Archives For Public Religion Research Institute

The Public Religion Research Institute today released the findings from its 2013 Economic Values Survey. While there’s a lot to digest about how Americans feel about economic values, the survey also has a lot to say about religious values, specifically the seemingly inevitable rise of “religious progressives.”

religious_orientation_scale

One-in-five Americans (19 percent) are religious progressives, while 38 percent are religious moderates, 28 percent are religious conservatives, and 15 percent are nonreligious, a new survey finds. The new Economic Values Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the Brookings Institution, was used to develop a new religious orientation scale that combines theological, economic and social outlooks in order to paint a new portrait of the American religious landscape. “Our new research shows a complex religious landscape, with religious conservatives holding an advantage over religious progressives in terms of size and homogeneity,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones,CEO of Public Religion Research Institute. “However, the percentage of religious conservatives shrinks in each successive generation, with religious progressives outnumbering religious conservatives in the Millennial generation.”

In other words, the days of the “Religious Right” are numbered, at least in terms of demographic and social power. In addition, religious progressives are far more diverse in religious identity than religious conservatives.

Religious progressives are considerably more diverse than religious conservatives. Catholics (29 percent) constitute the largest single group among religious progressives, followed by white mainline Protestants (19 percent), those who are not formally affiliated with a religious tradition but who nevertheless say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives (18 percent), and non-Christian religious Americans such as Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims (13 percent).”

Non-Christian religions, which would include modern Pagans, make up a significant proportion of this coming post-Christian religious progressive reality. Meanwhile, religious conservatives are overwhelmingly dominated by white evangelical Protestants and Catholics. As PRRI pointed out last year, relying almost solely on white conservative Christians is increasingly going to be a losing national strategy for politicians.

“Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) voters in Romney’s coalition are white Christians. By contrast, just over one-third (35%) of voters in Obama’s coalition are white Christians. The foundation of Romney’s base consists primarily of white evangelical Protestants, who constitute 40% of his coalition. Obama’s coalition rests on two very different groups: minority Christians—a group that includes black, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed-race Christians—(31%) and the religiously unaffiliated (25%). Notably, Obama’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of younger voters, while Romney’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of senior voters. For example, 26% of Millennial voters are white Christians, compared to 72% of senior voters.”

In CNN exit polling of the 2012 presidential elections, 74% of non-Christians, and 70% of “nones” voted for Barack Obama. Those are horrible numbers for any candidate tied to conservative Christianity and their political agenda in a society that will eventually see religious progressives in the driver’s seat. As I’ve said before, the demographic playing field is going to keep on shifting in terms of social and political power.

“That doesn’t mean that Democrats automatically win all the time, or that Republicans are always doomed to lose, just that the playing field will never again be like it was in the 1980s or 1990s. The slowly shifting demographics have started to turn a corner, and savvy politicians, no matter what their political orientation, will adapt to these emerging realities. Yes, that means reaching out to racial minorities, and women, and younger voters, but it also means reaching out to the “nones” and the religious “others” instead of banking everything on the evangelical Christian vote (or the Catholic vote for that matter).”

Through the lens of this new data, it looks increasingly like recent social conservative overreach on access to voting, on reproductive health, on immigration policy, are a rear-guard action designed to slow down the demographic clock for a long as possible. For modern Pagans, this data means that we are presented with a future where we could experience ongoing growth and social capital. Our collective challenge is to make sure we are engaging with Millennials, empowering them in our organizations, and making them feel welcome. This is not a time to be idle, we can’t afford to take this generational tide for granted. A more Pagan future starts with the decisions we make right now.

After the 2012 elections here in the United States I posited that this was a post-Christian election, and that the results could be a glimpse into the future of America’s electorate. Now, as information from the election is further dissected and analyzed, it’s becoming increasingly clear that something significant has indeed shifted in the religious outlook of our voting public. The Public Religion Research Institute calls it the “end of a white Christian strategy.”

Romney and Obama Coalitions vs Age Groups

Romney and Obama Coalitions vs Age Groups

“The foundation of Romney’s base consists primarily of white evangelical Protestants, who constitute 40% of his coalition. Obama’s coalition rests on two very different groups: minority Christians—a group that includes black, Asian, Hispanic, and mixed-race Christians—(31%) and the religiously unaffiliated (25%). [...] Notably, Obama’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of younger voters, while Romney’s religious coalition resembles the religious composition of senior voters. For example, 26% of Millennial voters are white Christians, compared to 72% of senior voters.”

In short, it doesn’t really matter that Romney decisively won white evangelicals, as minority Christians and non-religious voters more than made up for that deficit. At Religion Dispatches, Katherine Stewart says that the religiously unaffiliated (ie “nones”) are the demographic that should really worry Republican strategists who’ve placed almost all of their eggs in the evangelical Christian basket.

“Like any group of this size, the religiously unaffiliated aren’t monolithic. About a third self-identify as atheists, while the rest say they are agnostic, “spiritual but not religious,” or simply uninterested in religion. They are spread fairly evenly across education and income levels. And they’re politically diverse when it comes to economic ideas. But they do seem to largely agree on one thing: that mixing religion with politics is a bad idea.”

“Mixing religion with politics is a bad idea.” It has always sounded good as a principle, but often ignored as evangelical Christians (and Catholics) were seen as vital to winning national elections, and so politicians from both sides of the aisle catered to them, willfully mixing religious rhetoric into their political stances. However, if you read the tea leaves in the run-up to this election, you could see some shifts starting to appear. Like the fact that both Obama and Romney spurned Rick Warren’s religion test/presidential forum, or that the Democratic party was willing to play offence on gay marriage and abortion, areas where they usually play defense.

“Never before have the culture wars been fought so forcefully on both sides. While the spectacle of Republicans declaring holy war has become old hat, this was the first election in which one of the parties explicitly endorsed same-sex marriage; this was the first election in which one party defended a woman’s right to reproductive freedom without apology or hesitation; and this season also saw the passage of a number of same-sex marriage ballot initiatives, as well as the election of the nation’s first openly lesbian senator.”

For years I’ve been yammering on about post-Christianity, slow demographic shifts, and the “nones,” thinking this tipping point was years away. Now, everyone seems to be talking about how “post-Christian” and “European” we suddenly are.

“There isn’t any question that American culture is in a transition from a dominantly Christian culture to a dominantly secular culture. We can no longer expect America society to uniformly embrace Christian values or morality. How the Christian community chooses to respond to this will be critical. Angry rhetoric, and bitterly contested lawsuits and elections create adversaries, but no one ever made an enemy by offering the hand of friendship, helping the down and out, mentoring kids, giving generously to others or helping people after a hurricane get their lives back together.”

That quote, from Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, isn’t unique. While the reliable fire-breathers are getting apocalyptic, some of the more thoughtful conservative Christians are starting to realize that non-Christians, and the non-religious, aren’t going away any time soon, and that younger voters are far more liberal on social issues than previous generations.  As R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said: “It’s not that our message — we think abortion is wrong, we think same-sex marriage is wrong — didn’t get out. It did get out. It’s that the entire moral landscape has changed, an increasingly secularized America understands our positions, and has rejected them.”

So, the question now is what will future election battles look like? Obviously in heavily conservative Christian districts the old Christian culture-war stand-bys will hold true for a while longer, but what about the swing states? What about the national elections in 2016? Will religion cease to be an issue at all? Will campaigns actively court the non-religious, will they even court non-Christians? Will there be a true cease-fire on the old culture war lines of birth control, abortion, and gay rights? All of this remains to be seen, but for now, it seems we’re living in the post-Christian future faster than I had ever envisioned.

At past Faerieworlds, Friday is usually seen as the least busy of the three-day event. People have to work, it’s a shorter day, and many are still arriving. However, this year seemed far, far, larger, and the energy level was high, making me think that we’ll see record-breaking attendances on Saturday and Sunday. Like all opening Fridays at Faerieworlds, it started with a ceremony/ritual led by Emilio and Kelly from Woodland, with help from S.J. Tucker. They did a Lammas invocation, including offerings of fruits and grains, with Donovan and his wife as special guests of honor. Then, a giant spiral dance was led by a local priestess while the musicians played.

That kicked off a day of amazing music, headlined by the transcendent Persian fusion ensemble Niyaz, featuring the amazing vocals of Azam Ali. However, I think that the performance by Soriah with Ashkelon Sain is one that truly surprised a lot of people, and created hundreds of new fans. The shamanic throat-singing ensemble, by the end of their set, had entranced the audience, and I feel confident this won’t be the last time they’ll play at Faerieworlds.

Soriah with Ashkelon Sain and Lucretia*Renee

Soriah with Ashkelon Sain and Lucretia*Renee

Check out my A Darker Shade of Pagan podcast tomorrow for an exclusive post-show interview with Soriah and Ashkelon Sain. Today at Faerieworlds I’m hoping to conduct an interview with S.J. Tucker for The Wild Hunt, so stay tuned! Meanwhile, here are some Pagan news links to peruse while I’m away with the faeries.

That’s it for now, back to the Realm for me!