New Report Shows the Shifting Attitudes Religious Groups Have Towards Same-Sex Marriage

A new report just released by the Public Religion Research Institute takes a look at the “shifting landscape” regarding attitudes toward same-sex marriage and LGBT issues in general.

As you might expect, there’s a lot of good news here. 53% of Americans now support same-sex marriage while only 41% oppose it. (Even in the South, the numbers are dead even at 48% on each side.) Furthermore, an astounding 69% of people ages 18-33 support it. Even among evangelical Christians, 43% of Millennials have no problem with gay marriage compared to only 19% of the “Silent Generation.”

We’ve known this for some time now, but when it comes to gay marriage, the question is not “If” but “When.”

So let’s get to the heart of what the report says about religious attitudes toward LGBT issues.

In general, people of all religious stripes are less likely to say gay marriage goes against their beliefs than they were a decade ago. Hallelujah!

All of those bars have gone down over the past decade! All of them, that is, except for the Unaffiliated. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, well, it didn’t make sense to me either the first time I saw it. But consider this: Over the past ten years, a lot of people who hold nebulous religious beliefs have been thrown into this category, leading to a “Rise of the Nones.” So there may in fact be an influx of “spiritual” people in that group who don’t use a religious label but who are still somewhat-religious and who think gay marriage goes against the quasi-religious beliefs they still hold. At least that’s one way to spin it. (At the very least, readers should know Unaffiliated isn’t the same as non-religious.)

It’s also one reason support for same-sex marriage is higher among Jewish people than it is the Unaffiliated:

Indeed, the report later confirms what we’ve long believed: religious attitudes against LGBT individuals is part of the reason people are leaving their childhood faiths:

Among Americans who left their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, about one-quarter say negative teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people was a somewhat important (14%) or very important (10%) factor in their decision to disaffiliate. More than 7-in-10 Americans who have disaffiliated from their childhood religion report that was not too important (17%) or not at all important as a factor (54%).

What about friendliness toward LGBT people? The report shows that the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church, and evangelical Christian churches win gold, silver, and bronze (respectively) when it comes to their hostility toward the LGBT community:

In case you’re wondering who the hell these people are who think evangelicals and Mormons and Catholic are friendly toward gays and lesbians, it’s probably members of those very groups:

Not surprisingly, members of religious groups are much more likely than Americans overall to say their own church or religious tradition is friendly toward LGBT people. Nearly 4-in-10 (38%) Catholics say the Catholic Church is friendly toward gay and lesbian people compared to 27% of Americans overall.

Incidentally, church seems to be the place where bigots abound, as 73% of people who attend religious services at least a few times a year said that others in their places of worship were opposed to gay marriage — moreso than any other group:

What about LGBT individuals themselves? The report sheds light on their religious affiliations — and Unaffiliated comes away the clear favorite, with 37% of LGBT Americans falling in that category (turns out there aren’t a lot of LGBT Mormons as that group’s numbers were rounded down to a whopping 0%):

It was ten years ago when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage. Since then, the trend has moved in the right direction despite the efforts of the Religious Right. In fact, not only did religious opposition to gay marriage help speed up the progress of civil rights, it may have backfired on religious leaders, who now speak out against equal rights to their own peril.

This report shows the speed at which even religious groups are realizing they’re fighting a losing battle. Leaders can continue to shout out Bible verses condemning homosexuality or they can do what young religious people have done and find a way to reconcile their faith with their basic humanity. I don’t have much hope that the older crowd will do that… but that’s okay. It just means more young people will jump over to our side of the aisle, hastening the acceptance of people regardless of their sexual orientation and leaving religion in the dust.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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