Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Brookings Study Shows Rise of Religious Progressives As Religious Affiliation Declines Overall

Numerous times I have noted what I perceive to be the long term suicide or death wish of the Republican Party which continues to slavishly prostitute itself to the ugliest elements of the aging far right white Christofacists.  As the GOP doubles down embracing the hate merchants and religious extremists/modern day Pharisees, the majority of the public is shifting away from both religion in general and Christofascist dogma specifically.  It is a trend that I welcome given the reality that conservative Christianity brings more harm to society and social cohesiveness than any benefits it may yield.  A new Brookings Institute Study further underscores these trends.  Here are some excerpts:
A July 2013 study by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and the Brookings Institution underscored the difference between the two parties. While a majority of Republicans—56 percent—could be classified as religious conservatives, only 28 percent of Democrats could be classified as religious progressives. The study found that while nearly one Democrat in five (17 percent) could be classified as non-religious, only 6 percent of Republicans were non-religious.
In the early 1990s, however, a second exodus from religious institutions began, this one much larger than the first. The percentage of unaffiliatedAmericans ranged from 10 to 15 percent in that period,and it stands at 19 percent today. Even more striking, this generation of young Americans is less affiliated than any previous youth cohort in history: PRRI has found that 35 percent of Americans under 30 were unaffiliated religiously.  It is true that many who have no religious attachments when they are in their 20s join congregations later in life. However, no earlier cohort of young Americans—or, at least, none since the dawn of survey research—has started life with such a high level of disassifiliation.  
[W]hile evangelical Protestant denominations and those calling themselves simply Christian” have higher retention rates, they, too, are losing followers.  . . . .  the “evangelical boom that began in the 1970s was over by the early1990s, nearly two decades ago. In twenty-first century America expansive evangelicalism is a feature of the past, not the present.
“In terms of people in pews, the Catholic Church has lost roughly one quarter of its strength over the last thirty-five years,”Putnam and Campbell write. The Catholic share of the population has remained high, in significant part because the departure of white Catholics has been offset by Latino immigration. The dramatic defection rate can be ascribed to many factors, not the least being the pedophilia scandal.  . . . . The Catholic school system has also suffered. “One of the proudest things for the Church is its inner city school system. It’s collapsing before our eyes in central cities. The sisters are fewer, folks can’t pay enough tuition. 
[R]esearch by Putnam and Campbell suggests that many young Americans whose political views are more progressive than those of their elders are turned off not by faith itself but by the rightward trend they perceive among religious leaders. To young adults, Campbell and Putnam wrote, “’religion’ means‘Republican,’ ‘intolerant,’ and ‘homophobic.’ Since those traits do not represent their views, they do not see themselves—or wish to be seen by their peers—as religious.” 
The religious right’s prominence was not only problematic for progressive people of faith. It became problematic for religion as a whole. By the early 1990s, Americans were telling pollsters of their increasing discomfort over religious leaders’ political influence. Again, this discomfort was especially pronounced among the young. As Michael Wear notes in a recent Atlanticpiece, “The melding of Christianity and partisan politics has been 40 years in the making, but the costs of that entanglement have only become clear to Christians over the last decade.”
The disaffection with religion went beyond politics, however, even if political questions aggravated other forms of alienation from church leaders. A 2009 study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that “across all religious upbringings, roughly three-quarters of those who have become unaffiliated say religious people tend to be hypocritical and judgmental rather than sincere and forgiving. And most of these ... cite this as one of the reasons they became unaffiliated.”
There is much more in the report, most of which ought to send chills down the spines of Republican leaders who are faced with a party base controlled by far right religious extremists even as the majority of the public is walking away from religion, especially the Christofascist brand of religion.  As note above, nothing would be better for America - and ultimately the GOP, if it survives - than the death of conservative Christianity and the marginalizing of hate mongering "family values" organizations.

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