Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Godless West

USA Today has a great map up where you can track the religious affiliation of Americans by state (hat tip to Michael for sending me the link).  It’s interesting to see the geographical differences, Lutherans in the North, Baptists in the South, Catholics in the Northeast and a bunch of non-religious folks out West.  What I found most interesting though is that no-religion places in the top three in just about every state while Evangelicals, if they rank at all, top out at 2%.  How is it that such a small minority has so much influence on our government?

No-religion tops the list in Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Wyoming and Idaho (I know, that one surprised me too) and came in a close second in, California, Montana and Nevada.  Out west it seems that God is losing ground, most notably in Washington state, perhaps that’s why I feel so at home out here.  No-religion also came in second in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina (tied for second actually) and New Jersey, and ranks third in Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Delaware and Maryland.  The least amount of people that consider themselves non-religious are found in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.  Shocking, I know.

I guess none of this is really surprising but it does put the marginalization of non-believers into perspective.  Sure, we only make up 10% of the population of this country, but unless you lump all the religions together, Christians and Evangelicals combined make up even less of the population according to this map.  No wonder the Religious Right is constantly trying to pull Lutherans, Catholics, Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists under their “Christian” umbrella, it boosts their numbers significantly.

So what do I take away from looking at this map?  That the Religious Right is in trouble.  I mean really, Ralph Reed, the face of the Christian Coalition, couldn’t even win a Republican Primary race in Georgia last week!  And while The Rapturites get a lot of play from traditional media, the truth is that they are far less politically significant than those of us that don’t subscribe to any religion at all.  The power of the Religious Right is nothing but hype purchased with large sums of money that was raised from delusional theocrats, but now that their money is running out, even the ill-gotten-Abramoff-tainted-swindled-from-Native-American-tribe money, their ability to purchase political influence will dwindle as well.  Thank goodness for that.  

Now if we can just get rid of the product of their bloated influence, the idiot in the White House, America can start to re-build its reputation as a nation of thinking people.  Yes, we have a long way to go, but I’m trying to believe it’s still possible.

17 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure since the 1700's that America has had a reputation for containing a significant number of thinking people.

11:03 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Anonymous--I suspect you're right, I'm just hoping there's still a chance that we (Americans) have something left to contribute to the world other than facilitating the end of our species. Ridding ourselves of superstition would be a good start, then maybe we can become thinking people again.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

I'm not sure I trust how USA Today applied the statistics. I think this is what they used as raw data. But if you look at the data, it seems to tell a somewhat different story, and for me, at least, it raises as many questions as it answers.

For example, I'm not sure how they separate "Evangelicals" and "Christians" and "Baptists" into separate camps. Baptists are evangelical Christians, and Baptists make up the second largest denomination (behind Catholics) in what is still an overwhelmingly Christian (77%) nation.

If the pollsters actually presented the survey participants with a confusing array of categories like the ones rendered in the data, the results would likely be skewed. Unfortunately, the CUNY site doesn't provide enough info on the methodology for me to make sense of it.

On the bright side, though, it does say the percentage of people who self-identify as Christians has declined in 10 years from 86% to 77%. But it looks like about half of that drop shifted to other religions rather than to no religion.

RE: Ralph Reed, good riddance to that bad rubbish. Like you, I hope we're witnessing a shift from a superstition-driven polity to one that is based on reason. We'll soon see, I guess.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Matthew Jerome said...

Hey, I love this blog!

As one of the non-insane Christians in this country, it drives me nuts to see evangelicals grasping this monopoly on morality that they seem to think they have. Not a whole lot about gay marriage or stem-cell research in the bible, but plenty about war and poverty.

And Ralph Reed has done an excellent job making himself the poster child for evangelical self-righteous phoniness.

12:02 PM  
Anonymous geocrackr said...

Betty is right -- today's Baptists (or more specifically Southern Baptists) are only a fingernail's difference from Evangelicals, and I would add that several other denominations (Mormons in particular) are planted firmly or at least have large contingents in the radical right.

LG, you seem to be showing a little confusion about that list. Except for Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist, all of the other named "religious identities" on that list are Christian... well, and maybe the 7th Day Adventists and Jehovah's Witnesses -- I have no idea what's up with them. That USAToday includes "Christian" as a separate religious identity without explanation (instead of combining it with "Non-denominational" for example) speaks something of the sloppiness of their survey and its uselessness when trying to find correlations to political affiliation. But either way, while "No Religion" may be the largest non-Christian identity, it's still a fraction of what the Christians have.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder what Ann Coulter's religious affiliation is? I'm sure she'll say Christian something or other but I want the truth.

1:58 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

GeoCrackr--I understand that "Christian" is a very general term that includes many sects, but the political agenda of the Religious Right (made up mostly of Evangelicals and "born again" Christians) is very different than that of say Lutherans or Catholics. For the Religious Right to claim that they have "broad Christian support" for their agenda is ridiculous. It's a teeny tiny fraction of the population that share their theocratic dreams. I wish the media, when touting the political muscle of the Religious Right, would point that out once in a while.

3:13 PM  
Anonymous david said...

Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Charismatic Christians are undermining the various denominations and tossing all the progessive theology of the 20th Century into the garbage.

A recent NYTimes article, "Feeling Strains: Baptist Colleges Cut Church Ties", revealed how far to the Right these congregations have moved. Even their namesake institutions consider them a threat to Free Thought.

Jimmy Carter denounced the Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 citing its "increasingly rigid creed". He had been a member for 65 years, but found it now tightly controlled by rightwingers. He particularly objected to the removal by the SBC of language identifying Jesus Christ as the criterion for interpreting The Bible.

Has anyone read Yann Martel's Life of Pi? There's an interesting comment in it that a Hindu can be a Christian, but a Christian can't be a Hindu. The wackiness of this conundrum can be seen in Stephen Colbert's wicked line: "And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior."

4:58 PM  
Anonymous everyman said...

Kevin Phillips in his book, American Theocracy, details the enabling of the religious right.
A very good read. I am not yet finished but he lays out a compelling case on religous beliefs being a fulcrum in political advocacy.
I have colleagues who think that moral values are under attack in the US. Radio, TV, the print media, and the Courts are making our society increasing vulgar.
While some say this is free expression, my colleagues believe this is moral depravity. They want a culture that supports their views on decency, honesty, and supports behaviors akin to moral character. My colleagues believe the pendulum has swung to far towards permissiveness.
THAT is the reason that decent hardworking people are supporting moral values. They can now only find them expressed in religious tones. And as you know, the "religious tones" are on the Right.
Show them a Democrat or a liberal with moral values and a disdain for the immoral expressions in our society and they will vote for him/her.

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Betty Cracker said...

Everyman, with the world-historical issues we are currently confronted with, if liberals have to campaign on a platform of protecting the public from exposure to Janet Jackson's boob in order to get elected, we are DOOMED.

8:24 PM  
Anonymous rkelly said...

I can't help but wonder if this is indeed why Israel is being allowed (as our 51st State) to bomb Lebanon:

"The Islamic-Christian dialogue in Lebanon, which falls within the framework of the world dialogue, aims at stressing the role of Lebanon as an example of freedom and equality and modernization to its Arab and Middle Eastern region as well as to the world. It achieved, as such, its message, which entails consolidating co-existence on firm bases to ensure the interest of the entire humanity."

The Islamic-Christian Dialogue: A Cornerstone to Create World Peace Author: Emir Hares Chehab

http://www.wpfdc.com/eng/reports.php?tab_id=1&rgr_id=5&id=30

I already sent you another link to this site, Mollie - it's an amazing site about religion and the cultural wars - which is what's happening.

Well worth the time to read at this particular site. I'll send this link I included here also for your convenience.

6:30 AM  
Anonymous david said...

Everyman, it's very funny to hear the word "vulgar" used in a democracy. The Latin Bible is called the "Vulgate" for a reason.

Liberals and progressives are very moral. They may worship in a closet --as Jesus said we should-- but they do follow what has been called the Perennial Philosophy.

If there is moral depravity in the USA, it's because of the worship of the Almighty Dollar by the Right. The Bible says one can't be the servant of two masters: God & Mammon. The Christian Right might say "God", but their obsession with wealth tells me they mean "Mammon".

6:37 AM  
Anonymous rkelly said...

"Those who take refuge behind theological barbed wire fences, quite often wish they could have more freedom of thought, but fear the change to the great ocean of scientific truth as they would a cold bath plunge."

Luther Burbank, 1925 "Why I am an Infidel."

7:00 AM  
Anonymous geocrackr said...

LG-

I just listened to Robin Myers on Mind over Matters from this weekend -- it sounds like you heard that interview, too. If not, you should check it out. Robin Meyers is the author of "Why the Christian Right is Wrong: A Minister's Manifesto for Taking Back Your Faith, Your Flag, Your Future."

Betty-

I can't speak for everyone, but personally I have no desire at all to be protected from exposure to Janet Jackson's boob.

9:59 AM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

I did not listen to the Myers interview, but I will do so now! I've been meaning to pick up his book.

11:45 AM  
Blogger G. Wilson said...

John Dean's new book, the surprisingly scholarly "Conservatives Without Conscience," narrows the problem down not to "Christian/non-Christian," but more to the authoritarian nature of Christianity (whether evangelical or not). In other words, the 77% of people whom demograph as Christians know how to take orders from their superiors. This, and not God, is the scary thing about the politics of religion. In other words, people will go along with things they disagree with (war, tax cuts for the rich) because their leadership says its in the name of stopping abortions and stopping gays from getting married.
The most disturbing thing of all is that the majority of these authoritarians are not wealthy and would probably benefit from a Democratic (the party, not the Greek type) government.

1:03 PM  
Blogger G. Wilson said...

John Dean's new book, the surprisingly scholarly "Conservatives Without Conscience," narrows the problem down not to "Christian/non-Christian," but more to the authoritarian nature of Christianity (whether evangelical or not). In other words, the 77% of people whom demograph as Christians know how to take orders from their superiors. This, and not God, is the scary thing about the politics of religion. In other words, people will go along with things they disagree with (war, tax cuts for the rich) because their leadership says its in the name of stopping abortions and stopping gays from getting married.
The most disturbing thing of all is that the majority of these authoritarians are not wealthy and would probably benefit from a Democratic (the party, not the Greek type) government.

1:03 PM  

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