Jonah James used to worry constantly about going to hell, even though he was part of what he considered to be the only true religion: Christianity. That’s what he had always been taught.
Jonah had been taught many things, in fact. According to his church community, women should dress modestly and keep their hair long, men should provide for their families, and anyone outside his church was going to hell. Since leaving, he has had to rethink everything he once knew.
Jonah is one of the 23 percent of Americans who claim no religion, according to Pew Research Center. This ever-growing group of religious “nones” are those who select “none” on questions about religious preference. According to a 2014 study by Pew Research, 18 percent of nones grew up in Christian religions. Just 7 percent of nones are atheists and agnostics, while 37 percent still believe in heaven, and 27 percent believe in hell.
Jonah says he has no religion but still can’t identify with atheism or agnosticism because of his experiences and the community he grew up in.
That community was “The Church without a Name,” as it is often called among those not affiliated with it. The religion has spread throughout the United States, as well as other parts of the world, such as Australia and Ireland. The secretive religion has no designated buildings or pastors. Instead, “meetings” are held in houses. “Workers,” which are similar to pastors, speak at these meetings.
There are two workers for every region, usually spanning a few towns. They have few material possessions and rely on church members for most things, including temporary housing.
The religion doesn’t have a website. Only one hymn book is associated with the faith.
Jonah’s family had been a part of this religion for generations. He was born into it, and the church was all he knew. Because the community was very close (even if, as Jonah believes, that closeness was forced), he didn’t have much of a choice in who he would spend time with.
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