Are Christian conservatives driving liberals away from religion?

Maybe.  And who can blame them when you look at the absolute gross distortions of Christianity that are so common among right-wing Evangelicals, e.g., harsh treatment of migrants and refugees is just fine and Donald Trump a champion of “Christian” values.

I was recently telling my Intro to American Government class about the grown of secular voters and how they are quite associated with the Democratic  party.  What I did not realize, though, is that there’s some very intriguing social science actually suggesting a causal path of aversion to right-wing Christianity leading liberals to identify as non religions.  538’s Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Daniel Cox sum up the research:

Over the course of a single generation, the country has gotten a lot less religious. As recently as the early 1990s, less than 10 percent of Americans lacked a formal religious affiliation, and liberals weren’t all that much likelier to be nonreligious than the public overall. Today, however, nearly one in four Americans are religiously unaffiliated. That includes almost 40 percent of liberals — up from 12 percent in 1990, according to the 2018 General Social Survey.1 The share of conservatives and moderates who have no religion, meanwhile, has risen less dramatically.

The result is that today, most people’s political ideology is more tightly tethered to their religious identity…

Margolis and several other prominent political scientists have concluded that politics is a driving factor behind the rise of the religiously unaffiliated. For one thing, several studies that followed respondents over time showed that it wasn’t that people were generally becoming more secular, and then gravitating toward liberal politics because it fit with their new religious identity. People’s political identities remained constant as their religious affiliation shifted.

Other research showed that the blend of religious activism and Republican politics likely played a significant role in increasing the number of religiously unaffiliated people. One study, for instance, found that something as simple as reading a news story about a Republican who spoke in a church could actually prompt some Democrats to say they were nonreligious. “It’s like an allergic reaction to the mixture of Republican politics and religion,” said David Campbell, a political scientist at the University of Notre Dame and one of the study’s co-authors. [emphasis mine]

So, there you have it.  As long as Christian conservative use religion as a cudgel to promote their biases and excuse horrible behavior towards society’s most vulnerable, liberals who might be on somewhat of a religious fence will continue to turn away.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

2 Responses to Are Christian conservatives driving liberals away from religion?

  1. Mike in Chapel Hill says:

    I know that I actively oppose religion and give money to atheist groups because of the religious fundamentalists, particularly the anti-science biblical literalists. I am 100% for yanking tax exempt status from every religious outfit in the country.

  2. homeys44 says:

    I think its less than you might imagine. Religious left wingers I think have tended to be Catholics, as the religion is more focused on the meek in society and priests aren’t so politically outspoken as evangelicals.. One of my pet peeves is that the media makes it like evangelicals are the only Christians in America. Plenty of Catholics here,and many aren’t white. But I generally think white liberals are anti- traditionalism in general. At least thats my impression.

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