Tag Archives: nones

This is Why People Reject Religion

Permit me a Sunday Sermon.

If you want to understand the recent rise of the “nones”–people, especially young people, who do not affiliate with any organized religion, and who explicitly reject the “Christianity” that dominates headlines– you need only read about the prayer recently given by Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia, at a Faith and Freedom Rally.

Numerous media outlets have reported that Perdue told his audience to “pray like Psalm 109:8 for Obama.” And what does Psalm 109:8 say?

Let his days be few; and let another take his office.

Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.

Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.

Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labour.

Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favour his fatherless children.

Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.

Let the iniquity of his fathers be remembered with the Lord; and let not the sin of his mother be blotted out.

Evidently, suggesting Psalm 109:8 as an appropriate prayer for Obama has become a right-wing meme; the biblically knowledgable “pious” folks even  buy bumper stickers and shirts that carry the reference.

My Facebook feed was filled with reports about–and reactions to–the Senator’s “prayer” yesterday, right before Indianapolis’ annual Pride celebration. The contrast between  those who– like Perdue– use religion in the service of hate and the churches and religious organizations promoting love and inclusion in the Pride parade was striking.

I’ve attended most of Indianapolis’ Pride celebrations since 1992. My husband and I still remember the very first year there was a parade; as I recall, it had all of eight participants. Yesterday’s parade lasted more than two hours, and had well over 100. (In the hot sun, it seemed like 1000…)

In addition to the businesses, the banks, the universities, the LGBT and civil rights organizations, a significant number of participants were churches: Quaker, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, United Methodist, Unitarian, Christian, UCC and others. The Jewish Community Relations Council represented the Jewish community.[Update: There were actually twelve Jewish organizations participating; the JCRC was one of the twelve. H/T to Paula Winnig for the correction.]

Several denominations had more than one church participating (the Episcopalians had 4!). The messages on their banners were the absolute antithesis of the mean-spirited and hypocritical prayers of the so-called “Christians” who dominate the Republican party. (The most recent evidence of that domination? Indiana’s GOP platform committee just declined to allow convention delegates to even consider a proposal to bring that document into conformity with the law of the land by eliminating language insisting that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.)

When the image of religiosity is the image conveyed by theocrats and fundamentalists who insist that their highly selective reading of their bibles should supersede the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that decent and loving human beings reject that narrow and self-serving “Godliness.”

When “Christian” folks pray publicly for the death of our President, when Indiana’s Governor defines “religious liberty” as the right of his kind of Christian to discriminate against LGBT Hoosiers (but not the right of women to follow the dictates of their own religions or consciences with respect to reproduction), it’s no wonder good people prefer to define themselves as “nones.”

 

Politics in Post-Christian America

The American Conservative recently ran a fascinating article that raised the question: what will become of a Republican Party that only speaks to (certain) Christians? (Granted, after the most recent food fight…er, GOP debate…there are other reasons to question the  continued viability of the party…)

We all know that demographic changes are creating a more racially and ethnically diverse America. Indeed, there is substantial evidence for the proposition that it is the growth of that diversity that has triggered the rise–and rage–of a bigotry that had been suppressed (albeit not eliminated) over the preceding few decades. What demographers are now beginning to recognize is the emergence of what the article calls “post-Christian” America.

And as the article notes, that reality hasn’t yet penetrated to the current crop of Presidential candidates

Judging solely from the rhetoric and actions of the Republican presidential candidates this cycle, you would be hard-pressed to tell much difference between 2016 and 1996, the year that the Christian Coalition was ruling the roost in GOP politics. Sure there’s a lot more talk about the Middle East than before, but when it comes to public displays of religiosity, many of the would-be presidents have spent the majority of their candidacies effectively auditioning for slots on the Trinity Broadcast Network.

Even Donald Trump, the thrice-married casino magnate turned television host, has gone about reincarnating himself as a devout Christian, despite his evident lack of familiarity with the doctrines and practices of the faith.

If Americans are moving away from Christianity–if even the people most likely to vote Republican are moderating their connection to the version of Christianity that has been most congruent with political conservatism–the GOP will need to significantly expand its appeal to non-Christians and those who describe themselves as “spiritual” rather than religious.

That isn’t happening.

While the process of secularization has been slower-moving in the U.S. compared to Europe, it is now proceeding rapidly. A 2014 study by Pew Research found that 23 percent of Americans say they’re “unaffiliated” with any religious tradition, up from 20 percent just 3 years earlier. The Public Religion Research Institute confirmed the statistic as well with a 2014 poll based on 50,000 interviews indicating that 23 percent of respondents were unaffiliated.

The trend away from faith is only bound to increase with time. According to Pew, about 36 percent of adults under the age of 50 have opted out of religion. At present, claiming no faith is the fastest growing “religion” in the United States. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of people claiming “nothing in particular” increased by 2.3 percent, those saying they were agnostics increased by 1.2 percent and those claiming to be atheists increased by 0.8 percent. No actual religious group has experienced anywhere near such growth during this time period.

The article provides analyses of vote shares from the last election cycle, demonstrating that as people move from church-based religiosity, they also move–in significant numbers–to the Democrats.

The conclusion?

In 2016 and beyond, Christian conservatives face a choice. They can embrace identity politics and become a small group of frustrated Christian nationalists who grow ever more resentful toward their fellow Americans, or they can embrace reality.

There are many things today’s GOP embraces, but reality isn’t one of them.