Thursday, June 11, 2015

Religion's Decline Is Good For Politics

As numerous posts have noted, religion is in a sharp decline in America and the fastest growing religious segment of the population is the so-called "Nones" who have walked away for organized religion entirely, a group that includes 34% of Millennials.  A piece in Politico argues that this is good news for American politics.  That is, of course, except for the Republican Party which has become a de facto sectarian party controlled by right wing religious extremists.  The piece also reviews the reality that the religious extremists did not use to hold such sway in any political party and that today's GOP is a historical aberration.When the GOP will wake up to the slow form of suicide it is practicing remains to be seen.  Here are article highlights:

Before the rise of the religious right in the 1980s, most politicians kept their faith to themselves. In 1945, for example, President Harry Truman wrote: “I’m not very much impressed with men who publicly parade their religious beliefs.” After his election in 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower joined a Presbyterian church, but when he heard the minister was publicly boasting about his new member the general commanded, “You go and tell that goddam minister that if he gives out one more story about my religious faith I will not join his goddam church!” John F. Kennedy discussed his Catholicism only when forced to do so by critics during the 1960 presidential campaign. In a 1964 interview with the Baptist Standard, President Lyndon Johnson explained, “I believe in the American tradition of separation of church and state which is expressed in the First Amendment to the Constitution.”  . . . .  Even the openly evangelical Christian Jimmy Carter prioritized his piety below that of most political issues.

This all changed in the 1980s, when evangelical pastor Jerry Fallwell and his Moral Majority (famously characterized as “neither”) convinced Christian politicians that evangelizing for the Lord included knocking on doors within the beltway. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s Christian sects and faith-based organizations such as Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition of America and James Dobson’s Focus on the Family used rallies and donor support to convince politicians and candidates that if they didn’t pander to religious voters they stood little chance of being elected. The result has been a nauseating display of political cheerleading for Christ, from proclaiming Jesus as your favorite “philosopher” to petitioning the almighty at the end of public political speeches to “bless the United States of America.”

Those days might be over. . . . the fastest growing religious cohort in America are the “nones”—those who check the box for “no religious affiliation.” Such unaffiliated numbers have been climbing steadily out of the single-digit cellar in the 1990s into a now respectable two-digit 23 percent of adults of all ages

There are today about 245 million adult Americans. This translates into 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults of all ages, more than either mainline Protestants or Catholics and second only to evangelical Protestants. This translates into 19 million more people who have no religion just since 2007, an encouraging trend for those who have grown weary of America’s slide toward theocracy.

The trend lines are as unmistakable as they are consequential. As the religious pig makes its way through the generational python . . . the number of the faithful coming out the other end will inexorably diminish in both number and influence. . . .  some people raised with no religion became religious (4.3 percent of U.S. adults), but four times as many went the other direction.

Imagine no religion. This is no figment of your imagination. It is happening now and it may be the most important trend of the new century. Indeed, pulling back for a big history perspective, the shedding of religious dogmas and the demolishing of ecclesiastical authoritarianism has been underway ever since the Enlightenment, and in my new book The Moral Arc I claim that this may well be the most important thing that has ever happened to our civilization.

Meanwhile, of course, a contest remains among the would be GOP presidential nominees to see who can out prostitute themselves to the Christofascists who peddle hatred and fear. 

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