13 October 2012

Religious Breakdown Among Democrats

This Pew Research Poll highlights several interesting facets of the Democrat coalition.  Less than 6 in 10 Democrats seem to belong to belong to Christian Churches.  When the White Evangelical sliver is factored out, less than half of Democrats self-identify as traditional main-line Protestants and Catholics. Amongst people that Pew surveyed, just 29% thought that Democrats were more friendly towards religion. This reaction may have reflected the  vehement reaction among Democrat delegates against inclusion of the last minute face saving God and Jerusalem plank in the party platform in Charlotte.

Another remarkable feature is the size of the “Nones”.  USA Today reports in the general survey (not by party breakdown) the unaffiliated account for 19.6%.  This is misleading because it groups together atheists (2.4%) and agnostics (3.2%) as well as the religiously unaffiliated (13.9%).  While they may be overlap in affinities, the religiously unaffiliated label themselves believing in God (68%), claim a deep connection with earth and nature 58% and consider themselves “spiritual but not religious (37%).

Putting on the partisan filter, more than 60% of the religiously unaffiliated consider themselves as Democrats or leaning Democrat.   When considered by party breakdown 24% of all registered Democrats surveyed were “Nones”.   The survey says that the unaffiliated skew overwhelmingly liberal on social issues like abortion in which 73% religiously unaffiliated prefer unfettered abortion “rights”. But religiously unaffiliated are not are clear cut liberal on economic issues, as 52% say that they prefer smaller government.

It would seem that religiously unaffiliated are chary about  authoritarianism stemming from the Church yet they claim to keep a personal spiritual element.  Perhaps this can be explained as the ethic underpinning of  "ecumenical niceness" that Charles Murray describes in his recent sociological study "Coming Apart" (2012)
As their liberal social inclinations are delineated, this can be understood as favoring “social justice” which would track the social gospel message that progressive Protestants championed in the early 20th Century but without all of the “churchy” stuff.  Since sine qua non the religiously unaffiliated do not belong to a church, these good deeds can be accomplished by civic organizations as well as through government programs.

To give a cautionary note to the trend of Nones, it is important to remember how often in the 20th century that secularized societies concerned about social justice devolved into fascistic and communist spheres.  And as the recent University of Chicago survey indicates, countries experienced with that atheistic  path do not have robust blossoming of believers once the socialist behemoth is eradicated.  It is logical to deduce that once the inculcation and inculturations of believers is effectively vanquished, these societies lack the believers as well as the ecclesiastical infrastructure to do social works apart from the state.

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