Following a national and international trend, Salt Lake City is witnessing the rise of the "nones."

Their growth is so pronounced here, in fact, that the city's most famous one — Rocky Anderson — was recently re-elected to another four years as mayor.

A none is a person who, when asked in public opinion polls, checks his religious affiliation as "none"; he is not Protestant, Catholic, LDS, Muslim or connected to any other organized religion.

In Salt Lake City, worldwide headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, nones have become the second-largest religious category behind Latter-day Saints.

With Anderson in the top seat, the nones in Salt Lake City have gained considerable political clout and, in November's municipal election, voted together like a religious or other political bloc: 86 percent of nones chose Anderson while 14 percent cast ballots for challenger Frank Pignanelli, according to exit poll data of 737 nones collected by Dan Jones & Associates.

But while these folks have no religious affiliation, that doesn't mean they aren't religious or don't believe in God.

"I find that my spirituality is enhanced through keeping such matters very private," Anderson said. "I've had some amazingly profound spiritual experiences during my life."

In fact, very few nones are actually atheist, according to the most recent data from the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that of the more than 29 million nones in America only 902,000 or 3 percent said they were atheist.

The ARI, which compared its 2001 data to 1990 data collected in the National Survey of Religious Identification, found that the number of nones in the United States increased from 14 million in 1990 to more than 29 million in 2001. In 1990, nones accounted for only 8 percent of the U.S. population; in 2001 they had grown 6 points to 14 percent, making them one of the fastest-growing religious categories in the country and the nation's third-largest religious category behind Catholics and Baptists, according to the ARI.

A review of two October public opinion polls of 1,522 registered voters in Salt Lake City shows that nones make up about 19 percent of the city's population, with LDS members constituting about 48 percent.

The third-largest group is Catholics at 9 percent, followed by Protestants at 8 percent, according to the polls Jones conducted the poll for the News and KSL-TV.

As in Salt Lake City, nones have become the second-largest religious group in Utah at 17 percent, behind LDS at 57 percent, according to the ARI survey.

Nationally, one-third of all nones are single, while another 22 percent are single but are living with a partner. Only 19 percent are married; another 15 percent are divorced or widowed, according to the ARI.

Sixty-one percent of nones are males, and about a third, 35 percent, are younger than 30.

As a none, Helen Peters, chairwoman of the Sugar House Community Council, says a lack of religious affiliation gives her time to serve the community.

"Being nonaffiliated gives me some extra time in the week," she said.


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