The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently conducted a survey that, in essence, showed an increasing percentage of people wanting to hear a lot less from politicians about God and religion.
Gee, I can’t imagine that, given the entire last decade.
I’m not going to re-write the article or put up all of the graphics, simply because there are way too many, and someone else already did the work … but I have some of the more important points in bullet item format:
- Almost 40% of Americans say there’s too much expression from politicians. Only 25% think there’s just the right amount, down from 60% in 2001.
- 54% of Americans think the church should stay out of politics, as opposed to 40% who don’t. These numbers were reversed until about 2006, when they started diverging.
- Republicans generally favor expressions of faith from their candidates … unless they support Mitt Romney. Then they’re a little more neutral than their Santorum-supporting counterparts. Big surprise, given the divisive nature of this election season’s primary …
- Two very interesting trends, which I have below, show that the overall sentiment that there is too much cross-contamination between religion and politics is shared almost equally by democrats and independents. That’s comforting, since I would expect that sentiment from a group of people who are generally more secular than their republican counterparts … but to have essentially the same percentage of independents feel the same way conveys a much stronger message. It also makes me feel a little better whenever I hear someone like Boehner yammering on about what “the American people want”, since it’s clear that they’re out of touch in other areas as well.
- 54% of those surveyed believe Republicans are friendly toward religion. 39% feel the same about the Obama Administration, and 35% believe Democrats support religion.
- University professors score at 14%. Ouch. And that’s the overall number, too. There isn’t even much variation in opinion among political parties or other demographics, with the exception of Black Protestants. I have no idea why.
Ah, the evil specter of the university professor, targeting all of those young, impressionable, innocent, deeply-religious minds and defiling them with thoughts of skepticism, atheism, evolution, big bang cosmology, secular humanism, and free birth control pills at the local health clinic. I can’t see it as a coincidence that as education level increases – especially education in the fields of physics, biology, geology, anthropology, chemistry, etc. – any kind of belief in the supernatural generally decreases. I say “generally” because there are obviously prominent scientists who still maintain a strong belief in God … but they are the exception rather than the rule.
Unfortunately, Republican politicians seize on this relationship in order to portray scientists and university professors as somehow being “harmful” to the fabric of traditional American society … when, in reality, they are helping shape our future by expanding our knowledge and understanding of the world around us and – in the case of secular philosophers – a sound, rational moral basis for using this knowledge properly. The GOP, in taking such a hostile position, ends up in effect siding against education, against learning, against science … all to maintain what they believe to be “traditional” values or a set of archaic beliefs that is in clear contradiction with everything we see around us.
Thankfully an increasing proportion of the American public is getting weary of it. I’m with them, and hope the trend continues.