Christians are numerous. What’s their problem?

Yesterday, Pew came out with a new “Global Religious Landscape” report. Much of the media coverage has been focused on the relatively high percentage of people who are religiously unaffiliated. We’ll probably need to look at how some media continue to confuse everything between atheism and multiple religious traditions into one grouping.

The Washington Post had a blog item that had a markedly different focus, headlined “Our Christian Earth: The astounding reach of the world’s largest religion, in charts and maps.” It was a bit of a disappointment, beginning:

Christmas is an official government holiday in the United States, one that coincides with a smaller and informal but well-known tradition: debating whether or not there is a “war on Christmas.” In this thinking, American Christians are obligated to ”stand up and fight against this secular progressivism that wants to diminish the Christmas holiday,” as prominent Fox News host Bill O’Reilly recently argued. “We have to start to fight back against these people.” This is often portrayed as a global fight; O’Reilly, in one of his books, suggested that the “war on Christmas” is part of an effort to “mold [the U.S.] in the image of Western Europe.”

This movement to defend one of Christianity’s most important holiday can sometimes seem to begin from the assumption that Christianity itself is on the defensive in the world, a besieged minority or at least under threat of being made one.

A very different picture emerges from a just-out Pew report, “The Global Religious Landscape.” There are a number of fascinating trends and details in the study, but it’s worth examining what it indicates about the place of Christianity in the world. And, based on this data, the world’s largest religion seems to be doing just fine.

Hunh? That second paragraph is just a mess. If you’re a reporter and you use the phrase “can sometimes seem to begin from the assumption,” your editor should probably explain to you why that’s not good journalism. Seem to whom? And about this assumption — was it made up by the reporter or is there something substantive that a journalist can point to?

The article “seems to” falsely concludes that because there are many Christians in the world, perceived attacks on Christians in the American public square are of no concern for Christians. Of course, there could be many Christians in the world, and many Christians in North America, and many Christians in the United States and there could still be attacks on Christians in the American public square.

And since the global report shows that there are growing numbers of “unaffiliated” — not just around the world but in the United States, too, the data trends there might be as important as the raw numbers, or more so. I’ve long stated my dislike for theological giant Bill O’Reilly (who once said my church didn’t follow Jesus because we oppose syncretism), but his arguments have nothing to do with the data supplied by the Pew report. Further, folks worried about the expression of Christianity in the public square include those at the Vatican, who perceive a threat from secular humanism and its effects on the church and culture. Their concerns aren’t specifically addressed by the Pew report but they’re definitely not renounced by it.

Anyway, another item is that the article was half-edited to correct an early error that asserted that Christmas is Christians’ most important holiday. It now says “one of Christianity’s most important holiday [sic].” And speaking of editing, there were some problems (on review these have been corrected since I first read the story) confusing North Africa and North America and whether 68 million Christians represent 5 percent or one-fifth of the Chinese population. The article ends:

Two of the 10 countries with the world’s largest Christian populations are not actually Christian-majority: Nigeria, which is about half Muslim, and China. Those 68 million Chinese Christians only make up about five percent of their country’s population, but it’s a remarkable toehold for the world’s largest religion in the world’s largest country. And the number of Chinese Christians appears to be growing rapidly, particularly as the government loosens long-held restrictions on free religious expression.

This data is likely to provide little comfort to the handful of Christian communities, particularly in countries such as Iraq, that are facing real persecution. But, overall, the story of Christianity in today’s world is still one of vast majorities, enormous populations, and historically unique reach. If there truly is a war on Christmas or any other facet of Christianity, then, in global terms, it doesn’t seem to be doing very well.

Again, this study is not the one to use to determine whether attacks on Christians or tenets of Christianity are doing well. This study does not even begin to broach those topics. Pew actually has looked at which religions are most persecuted in the world and found that Christians are persecuted in more countries than other religions are. As for basic tenets of Christianity, those are always in conflict throughout the world, including in the United States of America, where major battles dealing with religious liberty are being obscured by the media.

Print Friendly

Not all ‘nones’ are atheists

In England and Wales, there were 37.3 million Christians in 2001, representing 72 percent of the population. In the most recent census (2011), that had dropped to 33.2 million or 59 percent of the population.

Religion News Service had a brief story about this that included these graphs:

Figures from the 2011 Census show the number of people declaring themselves to be atheists rose by more than 6 million, to 14.1 million.

“It should serve as a warning to the churches that their increasingly conservative attitudes are not playing well with the public at large,” said Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society. “It also calls into question the continued establishment of the Church of England, whose claims to speak for the whole nation are now very hard to take seriously.”

However, those statistics are not right.

As reported in The Telegraph:

The number of people specifically identifying as Atheists was 29,267, while over 13.8 million refused to identify with a faith at all, ticking the “No religion” box on the census form.

While reporting no religion might sound similar to atheism, there is no way for journalists to know if respondents are atheists, agnostics, unaffiliated or otherwise.

But there is a big difference between 29,267 reporting atheism and 14.1 million. For more on the rise of the nones, check out The Friendly Atheist’s blog post here.
Print Friendly

West Point cadet quits, citing religion

I’ve long been fascinated by stories about religious practice at the service academies. My brother attended the Air Force Academy in the 1990s and the religious pressure there was quite strong. His commanders didn’t quite accept that the generic Protestant service at the beautiful chapel there wouldn’t quite work for him (Missouri-Synod Lutherans don’t worship in a unionistic manner). They were suspicious as to why he needed to go off base for Divine Service, etc.

My father-in-law attended the Naval Academy (class of ’58) and told us stories of how midshipmen would try to get out of weekend worship by claiming religions without a local presence — only to find out that the academy would go to extremes to get them to a mosque or Theosophist center or what not many miles away.

Frequently stories about violations of the separation of church and state at military academies focus on the complainant’s claim, as they should. Sometimes this is at the expense of the possible complications at play. So I wanted to highlight this Associated Press story that I thought handled everything with a very nice balance. It begins:

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A cadet quitting West Point less than six months before graduation says he could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.

Blake Page announced his decision to quit the U.S. Military Academy this week in a much-discussed online post that echoed the sentiments of soldiers and airmen at other military installations. The 24-year-old told The Associated Press that a determination this semester that he could not become an officer because of clinical depression played a role in his public protest against what he calls the unconstitutional prevalence of religion in the military.

Quitting six months before graduation is almost unheard of at military academies. A big part of that is because, after a window that closes before your second year is completed, you usually pay a penalty. The information about Page not being able to be an officer is crucial, and it’s good to put it up at the top. But I like how the reporter simply mentioned it, described the role it played according to the student, and didn’t try to say that this aspect of the story invalidates the claim.

The article gives us specifics about Page’s complaints — jokes about nonreligious cadets being called heathens at basic training, an officer telling him he needed to fill the hole in his heart. He criticizes the leadership of West Point, calling them “criminals” for allowing these things to happen.

We also hear from folks at West Point who dispute the allegations, including citing the academy’s Secular Student Alliance, where Page was president. The article goes ahead and speaks with members of that club to see what they have to say:

Maj. Nicholas Utzig, the faculty adviser to the secular club, said he doesn’t doubt some of the moments Page described, but he doesn’t believe there is systematic discrimination against nonreligious cadets.

“I think it represents his own personal experience and perhaps it might not be as universal as he suggests,” said Utzig, who teaches English literature.

One of Page’s secularist classmates went further, calling his characterization of West Point unfair.

“I think it’s true that the majority of West Point cadets are of a very conservative, Christian orientation,” said senior cadet Andrew Houchin. “I don’t think that’s unique to West Point. But more broadly, I’ve never had that even be a problem with those of us who are secular.”

The article goes on to discuss the problems the Air Force Academy has had with church and state issues, pointing out that a retired four-star general was asked to conduct an independent review of the religious climate there. The article also discusses the rise in acceptance of atheists, agnostics and humanists in the military.

It’s then that we learn that Page is involved with the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, led by Mikey Weinstein. Weinstein is then quoted about “fanatical religiosity” in the military, comparing Page’s courage to that of Rosa Parks. It’s great to quote Weinstein, but I liked that his quotes came toward the end of the story. Frequently the stories we see about this issue are dominated by Weinstein, who is a significant actor in the movement.

The story wraps up with final details about Page’s honorary discharge, including that he will pay no penalty in terms of military commitment or reimbursement for his education costs. We also learn that Page says his depression worsened after his father’s suicide last year. The story ends with Page’s quote that he hopes to spend the rest of his life as an activist on the role of religion in the military.

Very well done. It handles a number of delicate issues with care for all involved and you can come away from the complicated story with an understanding of a multitude of different perspectives. Perhaps, you could argue, there should be more perspective from the folks who are accused of unconstitutional behavior. And that’s a fair point. But given the space constraints, I rather liked how much was fleshed out by focusing in on the secularist community.

Image of West Point cadets via Spirit of America/Shutterstock.

Print Friendly

Accurate Holiday wars update from Santa Monica!

YouTube Preview Image

Oh my! We may have a Nativity Lent miracle on our hands!

Trust me that I have read enough horrible “Christmas wars” stories in my journalistic life to recognize a decently reported one when I see it. I think the following Los Angeles Times story about the ongoing Santa Monica Nativity scene battles includes a few paragraphs of material — from a qualified, informed source — that make all the difference.

First, here is the sad, sad drama that is playing out once again:

Santa Monica may bar Nativity and other seasonal displays in public spaces, a federal judge tentatively ruled Monday.

In a case that has drawn national attention, Judge Audrey B. Collins of U.S. District Court in Los Angeles denied a church coalition’s request that the court require the city to allow Nativity scenes to be displayed in Palisades Park this year, as it has for nearly 60 years.

“The atheists won on this,” said William J. Becker Jr., an attorney for the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, a coalition of 13 churches and the Santa Monica Police Officers Assn. Standing in front of TV news cameras outside the Edward R. Roybal Federal Building, Becker predicted that the court on Dec. 3 would also grant the city’s request that his group’s lawsuit be dismissed.

That likely outcome, he said, marked “the erosion of 1st Amendment liberty for religious speech.” He compared the city to Pontius Pilate, the judge at Jesus’ trial, saying: “It’s a shame about Christmas. Pontius Pilate was exactly the same kind of administrator.”

Atheist groups praised the judge’s ruling as an example of the upholding of the separation of church and state.

So far, so predictable.

The key, of course, is that officials of the state — under “equal access” principles firmed up back in the 1990s by a broad coalition of liberals and conservatives — have one of two options.

First, they can throw the public spaces open to snarky holiday chaos with all comers treated equally. This gives you the “Pastafarian religion” exhibit, complete with the “Flying Spaghetti Monster,” sitting next to a traditional Christian Nativity scene. Then again, officials can elect to treat all faiths and interest groups equally by denying all requests for exhibitions of this kind. Legally, the state has to go to one extreme or the other, thus avoiding “viewpoint discrimination.”

Lo and behold, the Times team found someone, and even quoted them, who (a) is not connected with either warring camp and (b) actually knows something about the laws that are in play.

Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and director of the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington, called Collins’ decision “consistent with other rulings.”

“It’s all or nothing in these cases,” he said. “If the government opens up and creates a limited forum, it can’t practice viewpoint discrimination. But it can say, well, we’re not going to have any. … There has to be a level playing field in the public sphere.”

So, for good and for ill, that is the state of church-state affairs at this point in time. You don’t have to like it to note that this newspaper report managed to get the crucial legal facts into the story. All too often, journalists just let the Christians shout at the atheists and the atheists shout at the Christians and that’s that.

This story gives us some of the shouting, of course, such as:

Since 1953, the coalition each December has erected a tableau of scenes depicting the birth of Jesus Christ. … To keep things fair and legal, the city held a lottery to parcel out slots. Atheists won 18 of 21 spaces. A Jewish group won another. The Nativity story that traditionally took up 14 displays was jammed into two.

A flap ensued. Vandals ripped down a banner the Freedom From Religion Foundation had hung at the park. The banner began: “At this season of the winter solstice, may reason prevail.”

Last June, concerned that the lottery would become increasingly costly because of the rising tensions, the City Council voted to ban all private, unattended displays in city parks. The city has cited other reasons for the prohibition, including damage to the park’s turf and some residents’ statements that they would prefer unobstructed ocean views to seasonal displays.

Tragically, this is one of those cases in which the most calm, logical and, dare I say, reverent option is silence. Then again, loyal GetReligion readers already know where I stand on these matters. Last year I summed up my views in three simple thoughts. Here they are again, cleaned up a bit:

(1) I, personally, have never understood why so many religious believers think it is so important to have a creche on the lawn of their local government’s secular headquarters.

(2) Then again, I’ve never understood why some religious believers think it is a victory for Christians to go to court and argue that a Nativity Scene is not really religious and, thus, is a mere cultural symbol that belongs on tax-funded land. Since when is that a victory for traditional faith?

(3) In a perfect world, again in my opinion, every church in town would — if their leaders choose to do so — put up their own creches and the courthouse lawn would not be forced by choirs of lawyers to host warring armies of believers, unbelievers and other tense folks from various camps in between.

So once again, just to be clear, I am praising the Times for actually quoting an authoritative voice that knew enough about church-state law to realize that Santa Monica has not, in this case, banned Christmas. Instead, this story has noted that the government’s leaders have chosen to cease being entangled in Holiday red tape and, well, spaghetti.

Print Friendly

Pod people: Red America and Bible Belt atheists

On the latest Issues, Etc. podcast, host Todd Wilken and I discuss my recent post on a Washington Post story that featured a red-state American in her natural habitat.

I explain why I liked that story better than some other post-election autopsies of Republican-leaning states, such as this New York Times story.

While the Post story devoted 1,800 words to attempting to understand a religiously motivated voter, the Times report allowed two paragraphs:

The Rev. Brady Cooper, the pastor of New Vision Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tenn., said he had heard acquaintances in the days since the election speculating that social issues cost the Republicans the White House. To a degree, they were probably right, Mr. Cooper said. But he said that he could not abandon his values to win elections, and was increasingly moving away from politics.

“I’m kind of disillusioned more and more with the political process,” Mr. Cooper said. “One of their top priorities is being re-elected, and that kind of drives a lot of decisions that they make. And it means obviously going with the trends of the culture as opposed to the truth.”

(To be fair, the Times’ Laurie Goodstein provided a more in-depth analysis of the Christian right and the election.)

In the podcast, Wilkin and I also revisit my concerns about the ghost of Prince William County.

And we discuss the unasked question about atheists going to church.

By all means, enjoy the podcast.

 

Print Friendly

When Bible Belt atheists go to church

A church service for atheists?

Really!?

Here in my home own state of Oklahoma, that’s the basis for a religion story in today’s Tulsa World. The headline grabs readers’ attention this way:

All souls welcome at church’s morning service for atheists

OK, I’m curious.

The top of the story:

Why would atheists go to church?

Wouldn’t that be like someone going to a movie theater, staring at a blank screen for an hour, and then going home?

Not at all, says the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, who this fall started a special service for non-theists at All Souls Unitarian Church.

“These are people who are not inspired to live their lives a certain way by ideas of God or by Scripture but who have the same human needs for community, compassion, meaning and marking the significant passages of birth, coming of age, marriage and death,” he said.

Lavanhar said the church started the humanist service in September, partly in response to the rapid growth of atheism in society.

“The fastest growing religious segment of our society are those who call themselves non-religious,” he said.

“If I can’t make my case for loving your neighbor without reference to God and Scripture, then I am truly going to miss a huge segment of the population who may find themselves permanently outside the walls of organized religion,” he said.

Keep reading, and the World provides insight into the pastor’s theology and beliefs:

He said he prays regularly and experiences God’s help in his ministry, especially when he is counseling people facing illness or the loss of loved ones.

He does not like to be labeled, which is not helpful, he said, but when pushed, he says he is a theistic naturalist. He believes in God but does not believe in miracles.

He said he does not believe in the Christian orthodoxy that Jesus Christ was truly God in the flesh, but said he has no dispute with people who say they have found a life-changing relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

He said developing a relationship with God is at the heart of what All Souls is about, but he believes Jesus is only one of many paths to that relationship.

Many people who come to All Souls as atheists have not rejected God but their fourth-grade concept of God, he said.

“I say to them, ‘Tell me what God you don’t believe in, and I’ll probably tell you I don’t believe in that God either.’”

That’s all interesting and relevant. But what about the atheists themselves? According to the pastor, the non-theist service has drawn as many as 280 people. Wouldn’t it be nice to hear from some of them?

This is basic Journalism 101 stuff: In a story about atheists going to church, the reporter needs to interview some atheists who go to church, right? Maybe ask them why they wake up extra early on Sunday if they don’t believe in God?

Otherwise, you end up not with an intriguing news story but with a blasé one-source sermon that fails to answer the key question raised.

Image via Shutterstock

Print Friendly

Which religious group should be blamed for the election results?

Well, everyone, we made it through another presidential campaign year! Congratulations to the winners and condolences to the losers and all that.

With the election over, we’re now in the stage of the airing of grievances and assigning of blame.

It’s usually much easier to do this than this year, where the campaign wasn’t about big issues. Or as it was put in this fantastic Washington Post piece explaining how Obama won:

The campaign bore almost no resemblance to the expansive one Obama waged in 2008 — by strategic choice and by financial necessity. Without the clear financial advantage it had last time, Obama’s campaign relied more on the tools of micro-marketing than on the oratorical gifts of the nation’s first black president.

Gone were the soaring speeches that clarified Obama’s candidacy four years ago. Instead the president focused on Romney. Meanwhile, his campaign spoke early and often with “persuadable” voters, selected for targeted e-mails and doorstep visits through demographic data unavailable last time.

“We turned a national election into a school-board race,” a second senior Obama campaign official said.

Before the effort to define Romney began, before they even knew for certain Romney would be the opponent, the Obama campaign laid the groundwork for victory in a race that would be won in the margins of a polarized electorate.

The lack of big issues led, perhaps, to an obsession with polls. That obsession continues as journalists look to exit polls for meaning. The New York Times has a great interactive page with election information. It begins with the note:

Most of the nation shifted to the right in Tuesday’s vote, but not far enough to secure a win for Mitt Romney.

Weird, right? Most of the nation shifts to the right but the big story is that the right lost. Big time. How to make sense of that? The first thing I might suggest is caution. Whether it’s on election night or the first few heady days after, people are desperate to make sense of things. But sometimes it takes a while for actual vote totals to come in or good local data that explain particular elections.

Just for instance … I really enjoyed this Denver Post/Eric Gorski piece about the Pew data, which mentioned:

The initial speculation and preliminary evidence was white evangelicals and other conservative Christians might not enthusiastically support Romney, either for theological or other reasons, [University of Akron political scientist John] Green noted. Ultimately, though, exit polls showed nearly eight in 10 white evangelicals supported Romney, an improvement over John McCain’s 73 percent in 2008 and on par with George W. Bush’s 2004 numbers.

Perhaps more interestingly, Romney received less support from his fellow Mormons than allegedly skeptical white evangelicals – although it was just 1 percentage point less.

That’s fascinating, no? The evangelical voters increased their support for the GOP candidate in 2012 over 2008 and 2004? And Mormon support was below that of white evangelicals? Crazy! (The piece also has great discussions on the “nones” and why Obama lost seven points among white Catholics — Green suggests the “religious liberty” issue was a factor.)

But what we also need to know are whether those percentages reflect changes in the actual voters. Meaning, did some evangelicals sit out the election this year? And did Mormons come out to vote more than usual? Both of those things could have happened as well. Or not. We’ll have to wait a bit to find that out. Going back to that New York Times map mentioned above, it shows that the country went more Republican everywhere with a few exceptions. One of those areas was the South. Is that partly a religion story? I don’t know. (There’s some great analysis on these questions here.)

One interesting approach taken by Religion News Service was the piece headlined “What’s next for religious conservatives?” Even though the Romney campaign was laser-focused on the economy at the expense of getting out the vote over social conservatism or other issues Americans care about, the piece suggests that the problem lies with … social conservatives. It includes lines such as:

The electorate today is increasingly Latino, and younger, and both those groups are turned off by anything that smacks of righteous moralizing.

I only wish that young people were turned off by anything that smacked of righteous moralizing. But the ratings success of Glee would suggest otherwise. As for this claim that Latinos are all turned off by, um, “anything that smacks of righteous moralizing” … I’m not quite sure how to respond to it. I mean, maybe it’s true. Maybe Latinos were turned off of Romney (and the GOP) not because of his comments about self-deportation, or his lack of outreach to them, or this (from ABC/Univision):

Nationally, 74 percent of Latino voters said that Romney did not care about Latinos or was outwardly hostile to them, with a whopping 56 percent believing the latter. Compare that to what Latino voters thought of President Obama: 66 percent said he truly cares about Latinos.

But maybe RNS is right and the failure to crack 35 percent of the Latino vote — which one analysis says would have changed the outcome of the entire election — had something to do with social conservatism. Journalistically, though, it would be better to substantiate claims such as this about youth and Latinos rather than just assert it without any evidence.

This was an interesting election and one that, despite how narrowly divided the country is, had some decisive results with serious implications for religious adherents and the issues they care about. But it’s always good to proceed with caution when trying to make sense of why voters made the decisions they did.

Note: Please keep comments focused on media coverage as opposed to personal political preferences, etc.

Recriminations image via Shutterstock.

Print Friendly

The day after: The prophet John Green, revisited

It should be a quiet day on the religion-beat front, in the wake of yesterday’s nail-biters in the real world of politics. If the past repeats itself, as it often does, it will take a few days for the religion elements of the story to emerge, other than the usual “Obama won the Catholic vote (whatever that is)” headlines.

We do know several things for sure, on the day after. The ultimate ties that bind are race and religion, even when those two realities pull in different directions. The map also shows the degree to which many working-class voters in the urban Northeast and Midwest remain in deep, deep pain and many are convinced that the government is their ultimate, if not only, friend. GOP leaders seem to be deaf to their populist cries. (Then again, I am a registered Democrat who just bought a Chevy Cruze).

In its wrap-up analysis, USA Today went back to the map:

The changing U.S. electorate split in two Tuesday — not only along lines of political party and ideology but also by race and ethnicity, gender and marital status, region and religion, education and age. The divisions are even sharper than they were four years ago, when Obama attracted broader support, especially among whites.

But this time the contest was much closer in a country that is undergoing tectonic shifts in its demography. “We have never had a more polarized electorate,” Republican pollster Whit Ayres says.

If there was one thing that seemed to unite the nation, it was a sense that the stakes were high and the election mattered.

The nation froze in place in an amazing state of gridlock. Things pretty much remain the same on the nation’s hot-button moral, cultural and religious issues: The only vote that actually matters, at least for a few years, is that of Justice Anthony Kennedy. It’s his country, but he lets us live here. For church-state insiders, all eyes are on his editing pencil and numerous First Amendment cases (free speech, freedom of association and religious liberty) are headed his way.

As election night plodded on, I kept thinking about University of Akron scholar John Green and that recent Pew Forum “Nones” study and America’s growing coalition on the secular and religious left. To be specific, I flashed back to a Media Project seminar in the summer of 2009, when Green stood at a whiteboard and described the changes that he was seeing in the landscape of American religion. Everything he said on that day showed up years later, in the 2012 Pew Forum study of the religiously unaffiliated.

On the right side of the American religious marketplace, defined in terms of doctrine and practice, is a camp of roughly 20 percent (maybe less) of believers who are seriously trying to practice their chosen faith at the level of daily life, said Green. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there is a growing camp of people who are atheists, agnostics or vaguely spiritual believers who define their beliefs primarily in terms of the old doctrines that they no longer believe. This is especially true when it comes to issues of salvation and sex. As the old saying goes, on these issues these spiritual-but-not-religious believers reject all absolute truths except the statement that there are no absolute truths.

In recent national elections this growing camp of secularists and religiously unaffiliated people have formed a powerful coalition with Catholic liberals, liberal Jews and the declining numbers of people found in America’s liberal religious denominations (such as the “seven sisters” of oldline Protestantism). Add it all up, Green said in 2009, and you had a growing camp of roughly 20 percent or so on the cultural left.

The bottom line: This coalition was emerging as the dominant voice in the modern Democratic Party on matters of culture and religion. Just as Republicans have, in recent decades, had to wrestle with the reality — the pluses and the minuses — of the energy found on the Religious Right, leaders in the Democratic Party will now be faced with the delicate task of pleasing the Religious Left and its secular allies. This could, to say the least, shape the party’s relationships with the Catholic Church, Orthodox Jews, Muslims and other major religious bodies.

Here’s what Green had to say, a few weeks ago, after the press gathering announcing the “Nones” report. This is taken from a column I wrote for the Scripps Howard News Service.

The unaffiliated overwhelmingly reject ancient doctrines on sexuality with 73 percent backing same-sex marriage and 72 percent saying abortion should be legal in all, or most, cases. Thus, the “Nones” skew heavily Democratic as voters — with 75 percent supporting Barack Obama in 2008. The unaffiliated are now a stronger presence in the Democratic Party than African-American Protestants, white mainline Protestants or white Catholics.

“It may very well be that in the future the unaffiliated vote will be as important to the Democrats as the traditionally religious are to the Republican Party,” said Green, addressing the religion reporters. “If these trends continue, we are likely to see even sharper divisions between the political parties.”

Sound familiar?

So where does this go? Where will journalists be looking for the next wrinkle in this story?

The reality that trumps many of these religious divisions is, of course, race. At some point, cultural conservatives are going to have to find a way to separate married and religious African-Americans and Latinos from the single adults and secular people in those large ethnic groups. White voters divide alone lines of religious practice (the “pew gap”) and marital status, while black and Latino voters do not.

If cultural conservatives are not able to do this, then do the math.

Meanwhile, here comes the deeper information from the exit polls. If journalists continue to march in lockstep, we are only days away from reports about the growing division between young evangelicals and old evangelicals (whatever the word “evangelical” means).

Print Friendly


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X