Religion, Politics & Religion (Part One)
Religion, Politics & Sex (Part Three)

Religion, Politics & Sex (Part Two)

ReligionPolitics-764320 For generations, Americans inherited their religion -- it was part of their ethnicity. 

Many sociologists expected people's religiosity to wither, just as the salience of their ethnicity had.  They'd be Catholic at Easter and Christmas, just as they're Irish on St. Patrick's Day. 

That hasn’t happened – Americans are still among the most religious people in the world.

A recent book by Robert Putnam and David Campbell, American Grace, estimates that only about six or seven percent of Americans are true atheists who believe there is little or no truth in any religion. The rest believe in God in one form or another and say that religion plays an important role in their lives. But the nature of their religiosity has changed in important ways.

First, most Americans today choose their religion rather than simply going with the generational flow.  Putnam and Campbell estimate that more than a third of churchgoers have changed from the religion they were raised in. Religious intermarriage accounts for some of this change. Most new marriages these days are between people of different faiths. 

Another group are people who retain their family's traditional religious affiliation, but shop for a particular church that better suits their social and political beliefs. "Cafeteria Catholics" would fit in this category.  So would Protestants who move from a mainline congregation to one that is more "evangelical" and vice versa. And Jews, of course, would report the same religious affiliation were they to move between Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed synagogues. 

But Putnam and Campbell say the fastest growing segment of religious adherents are those who believe in God and an afterlife, but have not adopted any particular label. A lot of these people may be between affiliations. In political terms, they're "leaners" who haven't cast their vote yet. Their religious beliefs are relatively generic and they don't feel the need to join one denomination or another.  In fact, a growing number attend the non-denominational "super churches" that are popping up around the country, especially in the south and southwest. 

Of course, people exhibit different levels of religiosity.  Some not only go to church, but they also pray daily, as before meals.  Well, it turns out that there is a very strong correlation between high religiosity and one’s political affiliation.  The highly religious are much more likely to be Republican, with the notable exception of African-Americans who are overwhelmingly Democrats.   

This pattern hasn’t always been true.  In fact, the so-called “God gap” wasn’t a big deal in surveys until the mid-1980s.  And it seems to be related almost exclusively to two issues: abortion and gay marriage. In other words, the third of our undiscussable topics – sex.



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