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Number of people unaffiliated with any religion rises in U.S.

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 26, 2012 at 5:26 a.m.
Updated Oct. 27, 2012 at 5:27 a.m.

Allison Besio's tattoos on her feet say "One step at a time" and "You create your own path."

Etched atop Allison Besio's shoulder blades, and down to either side of her back, two oversized angel wings are tattooed in black ink.

As she turns her head left, peering over one shoulder, she says, "They're a symbol of rising above things, of conquering things from my past."

Besio's chopped blond hair is styled whimsically to either side, and when she speaks, the strands pointed away from her face dance alongside her animated head. Yet her professional dress and feminine hospitality quietly hide the fervent interest she's dedicated to her religious journey, and the time and money she's spent inking various spiritual symbols across her petite frame.

And while they may reflect - at first glance - an indication of religious specificity, Besio maintains the markings are an indicator of mere spirituality.

The markings are an identifier of religious non-affiliation, she said.

"When people ask me what I am, I tell them 'Right now, at this time in my life, I don't affiliate with a religion,'" said the 27-year-old Devereux therapist. "It's not completely different from Christianity. The core values, and the things I was taught when I was younger are the same. But when I was about 16, I decided I didn't believe anymore in one religion. Everything evolved from there."

But Besio is far from non-religious. She prays, she talks to God, she attempts to live inside the parameters of cultural morality. She's against adultery and murder, and believes her time is best served honoring and loving others.

Her's is a faith that is without definition, or what is identified colloquially as a "None."

And Besio is not alone.

Three weeks ago, the Washington, D.C.-based Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released a study about the rise of "Nones" in the United States.

Collected from a national sample of 2,973 adults, Pew reported a marked rise in U.S. residents choosing to identify as religiously unaffiliated. The data indicates about one-fifth of the U.S. public, and one-third of adults under 30 years old are considered to be "Nones" - the highest percentage ever in U.S. history.

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