The Public Religion Research Institute conducted interviews and surveys with over 22,000 people this past year, and they compiled the top 11 most important findings. I have three highlighted below:
Views on Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage Decoupling. Fueled by the distinct profile of the Millennial generation, the same-sex marriage debate is becoming increasingly unmoored from the abortion debate. While majority support for legalized abortion has remained steady over the past decade (57 percent support in 1999, compared to 56 percent support in 2011), the percentage of Americans who say that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by the law as valid has grown nearly 20 points over the same period, from 35 percent in 1999 to 53 percent in 2011.
This is an interesting find, but I’m not very surprised by it. The issue of abortion has been kicked around in one form or another for the last 35-40 years, with Roe v. Wade providing both the foundation for its legality and the rallying cry for evangelicals. Even though we’ll hear about stupid shit like “personhood amendments” cropping up in some states, I don’t really see the overall public opinion of abortion changing too much given the time it’s been a “hot topic”.
… especially when Evangelical Christians – while underrepresented – still make up 18% of all abortion patients in the US according to two studies done by the Guttmacher Institute. That’s rather high for a population that is supposedly staunchly pro-“family values” and “pro-life” … but I suspect that the universal desire to screw and the fear associated with unwanted pregnancy have a tendency to interfere with one’s fanatical devotion to biblical inerrancy, at least in the heat of the moment. Hell, even they understand, at least on some … well … fundamental level, that legal access to abortion is still necessary.
(Another interesting read is “The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion”. It’s a collection of anecdotes from physicians at clinics across the US, Europe, and Australia about what happens when abortion protesters make the very choice they’re fighting to destroy for everyone else.)
On the other hand, I can certainly see the opinion of same-sex marriage evolving during the last ten years. Growing up in the 80s, I was part of a culture at the time that saw no problem whatsoever with saying something like “that’s so gay” or “homo” as an insult. (Yes, I’ve grown up since then.) Over the last decade, a great deal more attention has been brought to the concept of homosexuality and the harm inflicted on those who are prohibited from enjoying the same legal rights as “traditionally” married couples. People are seeing this not only as an issue of love and commitment, but of universal access to legal rights of visitation and inheritance.
The same amount of attention, thankfully, has also been brought on the lack of harm homosexuality inflicts on institutions like marriage, the military, etc. Stupid reality and its liberal bias.
Millennials Distance Themselves from Traditional Church Teachings on Sexuality Issues. Churches holding traditional teachings on issues such as abstinence and same-gender sexual relationships may find themselves increasingly at odds with the Millennial generation. Nearly 7-in-10 (68 percent) Millennials believe that sex between an unmarried man and women is morally acceptable, and more than 6-in-10 (62 percent) Millennials favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. Moreover, nearly seven-in-ten (69 percent) say that religious groups are alienating young people by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
This is something I’ve noticed when watching debates between atheists and believers. Inevitably, two issues will come up: the concept of “absolute morality” and the inability for any such morality to exist without God or religion. People like Dawkins contend that if we were to follow the teachings of the Bible / Torah / Koran, we’d be stoning adulterers and homosexuals, sending out our daughters and sons for ritual sacrifice and rape, and wiping out entire races of people because they don’t believe the same things we do. (I’m not even sure we’ve completely stopped doing that last one.) Obviously we don’t believe in the morality or practicality of these supposedly “divine” mandates anymore, yet we are still expected to believe that the books that condone such atrocities are the source of our modern society’s code of laws.
Bullshit, I say. I’m not the only one who maintains that one of the only reasons why we have institutions like women’s rights, abolition, and things like the Geneva Convention is because of secular moral philosophy, rational discourse, and the diminished influence of the church in the political affairs of Western nations. It’s still interesting to witness it in action with a hot-button issue of the day, and it makes me wonder whether we’ll be cherry-picking homosexuality out of Christianity in another 20-30 years. That’s fine with me, but it just furthers my belief that a) Christianity is a mere shadow of what it was during biblical times, and b) to say that it’s the basis for our morality is utter crap.
Yet … in light of this …
Voters Say it is Important for Presidential Candidates to have Strong Religious Beliefs. Two-thirds of voters say that it is very important (39 percent) or somewhat important (28 percent) for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs. Majorities of Republicans (78 percent), Democrats (66 percent) and Independents (58 percent) also agree.
Seriously. This hurts my head. People are, in general, more accepting of socially liberal concepts than their parents were even 25 years ago, yet we still think it’s important for a presidential candidate to believe in an unobservable supernatural being that thinks stoning people is a good idea.
Oh well. Things are slowly improving. Here’s the rest of the findings.