Column: What of the Christians?

Pagan Perspectives

One of my most vivid school memories comes from a history lesson I had when I was about seven or eight. From very early on, history had been my favorite subject. The books were always filled to the brim with colorful pictures, and the fact that the topic encompasses just about everything that ever took place regarding mankind drew my attention. That day at school, we were supposed to learn about the Renaissance and the 16th century. As I opened my book, my eyes met with a picture of a crowd laying waste to a church, breaking windows and tearing down statues.

Religious Minorities and Presidential Polling

When Barack Obama won his presidential reelection bid in 2012, the biggest story about the immediate aftermath was how America’s shifting demographics had delivered the victory (and that Nate Silver was right all along, but that’s a different story).  A big sub-headline was the rise of religiously unaffiliated voters (“nones”), who now rival the evangelical Christians in size, but also important was the difference between the religious coalitions that supported the presidential nominees. Sarah Posner called it the “great religious realignment.” “A recent Pew survey found that there are now equal numbers of white evangelicals and unaffiliated voters, and a Public Religion Research Institute poll found similar results. I noted at the time of the PRRI survey that the bulk of Romney’s base was coming from white conservative evangelicals, mainline Protestants, and Catholics, while Obama’s “support comes from a more diverse group: 23% from the unaffiliated, 18% from black Protestants, 15% from white mainline Protestants, 14% from white Catholics, 8% from Latino Catholics, and 7% from non-Christians.

Other Faiths and Religious Activists

FaithWorld, Religion Clause, and Religion Dispatches all point to a newly-released poll from Public Religion Research and the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics that compares conservative and progressive/liberal religious activists. While it “contains very little that will surprise anyone”, the poll does starkly display the vast differences in diversity between the politically active religious “left” and “right”. To quote the findings:
“Conservative and progressive religious activists are deeply religious, but have strikingly different religious profiles. In terms of religious affiliation, conservative activists are almost exclusively Christian, whereas progressive activists are more diverse.” Let’s have a look at the graphs.

Christian, Jewish, Mormon, and None

Yesterday the Gallup polling organization released a new set of analyses from 170,000 interviews over the last six months regarding religion in America. The focus was on religious identity in different states, showing where different religions were the most (and least) concentrated. “The accompanying maps give a portrait of this remarkable pattern of religious dispersion in the U.S. for these religious groups, based on a new analysis of more than 170,000 Gallup interviews conducted between January and June of this year. A good deal of the religious dispersion across the states is explainable by historical immigration patterns — particularly the impact of the large waves of European Catholics and Jews who came through ports of entry in the Middle Atlantic states in the 19th and early 20th centuries.” Their results are much what you’d expect, the Pacific Northwest has a lot of “nones”, Utah and surrounding states have a lot of Mormons, Protestantism dominates in the South, there are lots of Jewish people in New York and Florida, and Catholicism remains vital in New England.