she said.

The Rev. Cheryl Walker. Photo by Samantha Freda

Though she was raised as a Muslim and still values many aspects of Islam, Walker found both her logical side and her spiritual yearnings were satisfied by the Unitarian Universalist philosophy.

“We’re a model for how religious pluralism goes,” she told me as she read off some of the texts from which she writes sermons: the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, the Quran, the Upanishads, The Book of Mormon, even a text on aboriginal ideas.

Walker is currently teaching from a book called “Freedom From Fear: Finding the Courage to Act, Love, and Be” by Forrest Church. Church recognizes how guilt, worry, anxiety and dread are associated with the body, intellect, conscience, emotions and soul.

Besides the natural instinct inherent in physical fear, the book says the rest of the effects connected with fear cause distortions in perspective that limit our quality of life. Church attempts to encourage readers to realize their own strength and overcome their fears.

Walker has given sermons based on this book.

“We need not think alike to love alike,” Walker said, concluding our meeting with a quote from 16th century Unitarian preacher, Francis David. The simple phrase captures an essential aspect of Unitarian Universalism, a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, while maintaining a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

MedMob: Meditation and drumming for peace

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Christine Moughamian

By Blogger Christine Moughamian
One Yogini, Many Paths

On Sunday, April 15, I joined eight persons at Greenfield Lake for MedMob, a monthly hour of silent meditation and drumming for world peace.

MedMob originated in Austin, TX, to bring silent meditation to public places. According to their official website, the name refers to “flash mob,” a group of people who meet “in a crowded public place for the purpose of engaging in a coordinated, unexpected, inspiring activity.”

Their mission statement is all-inclusive:

“Our intention is to create an environment for people from all religions, all world views, and all experience levels to join together in meditation. Our vision is to continue inspiring world-wide meditations until the entire world is invited to join – literally!”

After an hour of seated silent meditation, participants may stretch then engage in 11 minutes or longer of “sound bath.” The Austin group’s 200 participants have chanted “OM” under that city’s capitol building dome, nicknamed for the occasion “the OM Dome.”

On Sunday morning, at the initiative of drummer Perry Smith, our group drummed a simple beat on African drums. I was given a double-drum. My hands moved in rhythm with the deep bass sound.

Eyes closed, a smile on my face, I felt connected to the beat of our hearts, the pulse of the Earth.

When we were done, I asked my friend Elena Pezzuto about the purpose of the monthly gathering. She said: “We meditate for individual peace, community peace and world peace. Come join us!”

The Wilmington MedMob has met in front of a high school shaken by shooting, on the steps of the courthouse and other places of tension around town.

When we talked about the depth of our experiences afterwards, it seemed the name “MedMob” didn’t do it justice. Pezzuto proposed “Meandering Meditators.” We also agreed meeting once a week, in a park, might be good practice.

Participant Pat Reynard explained to me: “It’s anchored where love and light are needed.” Reynard stood up strong, feet firm on the ground, then added: “I am planted. I am here.”

Another participant, Elaine Wilson, said: “It’s grounded with mechanical support.”

I could attest to that feeling of “groundedness” during our meditation. After only a few moments of deep breathing, I felt both calmed down and uplifted. For a moment, I felt I was more than just “peaceful.”

I WAS peace.

Ohio congressman on a mission to bring meditation to the masses

Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) is on a mission to bring mindfulness to the masses. RNS photo courtesy HayHouse

By DANIEL BURKE
c. 2012 Religion News Service
Reprinted with permission

(RNS) By age 35, Congressman Tim Ryan had been one of Ohio’s youngest state senators, served two terms in the U.S. Congress and hobnobbed with presidents and prime ministers.

But a different story, full of unmet ambitions and caustic self-criticism, coursed through Ryan’s mind, carrying him away from even the most important moments.

“I was so caught up in my story that I missed my life,” the Ohio Democrat writes in his new book, “A Mindful Nation: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us Reduce Stress, Improve Performance, and Recapture the American Spirit.”

Practicing mindfulness meditation, Ryan says, has quieted the nattering

internal narrative, making him more relaxed, focused and compassionate. Now 39, the five-term congressman is enlisting teachers, doctors, business leaders, scientists and military personnel in a “quiet revolution” to bring mindfulness to the masses.

Ryan, a Roman Catholic, spoke recently with Religion News Service about how meditation helped him avoid burnout, how it resembles praying the rosary, and why you don’t have to be a Buddhist to meditate. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: The book came out of my going around the county to meet scientists studying mindfulness; teachers using it in schools; health care practitioners implementing it in our health care system; our military using it to treat veterans and build mental resilience. And I thought the world needed to see what they are doing. They are pioneers in what will be the next great movement in the United States: the movement of mindfulness.

Q: When did your interest in mindfulness start?

A: It started a long time ago. My grandparents and my mom prayed the rosary a lot, and later in life I had a priest friend of mine teach me centering prayer, based on Father Thomas Keating’s work. That led to practicing different kinds of meditation off and on as I got older.

Q: And when did you begin to consistently practice meditation?

A: I had been running extremely hard with my job and traveling across Ohio and the country to help Democrats take back the House in 2006, and then there was the presidential election. I was 35 and I thought, “I’m going to be burned out by the time I’m 40. I really need to jump-start my meditation practice.” Two days after the presidential election, I spent five days at a retreat in increasing levels of silence. It reminded me of how I felt when I played sports: being in “the zone” with mind and body grounded in the present moment.

Q: And you continue to meditate every day?

A: Yes, 40 to 45 minutes every morning before I leave the house and go out into the world.

Q: Has meditation changed how you do your job in Congress?

A: I feel like I choose better what issues are really important to my constituents and to me, as opposed to thinking that you can somehow address every issue across the political spectrum. You just have to figure out where you are going to put your attention. That’s something that everyone is trying to figure out, whether you’re a congressman or a single mom.

Q: So, do you think you’d want to introduce mindfulness to Speaker John Boehner or Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi?

A: (Laughs) If anybody wanted to try it, I’d be happy to point them in the right direction.

Q: What would you tell Boehner, for example?

A: He plays golf, and I might say that if you look at high-performing golfers, they are not over a 15-foot putt thinking about the meeting they are going to have tomorrow. They are thinking about sinking the putt. It’s all about coordinating the body and mind to be in the present moment, and how powerful that can be.

Q: Because of mindfulness’ Buddhist roots, a lot of people think it’s a religious practice. How does your meditation relate to your Catholic faith?

A: If you love your neighbor and are compassionate, are you automatically a Christian? Practicing present-moment awareness does not entail joining any religion or accepting any belief system. As a Catholic, I find mindfulness helps me participate in my religion more wholeheartedly. If you are praying the rosary, participating in the rituals at Mass or listening to the priest preach, you will actually be paying attention! Whatever your religion is, it can enhance the experience of participating in that religion. What’s more beautiful than that?

Q: There do seem to be some Buddhist concepts in your book, such as the interconnectedness of all beings. Has meditation made you more interested in Buddhist philosophy?

A: I love studying different religions. For me, learning and drawing from the different religious traditions is essential to being a good public servant. And the connections between our various religious traditions become our public ethic; they tie us together.

Meet Lynn Heritage, our peace writer

Meet Lynn Heritage, our peace writer.

She’s a North Carolina native and lives in Carolina Beach with her husband, Dave, and their dog, Sadie Mae. As a mom, grandma, sister, aunt and friend, Heritage believes her love for the people in her life is reason enough to take a stand for peace.

After retiring from the corporate world five years ago, Heritage volunteers twice a week in a first grade classroom at Gregory Elementary School and at the Lower Cape Fear YWCA as a facilitator for “What’s Wrong With Different,” an anti-racism program.

She’s also the coordinator of the Southeastern Chapter of International Grandmothers For Peace, which celebrated its fifth year last year.

Moving so close to the ocean opened her heart in ways she never anticipated and because of it, she’s found the courage to travel inward to connect with her spiritual center. Peace is her mantra because “the thought of peace… the hope of peace…the belief in peace and, most certainly, the need of peace is paramount in my soul. When I breathe in the spirit of my mantra, p-e-a-c-e, it resonates with all that is me.”

Welcome, Lynn!

‘Occult’ filming picks spooky spots in the Cape Fear area

By Cassie Foss
Cassie.Foss@StarNewsOnline.com
Copyright 2012 StarNewsOnline.com
Reprinted with permission

Maybe it’s the rural setting or the quaint, historical chapel at Shelter Neck’s Universalist Unitarian Camp, but something screams “The Occult” in Burgaw.

The local production, which kicked off filming in the region the week of March 20, has chosen the camp and the surrounding area as the setting of the fictional village of New Bethlehem, a devout community kept under the tight reins of the town’s vigilant elders, according to Blaise Noto, a publicist for the film.

But the production wasn’t satisfied with just being in the country.

On Wednesday, film crews began to spread dirt over about a quarter-mile stretch of Croomsbridge Road near the camp.

The road is expected to be closed near 3747 Croomsbridge until April 14, according to a N.C. Department of Transportation news release.

Although the horror thriller isn’t a period piece, the dirt is designed to give the area a more “countrified” feel, Noto said.

The story follows six girls who are born on the same day to different mothers.

On the eve of their 18th birthdays, the girls begin to mysteriously disappear and are feared dead.

The elders of the village believe the girls’ disappearances are linked to an old prophecy that foretells the coming of the devil’s daughter via the villagers.

Terror overtakes the community, leading villagers to wonder if a serial killer is at work or if the prophecy has come true.

The film, an LD Entertainment Production directed by Christian Christiansen (“The Roommate”) and written by Karl Mueller, stars Rufus Sewell (“The Illusionist”) and Alycia Debnam-Carey.

Heche has worked in the area before. She was cast in last year’s locally filmed “Arthur Newman, Golf Pro” and she had a small role in the 1997’s “I Know What You Did Last Summer.”

Sewell stars in the upcoming “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Other recent cast additions include Colm Meaney (“Law Abiding

Colm J. Meaney, an Irish actor widely known fo...

Colm J. Meaney, an Irish actor widely known for playing Miles O'Brien in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, sits as he speaks into a microphone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Citizen”), Jennifer Carpenter (“Dexter”) and Cary native singer/songwriter Katie Garfield, who will play Abby, one of the village’s young women.

Burgaw isn’t the only spooky spot cast members will visit.

Location scouts chose Marilyn Meares’ Chestnut Street bungalow in Wilmington as the setting of at least one scene in the film.

The conservation consultant said she came home from work recently to find a note from production scouts taped to her front door.

Scouts may have chosen her bungalow, built in 1923, because of its location in an established neighborhood and its lush, leafy vegetation, Meares said.

They also needed a long hallway.

“I think the main thing they needed was a hallway for people to run through and hide, and I’ve got a long one that goes to my bedroom,” she said. “It just kind of came together.”

The film is expected to shoot at the home Monday through Thursday.

Crews also filmed scenes this month at a wooded area at Autumn Hall Lake near Eastwood Road.

Filming is expected to continue through the end of April, Noto said.

Cassie Foss: 343-2365
On Twitter: @WilmOnFilm

BRIEF: Nicaragua peace and freedom lecture at UNCW on March 26

The University of North Carolina Wilmington will present the “Nicaragua Photo Testimony” photographic documentary work of Oregonians Paul Dix and Pamela Fitzpatrick at a lecture at 6 p.m. Monday (March 26) in 100 Morton Hall.

For nearly 20 years, Fitzpatrick and Dix have documented the effects of the U.S.-funded Contra War on the poor of Nicaragua. Their work was overseen by Quaker meetings in Eugene, Ore., and Bozeman, Ore.

Luz Mabel Lumbí Rizo - 1987, age 22 months, in Jinotega. Photo courtesy Paul Dix.

After taking photos in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, Dix and Fitzpatrick returned to re-photograph many of the same people who were affected by the war there.

Their work is documented in a photo book, “Nicaragua: Surviving the Legacy of U.S. Policy” and on their Nicaragua Photo Testimony web site.

The event is co-sponsored by

Luz Mabel - 2003, age 17 years, with daughter, Luz Noelí, in La Unión. Photo by Paul Dix.

UNCW’s Department of Foreign Languages & Literatures, the Coastal Carolina United Nations Association – USA, and UNCW Amnesty International.

Details: boomershinea@uncw.edu

-Amanda Greene

Belief Bytes: Tuesday’s Religion News Roundup

A slam-dunking elephant, courtesy of RNS archives.

Here is your Religion News Roundup for today:

By DAVID GIBSON
c. Religion News Service 2012
Reprinted with permission

“Meanwhile, American Atheists are putting up billboards in Jewish and Muslim neighborhoods, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation is proselytizing: their NYT ad calls on liberal Catholics to leave the church, and to stop “enabling” all the Bad Things That Have Ever Happened Anywhere.

The church’s lawyers may be doing the FFRF’s job for them: Laurie Goodstein reports on a Catholic legal crusade against the organization that has helped thousands of people who were abused by clergy as children. Interesting PR strategy.

The Anonymous hackers just can’t quit on the Vatican. This time they are targeting Vatican Radio. (That is your scribe’s alma mater, so I take it personally. But don’t hold it against me, hackers. Please.)

News Lead of the Day: ‘Four Amish youths were charged with underage drinking after they crashed their horse-drawn buggy into a police cruiser in upstate New York…'”

Read the rest of the article here:

-Samantha Freda, Wilmington Faith and Values, news intern

My solution to family tragedy: Mindful Writing

By Contributor Jennifer Johnson

I began an in-depth exploration of various writing practices years ago following my mother’s suicide attempt.

I had studied a number of writing practices, but I hadn’t found one in which I could find an ease, a resting place.

So I created my own practice I call Mindful Writing based on a blend of

Writing illustration by Jennifer Johnson

my study and practice of Insight Meditation, various writing techniques and therapeutic writing.

Writing about my experience mindfully helped me to make order from the chaos and make meaning from the tragedy that had occurred in my family.

Mindful Writing involves the writer entering the practice with mindfulness meditation, listening to her/his thoughts and writing what she/he hears.

Unlike most practices that encourage the writer to write as quickly as possible, I encourage the writer to write slowly, so it becomes a mindfulness practice of being present with what arises in the writer’s thoughts in each passing moment.

The practice is most powerful when undertaken within the support of a facilitated group. I participated in a weekly facilitated writing group for a number of years similar, in some regards, to this practice. The very act of writing what wanted to have a voice within me and then reading it aloud in a group while receiving guidance and feedback from the facilitator provided an experience of learning to trust my own voice.

It offered a warm environment in which I could express anything that arose in me in response to my family’s tragedy and feel a sense of connectedness, belonging and acceptance by a group of fellow writers on the path.

Writer's desk illustration by Jennifer Johnson

Week by week, the writing helped me to transform the suffering in my experience and helped me to heal. The writing, along with my own mindfulness practice, was such a powerful experience I became passionate about creating a Mindful Writing technique, combining the two things most healing for me: Insight Meditation practice and a healing writing process.

This practice isn’t about building one’s writing craft. It’s about accessing the inner well of creative flow, learning to trust one’s authentic writing voice and healing.

In addition to my Mindful Writing: The Path to Creative Freedom workshop and daylong retreat, I offer an online therapeutic writing workshop called Mindful Writing for Transformation.

This transformative workshop provides an individual interaction with me in which beginning or experienced writers receive a text-based lesson weekly and then email me their writing for guidance and response. People come to this workshop in transition or dealing with suffering of some sort, such as anxiety, depression, grief or loss, war, accident, abuse-related trauma, stress or illness.

Participants learn mindfulness skills for managing the difficult emotions related to the painful events, and through their writing, they begin to transform the suffering.

With a mindful approach to writing, we can heal this world one story at a time.

My next Mindful Writing for Transformation online six-week workshop is March 23 – April 27, 2012. Cost is $125. Please email jen@everydaymindful.com to register.

One Brave Christian Experiment: Day 1, Diary of a Sleepwalker

Editor’s Note: Contributor Christine Moughamian is blogging each day of Lent about her progress becoming “one brave Christian.” Follow her experiment on Twitter @1bravechristian.

By Contributor Christine Moughamian

10:30 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 21)

I go to bed excited to begin my “One Brave Christian Experiment.” I call Silent Unity, our 24/7 telephone prayer service.

First, I offer blessings of gratitude for answered prayer. Second, I ask for a prayer of support for my Lent experiment. Then, I turn off my cell phone, smile in the dark and wait for sleep.

And wait. And wait some more.

11:52 p.m.

Words scroll by, at the edge of consciousness.

“Christian… Christ-ian… put Christ back in Christian… Christine…”

Strange, I was raised in a non-religious family; yet given a name which means “anointed by Christ.” I wrote a poem titled “I am a Christian also,” and a Buddhist also and a Taoist and a Sufi. Yet, in observance of Lent this year, I challenge myself to be one brave Christian.

I wish I could fall asleep.

DAY ONE: Ash Wednesday (Feb. 22)

1:07 a.m.

I get up, have a toasted waffle and a cup of hot linden tea, which usually makes me feel sleepy. But not now. “What if I go to sleep and don’t wake up at 5:30 a.m. for prayer and meditation?”

I can’t miss my first discipline.

I pick up my book, finish reading it right there, in my robe, standing at the counter in the kitchen, aided only by a flashlight. Maybe I’ll start feeling goosebumps and be inspired to write non-stop for 20 minutes, like Sam Teague. That’s how he created “The Ten Brave Christians experiment” in March 1965, from material he felt was practically “dictated” to him by God.

2:14 a.m.

I go back to bed, hum “OM” in an effort to make myself sleep.

“OM, OMmmmm.”

Similar to the Christian “Amen,” “OM” is the seed mantra from which all other sounds come. After they chant “OM,” it is not uncommon for people to hear a vibration within.

I often do, like the soft purring of a generator. But not tonight.

I chant “OM” because I believe it is but one of the thousand names of God. But it is not my sleep mantra. Not tonight.

5:28 a.m.

I’m going upstairs to pray, meditate and write goals.

I will not miss my first discipline.

I strike a match to light the candle on my altar. But the match breaks. And so does my resolve to sit up for half an hour. Sam Teague did not say one had to be seated to pray and meditate.

Good. Draped in my robe, I grab my yoga relaxation blanket, my Krishna meditation pillow and lie down on the carpet.

I haven’t received Sam Teague’s practice booklet in the mail yet. So I don’t know the first scripture to meditate on. The question “Which scripture?” barely forms in my mind. The answer comes on its own.

“I am that I am.”

I internally repeat “I am that I am,” vaguely wonder what goal I could write down first (sleep?), then merge with the Presence, the Great I AM.

6:59 a.m.

I wake up – so it is true, I did fall asleep – eventually. I wash up and put on my yoga clothes. Yoga is usually the first thing I do in the morning. But today, yoga can wait. First, I complete my diary entry. I clean up, then I’ll declutter my desk, my mind.

And prepare sacred ground.

Today is Ash Wednesday. My Lent experiment has begun.

What will I pray for, meditate on, set goals for? And what will you, on this first day of Lent?

For many, ‘Losing My Religion’ isn’t a song: It’s life

By CATHY LYNN GROSSMAN
c. 2012 USA Today

(RNS) When Ben Helton signed up for an online dating service, under “religion” he called himself “spiritually apathetic.”

On Sunday mornings, when Bill Dohm turns his eyes toward heaven, he’s just checking the weather so he can fly his 1946 Aeronca Champ two-seater plane.

Helton, 28, and Dohm, 54, aren’t atheists. They simply shrug off God, religion, heaven or the ever-trendy search-for-meaning and/or purpose. Their attitude could be summed up as “So what?”

“The real dirty little secret of religiosity in America is that there are so many people for whom spiritual interest, thinking about ultimate questions, is minimal,” said Mark Silk, professor of religion and public life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

Clergy and religion experts are dismayed, fearing for souls’ salvation and for the common threads of faith snapping in society. Others see no such dire consequences to a more openly secular America as people not only fess up to being faithless but admit they’re skipping out on spirituality altogether.

Only now, however, are they turning up in the statistical stream. Researchers have begun asking the kind of nuanced questions that reveal just how big the “So What” set might be:

— 44 percent told the 2011 Baylor University Religion Survey they spend no time seeking “eternal wisdom,” and 19 percent said “it’s useless to search for meaning.”

— 46 percent told a 2011 survey by Nashville, Tenn.-based LifeWay Research that they never wonder whether they will go to heaven.

— 28 percent told LifeWay “it’s not a major priority in my life to find my deeper purpose.” And 18 percent scoffed at the idea that God has a purpose or plan for everyone.

— 6.3 percent of Americans turned up on Pew Forum’s 2007 Religious Landscape Survey as totally secular — unconnected to God or a higher power or any religious identity and willing to say religion is not important in their lives.

Hemant Mehta, who blogs as the Friendly Atheist, calls them the “apatheists,” while the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, the new Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., calls them honest.

“We live in a society today where it is acceptable now to say that they have no spiritual curiosity. At almost any other time in history, that would have been unacceptable,” Budde said.

She finds this “very sad, because the whole purpose of faith is to be a source of guidance, strength and perspective in difficult times. To be human is to have a sense of purpose, an awareness that our life is an utterly unique expression of creation and we want to live it with meaning, grace and beauty.”

Nah, Helton said.

Helton, a high school band teacher in Chicago, only goes to the Roman Catholic Church of his youth to hear his mother sing in the choir.

His mind led him away. The more Helton read evolutionary psychology and neuropsychology, he said, the more it seemed to him, “We might as well be cars. That, to me, makes more sense than believing what you can’t see.”

Ashley Gerst, 27, a 3-D animator and filmmaker in New York, shifts between “leaning to the atheist and leaning toward apathy.”

“I would just like to see more people admit they don’t believe. The only thing I’m pushy about is I don’t want to be pushed. I don’t want to change others, and I don’t want to debate my view,” she said.

Most “So Whats” are like Gerst, said David Kinnaman, a Christian researcher and author of “You Lost Me,” a book on young adults drifting away from church.

They’re uninterested in trying to talk a diverse set of friends into a shared viewpoint in a culture that celebrates an idea that all truths are equally valid, he said. Personal experience and personal authority matter most, and as a result Scripture and tradition are quaint, irrelevant, artifacts.

“‘Spiritual’ is the hipster way of saying they’re concerned with social injustice. But if you strip away the hipster factor,” said Kinnaman, “I’d estimate seven in 10 young adults would say they don’t see much influence of God or religion in their lives at all.”

The hot religion statistical trend of recent decades was the rise of the “Nones” — the people who checked “no religious identity” on the American Religious Identification Survey — who leapt from 8 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008.

The “So Whats” appear to be a growing secular subset. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life‘s Landscape Survey dug in to the Nones to discover that nearly half said they believed “nothing in particular.”

Neither raging atheist scientist Richard Dawkins, author of numerous best-sellers such as “The God Delusion,” nor religious broadcaster Pat Robertson would understand this fuzzy stance, said Barry Kosmin, co-author of the ARIS and director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism at Trinity College.

“But a lot of these people are concerned more with the tangible, the real stuff like mortgages or their favorite football team or the everyday world,” Kosmin said.

When church historian Diana Butler Bass researched her upcoming book, “Christianity After Religion,” she found the “So Whats” are “a growing category.”

“We can’t underestimate the power of the collapse of institutional religion in the first 10 years of this century,” she said. “It’s freed so many people to say they don’t really care. They don’t miss rituals or traditions they may never have had anyway.”

(Cathy Lynn Grossman writes for USA Today.)