The Effect of Politics on Religion

For many, the post title should probably be reversed. However, I recently came across an article that explains how politics have actually influenced religion.

Three Decades Ago, America Lost Its Religion. Why?

A line from the article:

Religion has lost its halo effect in the past three decades, not because science drove God from the public square, but rather because politics did

I think you may also want to read the article linked in the above quote. It goes into more detail on why people’s political ideology is affecting their religious identity.

What do you think? Are politics and religion having a parting of the ways?
*******************************

For those who can’t access The Atlantic article, here are some snippets:

Deep into the 20th century, more than nine in 10 Americans said they believed in God and belonged to an organized religion, with the great majority of them calling themselves Christian. That number held steady—through the sexual-revolution ’60s, through the rootless and anxious ’70s, and through the “greed is good” ’80s.

But in the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

[…]

The obvious question … what the hell happened around 1990?

[…]

America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

[…]

Meanwhile, during George W. Bush’s presidency, Christianity’s association with unpopular Republican policies drove more young liberals and moderates away from both the party and the Church. New Atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, became intellectual celebrities …

[…]

A gap has opened up between America’s two political parties. In a twist of fate, the Christian right entered politics to save religion, only to make the Christian-Republican nexus unacceptable to millions of young people—thus accelerating the country’s turn against religion.

[…]

Although it would be wrong to call Democrats a secular party (older black voters are highly religious and dependably vote Democratic), the left today has a higher share of religiously unaffiliated voters than anytime in modern history. At the same time, the average religiosity of white Christian Republicans has gone up.

[…]

American politics is at risk of becoming a war of religiosity versus secularism by proxy, where both sides see the other as a catastrophic political force that must be destroyed at all costs.

46 thoughts on “The Effect of Politics on Religion

  1. For many, the post title should probably be reversed.

    It works both ways.

    Politics has damaged religion and religion has damaged politics.

    Conservative Christianity should now be called Trumpianity. They have abandoned Jesus, and have made Trump the replacement.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I can’t see the Atlantic article (I’m out of free articles there) but I’ve read the FiveThirtyEight one.

    It’s not quite true to say that politics drove religion from the public square. It was religion that took the initiative to involve itself in politics, as far back as the Moral Majority in the 1970s and to an ever-increasing degree since then, with the aim of claiming the public square exclusively for itself and driving everyone else out. In doing so, it eventually made itself so belligerent and hideous that it motivated even people who don’t otherwise have strong feelings about religion or politics to consider it a threat and unite against it.

    (As for the growth of atheism, I believe the data show that people simply finding religious beliefs no longer plausible remains the dominant reason why people leave, though revulsion at traditionalist Christianity’s embrace of right-wing politics and Trumpism does also play a role. If it was mainly people being repulsed at the politics while still finding religious beliefs credible, more of them would just migrate to liberal sects.)

    Yes, Christianity in the US is now hobbled and sinking due to its embrace of right-wing politics. But like Marley’s chains, this is a curse which they themselves crafted, forged, and wore of their own free will. No one else forced it on them. This is the end they wrote for themselves.

    Liked by 6 people

    • It truly angers me that online news sources are limiting the number of times one can read articles on their websites … unless you cough up some bucks (some more than others). Greedy bastards!!

      Just in case others run into the same problem, I’ll add a summary to my post tomorrow.

      In the meantime, you make some good points, although the article offers a slightly different view.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Speaking of limiting news sources and public-domain information or events, there has been over the last 6-14 months an increase of localized—but nationally-corporately owned TV networks—blackouts of programs to satellite providers. By default, this effects a vast majority of TV, WiFi, and cable viewers from getting the programs that SHOULD be readily accessible to the American public living within a SUPPOSED nation of Freedom of the Press, Information, or Expression!!! Imagine that! Everything that MIGHT be freely available is only accessible by the wealthy, established, and well-connected. God Bless America‘s (Wealthy!). 🤬

        Liked by 1 person

        • Media freedom is only the freedom to say what they want, but there is nothing saying the public should not have to pay for the right to listen, or read, those words. Being as this is a capitalist society, you have to pay for what you want.
          And in this age of Trumpism, where everyone wants to hear the dummy’s latest invocations, charging for that right is highly profitable.
          I refuse to pay along.

          Liked by 2 people

          • You have a point, rawgod. Pay to play, as they say. (Hey! A rhyme!)

            Nevertheless, when so much is “free” on the internet, it’s maddening to have to PAY to read a news article. Now if the source was one I turned to on a regular basis, I could (maybe) see the reasoning. But personally, I visit several different news sites so I would end up having to pay each one of them.

            In any event, I will most likely continue to search out sites that are still free. It takes a bit more effort, but it keeps my pocketbook healthy.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yeah, paying for what should be free is a crime in my mind. It costs them next to nothing to print it, if they aren’t just copying it onto the internet, and making everyone pay for it over and over is the same scam as the churches run, asking people to tithe or pay collections for a product that doesn’t exist, and does nothing to provide jobs for but a few. I guess at least the media are providing information, but at 99% profit it isn’t worth it to me. You don’t even get the paper to teach your puppy when not to pee.

              Liked by 2 people

            • I seem to recall a time when TV was free too. When pay tv came along we left the grid, as far as television was concerned. And by that time the net was far more interesting, and had a wider net to spread. I’ve not watched TV for nearly 20 years and while I miss Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, I don’t miss it enough to buy a new one and pay to watch them. Nor do I subscribe to Netflix. Yet.

              But I have no gripe against sites that want you to pay to watch them. Someone’s gotta foot the bill, and with so many people using ad blockers, too, it makes sense to call for subscriptions.

              Liked by 2 people

  3. Both of those articles and the referenced statistical tables were revealing and show the WIDE 3-sectored religous, in between, and secular diverse groups across the U.S. over the last 50 to 70-years. But what deeply concerns me is the below-average or poor K-12 education standards for American youth in the area of Social Studies, History, and federal-state government or Political Science that these statistical tables reveal.

    Whether religion, culture, ethnicity, or education-level-attained influences American politics and voters or not, the United States is a Constitutional democracy governed by the balance of three Branches. Therefore, by default and the letter of the law/Constitution 328-million citizens of the USA are protected by, governed by, and judged by the laws of our Constitution. Period! Because of this world’s (and nation’s) endless cultural, ethnic, and religious or non-religious diversity, many many compromises MUST BE MADE by all legal citizens within the fair parameters of our U.S. Constitution and the equal authority of our Congressional, Judicial, and Executive Branches. IOW, the majority of our most prolific Founding Fathers—Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Washington, Franklin, and Paine—intentionally wrote into our Declaration of Independence and Constitution a NEUTRAL 3-branched federal government of NO ONE SPECIFIC RELIGIOUS or NON-RELIGIOUS based government, i.e. Secular, unbiased, and open-minded toward ALL sociocultural ideologies in and on public properties while allowing on PRIVATE property and inside PRIVATE homes and organizations the freedom of religion and worship. Or the freedom of non-religion/secularism and practicing on private property. Our U.S. Supreme Court as repeatedly supported and protected in landmark decisions exactly this type of secular government since 1860.

    So I have to ask the question, WHY should something individually PRIVATE and PERSONAL ever be any part of PUBLIC governing and the protection of the freedom to be religious or non-religious PRIVATELY!? Personally for me, this useless confusion is babbling about the sameness of coconuts and potatoes, night and day, or wasabi and chocolate! In the end it doesn’t matter what one person or one group feels is necessary, universally true and right, our U.S. Constitution clearly and unequivocally spells out perfectly the difference between what is the PRIVATE domain and what is the PUBLIC domain for all people living inside a truly democratic and civilly respectful, responsible Constitutionally based nation!

    That’s MY personal opinion based on my education, teaching, and copy of the U.S. Constitution (and DoI) and our form of government for ALL persuasions of human beings inside the borders of the USA. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • *sigh*

      Professor, the topic was a rather simple one related to the effect politics has had on religion. I’m not sure why you felt it necessary to contribute a rather lengthy comment (tirade) about education and our form of government … ???

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, apologies Nan for it being lengthy. It was most certainly my heated, irritated, rant (tirade) as to what I see as two primary causes to why religion and politics often get intertwined, mixed, and unnecessarily influence both. However, I wanted to demarcate the two when the “politics” involve a Constitutional Democracy. I hoped I explained why this exception should not exist, but alas… it does here. 😦 I just feel/think our forms of primary and secondary education—along with parenting and Mob-Herd mentality—have contributed to the analogy of ‘forcing potatoes to be coconuts’ and coconuts to be potatoes when our Founding Fathers drew up our Constitution! Why is this not being taught or taught very poorly?

        I apologize again Nan, if my rant was off-putting. This is a pet-peeve of mine. Please forgive me for my passion. ❤ 🙂

        Like

  4. Excellent article Nan. I do feel there is a parting of the ways, at least on some level. But, religion has been a part of our politics forever it seems. Have you seen the documentary on Netflix called “The Family?” If not, I’d highly recommend it. I’m sure you’ve heard of the infamous National Prayer Breakfast. The documentary chronicles the origins of the breakfast, and how this particular group has come to blur the lines between politics and religion. Every President since Eisenhower has attended and spoke at the Breakfast, including the current one…I know, that’s troubling enough as it is….
    But, I’ve always been turned off by it. In many ways it’s now nothing but a bunch of lobbyists, millionaires, politicians, and ‘christians’ rubbing elbows all in the name of God. The documentary, while a bit slow at times, is still is worth the effort if you have the time. I was shocked by some of the stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Very interesting Nan, I see politics and religions often as extreme ideologies that exist strongly due to indoctrination. Arguably they are the most socially divisive and foremost evils on our planet, and I find that especially in America they are very closely and dangerously mated with each other where the political ideals are basically interpreted straight from their Bibles, obviously making them the most righteous people on Earth.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As promised, I’ve added a few snippets from The Atlantic article to my original post for those who are/were unable to access it due to the “free articles” policy.

    IMO, the last line of the article sums things up quite succinctly.

    Like

  7. Thank you for posting the excerpts. I do see one flaw in their analysis (based on what’s reposted here) — it doesn’t reflect the fact that this same trend away from religion has been happening all over the broader Western world. Europe and some other countries like New Zealand are much further along in that process than the US is, as it seems to have started earlier there or run faster. Latin America is somewhat behind the US, and the Middle East somewhat more so. But the same trend is under way.

    Of the factors they cite — “the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11” — none except the Cold War had much impact outside the US, and the end of the Cold War wouldn’t explain why Europe was already becoming so secular long before 1990.

    When we see a trend happening in many countries, the root causes need to be sought in factors which apply in all of them. In this case, it seems that education, economic development, and access to a wide range of international cultural influences tend to weaken religion. The Atlantic author probably didn’t want to emphasize this since it implies (a) that the decline of religion is irreversible, and (b) that religion is associated with insularity and limited education, which is true but which many people would resent hearing.

    I’m sure the association of religion with far-right politics helped drive young people away, but in the long run it would have happened anyway, just as it did earlier in Europe.

    it would be wrong to call Democrats a secular party (older black voters are highly religious and dependably vote Democratic)

    Because the Republicans’ racism trumps religious affiliation. In broad strokes, the Republicans are the party of religious white people, while the Democrats are the party of non-whites and secular white people.

    American politics is at risk of becoming a war of religiosity versus secularism by proxy, where both sides see the other as a catastrophic political force that must be destroyed at all costs.

    I think it’s already been that for at least a decade or two. And I don’t know how anyone can deny that the Republicans actually are “a catastrophic political force” that must be defeated. Their war on science threatens to reduce US education and ultimately the whole country to mediocrity and backwardness, and already has us AWOL on climate change. Their insistence on enacting their religious taboos into secular law threatens gay people’s civil rights and women’s access to abortion and equal opportunity. This is not a political party for a developed country in the 21st century.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Infidel, for your thoughtful response. You make some excellent points … many of which were not covered in the full article. I tend to think the author was essentially limiting his perspective to accentuate what the article title was suggesting.

      As for the three factors, he did go into some detail as to why he felt they were important, but addressed them from a different angle than you. I chose not to include this part as I was hesitant to “quote” too much.

      Nevertheless, you brought up some interesting thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Jesus was not part of the world and therefore stood out as different and was put to death by the government at the time. True Christian’s do not get involved in politics. Unfortunately there are false Christians…and they do get involved and tell lies about God and have turned people against God by their man made rules. Examining the bible has helped millions to keep integrity to their faith. http://www.jw.org

    Like

    • Hello farmgirl. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

      I do have a question. You write that True Christians™ do not get involved in politics. And, if I understand you correctly, you go on to say those that do are actually “false Christians.” Does this mean the MANY pastors and such who actively and publicly support Trump are NOT True Christians?

      Like

    • “Unfortunately there are false Christians…and they do get involved and tell lies about God and have turned people against God by their man made rules.”

      Very true where Trump is concerned, the false Christian part anyway, how do you determine what are lies about God when the Bible is interpreted in dozens of ways and what man made rules do you mean? Are these the morals that are not Biblical such as banning slavery, giving women equal rights, not condemning adulterers to death and not discriminating against LGBT people?

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        • Perhaps you’re not aware that in this country, many “political issues” are based on the bible. Yet most Christians tend to ignore or overlook this fact and instead pick and choose the scriptures that sound the best to them and condemn those that disagree.

          IMO, any Christian that supports the current POTUS — a man who hasn’t a CLUE what’s in the bible (remember “Two Corinthians”?) and constantly rejects its teachings through his words and actions — is actually thumbing their nose at “God.”

          Although your religion (as indicated by your comment that included a link to the JW’s website) prefers to remain “politically neutral,” the website states that you follow the Bible’s counsel to pray for “kings and all those who are in positions of authority.” I sincerely hope you are praying long and hard for the person that’s currently in the position of authority in the United States.

          Like

  9. You seem to have answered your own question. And not from my opinion. Examine the scriptures. Youll find alot more info on the site. Free of charge

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  10. I think they definitely do influence each other a lot. Especially when President Trump uses God as a basis for his political agenda. What happened to freedom of religion!?

    Like

    • Hello Rose! Thank you so much for stopping by and offering your thoughts on the blog topic.

      I think many of my readers are asking the same question as you. Many of us are fearful of the influence religion (Christians) have had on the current POTUS. It should not be that way. Personally, I have no problem with those who wish to practice their faith … but I’m strongly against it being forced on those who don’t “believe.”

      I hope you will visit again … and often.

      Like

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