Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The GOP's Growing Religious Extremism

A repeated theme on this blog is the decline of the Republican Party from a knowledge and reason embracing political party to a party where ignorance and religious extremism are the norms.  Indeed, ignorance and far right religious beliefs are outright celebrated.  This transformation directly correlates to the rise of the Christofascists in the GOP, especially at the city and county committee and caucus level, a phenomenon I witnessed from the inside as a GOP activist until I could no longer in good conscience be a part of a political party that wanted to fuse fundamentalist Christian beliefs with the civil laws, wreaking havoc on freedom of religion for all Americans in the process.  A column in the Washington Post looks at the GOP's shrinking tent that increasingly looks more like a Bible thumping revival than a modern political party.  Here are column highlights:
Has the Republican big tent evolved into a house of worship?

For several years, the two major parties have been moving gradually toward opposite poles: Democrats growing more liberal and secular, Republicans becoming more conservative and religious. But a survey out this week shows just how far and how fast the GOP has gone toward becoming a collection of older, white, evangelical Christians defined as much by religion as by politics.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center recently released the results of an extensive poll done in 2013 on Americans’ views of evolution. Like other polls, it shows that overall views are stable: Sixty percent believe that humans have evolved over time, the same as said so in 2009.

But within those results, there was a huge shift in the beliefs of Republicans: 48 percent say that humans have existed in our present form from the beginning, compared with 43 percent who say we have evolved, either with or without help from a supreme being. That’s an 11-percentage-point swing from just four years ago, when 54 percent believed in evolution.

How to explain this most unexpected mutation? Given the stability of views on evolution (Gallup polling has found responses essentially the same over the past quarter-century), it’s unlikely that large numbers of Republicans actually changed their beliefs. More likely is that the type of people willing to identify themselves as Republicans increasingly tend to be a narrow group of conservatives who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible — or partisans who regard evolution as a political question rather than one of science. 

The Pew poll also found that the share of Republicans who attend worship services weekly or more is 52 percent, up five points from 2009, and that the proportion who self-identify as conservative is 71 percent, up six percentage points from 2009. The party remains overwhelmingly white, at 86 percent, and the number of those ages 50 to 64 and 65 and older climbed seven points and two points, respectively. 

The gap on social issues between Democrats and Republicans (and independents who lean toward one party or the other) has nearly doubled over the past quarter-­century.

Republicans are by far the more ideologically homogenous of the two (seven in 10 are conservative vs. fewer than four in 10 Democrats who are liberal). Because Republicans were already about as religious as they could get, most of the growing gap in recent years has come from Democrats becoming more secular . . . 

The Republican Party is achieving the seemingly impossible feat of becoming even more theological. Democrats and independents haven’t moved much in their views . . .

As a matter of political Darwinism, the Republicans’ mutation is not likely to help the GOP’s survival. As the country overall becomes more racially diverse and more secular, Republicans are resolutely white and increasingly devout. If current trends persist, it will be only a couple of decades before they join the dodo and the saber-toothed tiger.

But give Republicans credit for this: They don’t just doubt the theory of evolution; they’re out to prove it wrong. If they believed in the survival of the fittest, they’d be expanding their racial and ideological diversity. Instead, they’re trying to demonstrate that devotion to God can trump the Darwinian rules of politics. 

As the author notes, the good news is that the GOP - at least in its current incarnation - is headed towards extinction.  This is a very good thing.  The Christofascists - and their repackaged image under the Tea Party banner - will be the death of the GOP.

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