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Friday, August 20, 2010

More Americans See Less Religion in Politics, Like It That Way

I wrote yesterday about Americans' willingness to deny plain facts about President Obama's Christianity. Scroll down past the marquee data on Obama in the Pew Forum survey on Religion, Politics, and the President, and you'll find some even more interesting data on Americans' attitudes toward religion.

First, even if more people get a kick out of saying President Obama is Muslim (the numbers saying he's Christian or Muslim flip depending on whether the respondents approve or disapprove of Obama's job performance), Americans in general seem to think that that religious persuasion or any other is having less influence on government policies. The percentage of Americans saying religion is losing its influence on government leaders has jumped 17 points since 2006, to 62%. That perception has increased among every group sampled: Independent, Republican, and even to a smaller degree Democrats; Protestant, Catholic, and unaffiliated.

If religion's influence on elected leaders is waning, an increasing number of Americans are saying, "Good riddance." People who say churches should stay out of political affairs have been a majority since 2008, 52%. Only 43% say churches should express views on social and political questions. Plus, 70% of all respondents and majorities of every major religious group say churches should not endorse political candidates. (Compare that with my poll results and Pastor Hickey's on similar questions.) I'm not saying the majority makes it right... but I will suggest this explains why Gordon Howie's pulpit grandstanding never caught fire with the South Dakota electorate.

The numbers saying churches should express views on social and political issues have decreased since 2006 among every subgroup identified in the survey. As you might expect, conservatives are more inclined to see a role for churches in politics than are indies and libs. Interestingly, college educated folks are more likely to support a political role for churches than are folks with grade-12 education or less. So here is an example of higher education correlating with a greater appreciation of an active role for religion in society. And I thought all of us evil secular humanist university conspirators were supposed to be beating religion out of the kids....

The conservative Christian political movement doesn't appear to have much steam. 14% of Americans say they agree with that movement; 17% say they disagree. 27% claim no opinion, and 42% say they haven't even heard of it (seriously? Jim Dobson? Sarah Palin? stop playing Farmville and read, people!) The progressive religious movement isn't cutting into those numbers too much; the Jim Wallis types draw only 4% agreement, 11% disagreement, and a whole lot of shrugging.


  1. As a Christian, I believe Christians and the Church need to be aware of what is happening in the world around them and create unique solutions out of the creative guidance given in scripture and by Jesus Himself through the Holy Spirit.

    The first Christians spent a great deal of time separating from the human political systems around them and taking care of God's government, the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus Christ said was near.

    To think we will see all of the actions left to the Church done by engaging in human government is ridiculous. Do we need to participate when given the chance in a democracy? Sure. But the Church is not a human nation...and it needs to stop the affair with empire.

    We need to start though by seeing churches SHUT UP about politics, and instead start teaching the fundamentals of the God's Kingdom...you know. The Golden Rule. Mercy, Faith, Patience...etc. And if a church does encourage participation in government then simply tell people to take part in the non-profits that they believe in and can make change in. And DON'T SAY WHICH ONES. Christians need to look at our communities and engage in the good work being done by other people--be they atheists or Muslims.

    Then fighting about places like Park51 would be moot points.

  2. Here's an interesting, related Pew study, Cory.
    It tracks the "religiousness" of various generations, giving special focus on the "Millennials" generation (persons 16-30).


  3. Cory,

    You say the following as if this means something:

    "People who say churches should stay out of political affairs have been a majority since 2008, 52%. Only 43% say churches should express views on social and political questions. Plus, 70% of all respondents and majorities of every major religious group say churches should not endorse political candidates."

    I know you do say "I'm not saying the majority makes it right."

    But unless you think churches should be muzzled from speaking out, what is your point of this entire post?

    Certainly not your "good riddance" comment. Just because people think government leaders are less religious than they were or they think churches should be muzzled, you have to make some big assumptions to draw the conclusion they also believe it is good our elected leaders are more non-religous.

    If a majority of Americans think Labor Unions shouldn't speak out on political issues or endorse candidates, does that mean they should be quiet and give up there constitutional right to assemble and speak? How about teachers? How about AARP? Since you seem to imply it would be good churches shut up, you probably wouldn't come to the defense of conservatives of any stripe to speak.

    Cory, I defend everyone's right to speak even those I disagree with. While I suspect you do too, occassionally threads like this imply you wouldn't mind if they just shut up. Sorry Cory, we aren't shutting up.

  4. Your attack on Farmville is blasphemy. You have branded yourself an infidel.

    Boycott Madison!!!

    On a serious note, Christianity first flourished when it was outside of political influence, looking in. That is the POV from which the New Testament is written. So for those of a sincere faith, the breakdown of the old "Christendom" holds great potential.

  5. Wow Things must be getting better, folks are clinging to their guns and relgion less :-)

  6. There's a pretty conservative guy in basic agreement with this post here: http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2010/08/keeping-religion-out-of-politics-and.html


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