Who are our potential religious allies?

Who are our potential religious allies? September 5, 2014

Photo by Walker Bristol

In his introductory post for the relaunch of NonProphet Status, Vlad asks whether dropping our obsession the question of God’s existence might open new doors. “Can we work [with religious people] to build a better world?”

The answer, in one simple graph, is yes.

Last week, political scientist Tobin Grant (who blogs for Religion News Service) released this excellent data visualization of how religious identity correlates with political ideology. The chart is based on data from the Pew Religious Landscape Survey.

Source: Corner of Church and State, Religion News Service
Source: Corner of Church and State, Religion News Service


The chart captures two dimensions of political ideology: Groups on the left believe the government should provide more economic services, while groups to the right believe it should provide fewer. Groups on top believe the government should take an active role in protecting morality, while groups on the bottom believe it should not.

Atheists are positioned close to the bottom of the “government should protect morality”-scale, and slightly leaning toward “government should provide more services.”

As you can see, our circle intersects with the circle representing liberal members of the Jewish faith. Moreover, while the two groups differ slightly when it comes to government services, we are more or less perfectly aligned in our vision for a more value-agnostic government.

When we study this dimension of the chart more closely, we find that quite a few other groups stick out as potential allies. Unitarians oppose government-dictated morality even more than we do, as do Agnostics.

If we’re willing to reach upwards just a little, we also find that Buddhists, nondenominational (non-evangelical) Christians, members of the United Church of Christ, Quakers (listed as Friends), and Anglicans are generally sympathetic with us.

There, then, are our allies in creating the kind of secular policies we envision.

One additional observation.

“Nones” are not Atheists

There is a common misconception that “nones” are just atheists who avoid the label. But while the “nones” are not religiously affiliated, this does not necessarily mean that they do not hold some religious beliefs. Indeed, in 2012, Pew noted that over two thirds (68%) of “nones” do believe in God.

This chart puts further emphasis on that point. While “nones” are in the same neighborhood as Atheists when it comes to political preferences, the groups are clearly distinct.

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