James A. Haught – Informed Comment https://www.juancole.com Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Tue, 10 Aug 2021 03:13:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.9 Top Ten Reasons Liberals have the High Moral Ground https://www.juancole.com/2021/08/reasons-liberals-ground.html Tue, 10 Aug 2021 04:04:49 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=199389 In tumultuous sociopolitical struggles, a frequent pattern is visible: Conservatives often fight to preserve their own wealth or privileges, but liberals battle for causes that don’t enrich or benefit themselves personally.

This fact is clear in the long crusade to abolish slavery, and in never-ending attempts to aid the poor. Liberals are less driven by self-interest, more driven to help the entire society. Conservatives are impelled more by a desire to help themselves.

Famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote: “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Consider other obvious differences between conservatives and liberals:

First, economics: Inherited wealth is a factor in right-wing politics. While most people hope to accumulate affluence and leave it for their children, this goal is especially strong among conservatives. They lobby to eliminate the estate tax on big holdings.

Conservatives feel less empathy for left-out families, those not born into privilege, those less-endowed with abilities for success. Conservatives constantly seek to pay less in taxes that fund the government safety net for unlucky folks. A frequent right-wing accusation is that progressives want to “redistribute wealth.”

Second, morality: Conservatives generally adhere to supernatural religion and its sexual taboos. They usually support censorship to ban sex from movies, television, books, magazines, and the like. Vestiges of narrow-minded colonial Puritanism linger.

An Australian, whose nation originated as a penal colony, reportedly told an American: “We’re the lucky ones. We got the criminals, and you got the Puritans.”

Actress Elizabeth Taylor was quoted: “The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”

Conservative morality includes a belief that highly religious employers should be allowed to deny birth control to their female employees — and that such corporate owners will lose their “religious freedom” if health insurance plans of their firms cover contraception.

Conservative morality includes a belief that every human egg acquires a soul the moment it is fertilized, therefore it is murder to destroy a microscopic zygote. As a result, many conservatives oppose medical research that extracts stem cells from frozen fertilized eggs.

Third, militarism: Conservatives tend to be “hawks” suspicious of unfamiliar people, and quicker to use armed force to kill presumed enemies. In contrast, television commentator Chris Matthews voiced a liberal view when he said:

“I think that the horror of war is so vital to realize, to take into our own minds and hearts, that we don’t send men and women into battle until the leaders fully and fairly decide that is the only solution.”

Nobel Prize-winning martyr Martin Luther King Jr. wrote: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”

Even moderate Republican President Dwight Eisenhower famously said: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Fourth, equality: Conservatives don’t seem to care if inferior status is imposed on people with darker skin or foreign accents, or on women, or on gay people, or other minorities. Right-wingers traditionally endorse hierarchies that favor privileged whites like themselves, and cast everyone else into the cellar. Racial segregation and gated sanctuaries are a manifestation of conservatism.

Fifth, justice: Conservatives usually support the death penalty and other harsh punishments. The fact that execution is inflicted chiefly on Black and poor defendants doesn’t seem to trouble them.

Singer Paul Simon said: “The death penalty is reserved for people who do not have enough money to defend themselves.”

Laws and police enforcement frequently seem designed to prevent the rabble from bothering the elite. The witty French cynic Anatole France (1844-1924) lampooned: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, or steal bread.”

Sixth, pollution: Conservatives tend to ignore industrial pollution, while liberals clamor for cleanups. This conflict is especially intense in debates over global warming, caused by carbon fumes that form a “greenhouse” layer in the sky, trapping heat on Earth’s surface. Many right-wing folks claim that the warm-up is a myth.

Seventh, guns: The right to bear arms is a crucial plank in the Republican platform. America’s horrendous gun murder rate and recurring massacres spur liberals to seek safety laws such as universal background checks for all pistol-buyers. But conservatives and the powerful gun lobby often block such precautions.

Eighth, abortion: Terminating pregnancies remains a “hot-button” issue. The 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling that let American women and girls choose abortion still infuriates many “pro-life” conservatives, who consider it homicide to halt pregnancy. Even pro-life murder occurs when religious extremists kill doctors or nurses at abortion clinics.

Ninth, gay rights: Ostracizing gay people is a long-running conservative theme, dating back to the Bible, which commands: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

Gay people have no control over their orientation, and are blameless for it, yet they have been persecuted, imprisoned, even killed, for centuries because many “straights” are repulsed by them. Finally, in the 21st century, western liberals at last are securing safety and public acceptance of them.

“All America loses when any person is denied or forced out of a job because of sexual orientation,” President Bill Clinton said.

Left-right splits crop up in many other forms: (1) Liberals are more inclined to give citizenship to Hispanic immigrants who sneaked into the country to find work; hard-line conservatives want to deport them all. (2) Liberals lean toward international government through the United Nations; but conservatives defend America’s “sovereignty.” (3) Many conservatives think America is “exceptional” and favored by God; but liberals mostly see the United States as a nation like other democracies. (4) Most liberals want separation of church and state, to prevent coercive abuses by the majority faith; but conservatives try to blur the line, for example, by giving tax-paid vouchers so religious parents can send their children to church schools at taxpayer cost. (5) Liberals generally support affirmative action that helps minorities overcome past discrimination; but conservatives claim this gives unfair advantage to Black people. (6) Many progressives support physician-assisted suicide for terminal patients who want to escape pain and hopelessness; but conservatives generally oppose it. (7) Liberals want to decriminalize marijuana usage and ease the “war on drugs”; but conservatives generally back hard penalties. (8) Left-leaning Americans generally think health treatment should be a human right for everyone; but conservatives in Congress voted sixty times to kill the Affordable Care Act, and many Republican governors and state legislators refuse to expand Medicaid for lower-income families. (9) Liberals want to make college free or low-cost; but conservatives oppose higher taxes to fund such a plan.

In recent decades, various psychologists and brain researchers have analyzed innate differences between liberals and conservatives. Brain functions of the two groups have been found to vary significantly. Apparently, the gulf between left and right is wired into human genetics.

University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt wrote a 2012 book titled The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. He cites research implying that progressives focus strongly on three issues: social fairness, personal liberty, and caring for the weak. Conservatives partly share those urges, he says, but they also focus on three others: sanctity, respect for authority, and loyalty — qualities that breed political and religious conformity.

Dr. Haidt says conservatives react more strongly to perceived threats, and are more revolted by disgusting images. He says liberalism can be traced back to kindergarten age, when tots destined to be left-wingers display more curiosity and verbal abilities, but are less neat and obedient.

Stand-up comedian Mort Sahl said: “Liberals feel unworthy of their possessions. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen.”

Obviously, ingrained differences drive America’s never-ending political and cultural battles. Bottom line: Conservatives want to make life better for themselves and their children. Liberals of course want the same, but they also strive to improve life for everyone.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Tight Rope: “Marc Lamont Hill on Why He Debates Conservatives: Critical Race Theory, Bill Cosby, and More”

In Difficult times, Let’s remember all the Progressive Victories, and keep Bending the Arc of History https://www.juancole.com/2021/07/difficult-progressive-victories.html Tue, 20 Jul 2021 04:01:29 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=198979 (Charleston, W.V.) – Enormous human betterment has occurred since The Enlightenment, chiefly because crusading liberals overcame conservative resistance, time after time.

Modern democracy arose because America’s radical founders renounced the divine right of kings and took up arms against England and George III. They created government of the people, with no aristocracy.

Slavery ended because radical abolitionists hammered the entrenched institution until the horrible Civil War wiped it out.

Women gained the right to vote because radical suffragettes fought for decades against their inferior status.

Couples gained the right to birth control because radical feminists – especially Margaret Sanger – battled against prudes and the church.

Workers gained the right to organize unions because Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal defeated corporate opposition and legalized it.

Retirees gained Social Security pensions because the progressive New Deal created the safety net program.

Jobless people gained unemployment compensation – and those injured on the job gained worker’s compensation — because the New Deal created them too. And it set the 40-hour work week, banned child labor, and set a minimum wage.

The poor gained welfare protection from the liberal New Deal also.

Censorship of sexy books, magazines and movies was wiped out by progressive court cases. So were bluenose laws forcing stores to close on the Sabbath.

The historic civil rights movement and the progressive Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren struck down America’s cruel Jim Crow segregation.

The Warren court also ended government-led prayer in schools. And wiped out state laws against birth control. Later liberal justices gave women and girls a right to choose to end pregnancies.

Taboos against lotteries, liquor clubs and other “sins” fell away.

Strides toward universal health care as a human right for everyone included Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance, Veterans care, government employees coverage and finally Obamacare.

Conservatives tried to prevent teaching of evolution in public schools, but they failed.

Conservatives tried to block sex education in public schools, but they failed.

Conservatives tried to teach “creation” in public schools, but they failed.

Puritanical right-wingers made racial intermarriage a crime, but the liberal Warren court legalized it.

Puritanical right-wingers jailed gay lovers, but progressives on the high court legalized gay sex.

Fundamentalists fought gay marriage, but Democratic state legislatures and the Supreme Court legalized it.

Humanism means helping people, and secular means doing it without supernatural religion. Decade after decade, century after century, leftist reformers defeated conservatives to advance secular humanism. At the same time, churches and their magical beliefs faded enormously from western democracies. And recently, international warfare has virtually disappeared.

Pioneer Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said the arc of history bends toward justice – and Martin Luther King Jr., who spent young years as a Unitarian, adopted the phrase masterfully.

The past shows a clear pattern of human progress – of civilization bending toward justice. Let’s hope it continues.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

The Hill: “AOC: Budget proposal a ‘PROGRESSIVE VICTORY'”

90 Years of Secular Progress: As Fundamentalism Weakened, I saw America grow Strong and Diverse https://www.juancole.com/2021/02/progress-fundamentalism-weakened.html Mon, 22 Feb 2021 05:01:25 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=196264 Charleston, WV (Special to Informed Comment) – I’ll be 90 on my next birthday. My long life is sinking, shrinking, slip-sliding away. My wife is worse: bedfast, under Hospice care. Soon, our world will end, not with a bang but a whimper.

Looking back over nine decades, I’m proud and pleased because secular humanism – the progressive struggle to make life better for everyone – won hundreds of victories during my time.

When I came of age in the 1950s, fundamentalist taboos ruled America. Gay sex was a felony, and homosexuals hid in the closet. It was a crime for stores to open on the Sabbath. It was illegal to look at something like a Playboy magazine or sexy R-rated movie – or even read about sex. Blacks were confined to ghettos, not allowed into white-only restaurants, hotels, clubs, pools, schools, careers or neighborhoods. Interracial marriage was illegal. Schools had government-mandated prayers, and biology classes didn’t mention evolution. Buying a cocktail or lottery ticket was a crime. Birth control was illegal in some states. Desperate girls couldn’t end pregnancies, except via back-alley butchers. Unwed couples couldn’t share a bedroom. Other Puritanism was locked into law.

Now, all those born-again strictures have been wiped out, one after another. Human rights and personal freedoms snowballed. Society changed so radically that it’s hard to remember the old “thou shalt nots.”

The secular humanist crusade, a never-ending effort to help humanity, began its modern upsurge three centuries ago in The Enlightenment. Rebel thinkers began challenging the divine right of kings, the supremacy of the church, privileges of aristocrats, and other despotism. They envisioned democracy, personal equality, human rights, free speech and a social safety net.

At the start of the 20th century, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party sought many reforms. And women fought bravely for the right to vote. Then, during my lifetime, wave after wave of betterment occurred.

Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal passed Social Security pensions for retirees, gave unions a right to organize, provided unemployment compensation for the jobless and workers compensation for those injured at work, banned child labor, set a forty-hour work week and a minimum wage, created food stamps and welfare for the poor, launched massive public works to make jobs, created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to protect bank depositors, and much more.

The U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren transformed America: outlawing racially segregated schools, outlawing government-enforced school prayer, striking down state laws against birth control and mixed marriage, protecting poor defendants against police abuses, mandating “one man, one vote” equality in districts to stop sparse rural conservatives from dominating legislatures. The Warren Court gave couples privacy in the bedroom – which set the stage for a later ruling that let women and girls end pregnancies. Other subsequent decisions decriminalized gay sex, gave homosexuals a right to marry, and made gays safe from cruel discrimination.

Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society leaped forward with Medicare, Medicaid, the Job Corps, Head Start, public radio and television, consumer protection, pollution curbs, senior citizen meals, the National Trails System, and 200 other improvements. Four major laws guaranteed racial equality.

Meanwhile, the historic civil rights movement made America honor its pledge that “all men are created equal.” Birth control pills freed women from endless pregnancy and triggered the sexual revolution against bluenose church taboos. Women’s liberation weakened male domination. Gays gained legal equality through historic breakthroughs. The youth rebellion of the 1960s still has repercussions.

A 1987 high court ruling forbade public schools to teach “creationism.” Other progressive advances included marijuana legalization in many states, and the beginning of “right to die with dignity” laws.

Finally, the collapse of the idiotic Trump era and the disintegration of supernatural religion in western democracies are more victories for secular humanism.

Decade after decade, progressive reformers defeated bigoted religion and right-wing political resistance to wipe out hidebound strictures.

Barely noticed, humanist advances helped billions. War between nations has virtually ceased in the past half-century. In the 1800s, life expectancy averaged 35 years because of high childhood deaths, but now it’s near 80. Literacy and education have soared. Each day, 200,000 more people rise above rock-bottom $2-per-day poverty. Each day, 300,000 more gain access to electricity and clean water for the first time. Famines have almost vanished. Progressive values keep climbing.

We existentialists see the chaotic carnival of life – all the absurdities and idiocies (the Trump era, for example). Sometimes we want to embrace Macbeth’s bitter lament that life is a pointless farce, a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

But I know that’s only part of the truth. The marvelous rise of secular humanism in a single lifetime – greatly improving life for all – paints a much-brighter hope for humanity. Let’s keep striving for more advances.

Bonus video added by Informed Comment:

PBS NewsHour: “Here’s what’s making America less religious”

Right Wing Laws to “protect religious freedom” Enable Fundamentalists to Discriminate https://www.juancole.com/2021/01/religious-fundamentalists-discriminate.html Tue, 26 Jan 2021 05:02:19 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195765 Charleston, W.Va. (Informed Comment) – Across America, right-wing politicians pass “religious freedom” laws that have a single purpose: to let narrow-minded believers discriminate against gays — an intolerance that is illegal for other people under human rights laws.

In other words, only born-again Christians are allowed to express prejudice and hostility, while other Americans live by kinder standards.

Actually, around the world, there’s a clear pattern: Strong religion produces judgmental, bigoted attitudes. Fundamentalists are unforgiving, less accepting of outcasts. Puritans are quick to condemn.

In the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump exuded racism and ethnic intolerance. He implied that America’s first black president was born in Kenya. He demanded a wall to keep out Hispanics. He tried to block Muslims from entering the United States. Trump also degraded women and boasted of grabbing their genitals. His slogan of “Make America great again” was perceived as “Make America white again.”

Surprisingly, Trump’s most ardent supporters were white evangelicals, who backed him by an astounding 81 percent at the polls. It seemed as if those fundamentalists eagerly embraced bigotry.

It’s an old story: Less-educated white churchgoers have a record of discrimination. In the 1950s, big-time evangelist Jerry Falwell preached against racial integration, saying it “will destroy our race eventually.” After integration arrived, he founded the Lynchburg Christian Academy for whites – a “seg academy” designed to evade association with blacks.

In the 1970s, tax-exemption was stripped from segregated religious schools – which impelled white evangelicals to become a belligerent political force, the “Christian right” attached to the Republican Party. Today, that segment is a strong bastion of intolerance.

Christianity Today, the foremost evangelical magazine, recently lamented:

“Every week, we are treated to another revelation about the alarming attitudes of white evangelical Christians.” It said kind-hearted people should “find President Trump’s closing the door to the world’s neediest refugees repulsive. But white evangelicals support Trump’s exclusionary policy by a whopping 76 percent…. White evangelical Christians, more than any other religious group, say illegal immigrants should be identified and summarily deported.”

The article concluded that too many white evangelicals “show little mercy for those who are not white Americans.”

College professor David Myers, who grew up in born-again churches, wrote:

“Despite my roots in evangelical Christianity, I no longer claim that identity. I don’t want to be associated with the prejudice and intolerance that the word ‘evangelical’ now, alas, so often connotes.”

A gathering of fundamentalists drafted a “Nashville Statement” declaring war on “homosexual immorality or transgenderism.” (Some social media comments branded it “un-American toilet paper written by hypocrites.”)

Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote that, by embracing Trump, born-again believers are “associating evangelicalism with bigotry, selfishness and deception. They are playing a grubby political game for the highest of stakes: the reputation of their faith.”

However, I think the reputation of their faith has been rather obvious for a long time.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

KCCI: “LGBTQ group says new statehouse bill discriminates due to religious freedom”

How did Washington State get sensible Sex Education Passed? The Religious Right is Collapsing https://www.juancole.com/2020/12/washington-education-collapsing.html Fri, 18 Dec 2020 05:02:37 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=195034 Here’s a dramatic example of the growing power of Americans who say their religion is “none”:

Last spring, progressives in the Washington state legislature, backed by Planned Parenthood, mandated that all public schools must teach sensible, practical sex education. The goal: to prevent teen pregnancy, reduce sexual disease, save girls from “date rape,” caution grade-schoolers about predators, foster respect between sexes, and the like. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law.

Conservative churches and Republicans erupted in outrage. Congregations signed petitions to repeal the new law – forcing a referendum in the Nov. 3 election. But the hidebound opponents lost 58-42. Thus Washington became the first state to have sex education approved by public vote.

Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times wrote that the church defeat occurred “because of Washington state’s most profound political development in recent years – the religion gap.” He explained:

“We talk all the time about the gender gap in voting, the education gap and the urban-rural divide. But in our state, an even bigger influence on local politics is religion. Or rather, lack of religion.

“In surveys of state voters released for the 2020 election, the group answering ‘none’ to the question of ‘what is your religion?’ easily forms the largest religious group in this state. The ‘nones’ made up 34 percent of the state electorate this year…. That’s far higher than evangelical and born-again Christians at 19 percent, or Catholics at 14 percent…. Also, 45 percent of Washington voters answered ‘never’ when asked how often they go to church.”

Westneat said this godless cohort is a powerhouse in Washington politics. “Now, in this state, the ‘nones’ rule local politics. The ‘nones’ tend to be strongly pro-science and against anything that smacks of morality-policing.” He warned politicians: “Either appeal to the ‘nones’ or forget it.”

Washington, Oregon and the “Left Coast” have evolved away from religion faster than some parts of America, such as Dixie’s Bible Belt – yet they seem to indicate where the whole nation is heading.

A big X

Sociologists are amazed by the rapid collapse of faith in Western democracies. Until the postwar years, Christianity dominated all cultures, while unbelievers were a fringe of outcasts. But a remarkable reversal happened. On charts, it promises to form a large X as Christianity sinks and the churchless rise.

Western Europe was first to experience the change, followed by Canada, Australia, Japan and elsewhere. America lagged behind – until secularism snowballed. Researcher Ronald Inglehart of the University of Michigan says America now is losing religion faster than any other nation.

Gallup says American churches lost twenty percent of their members in the past two decades. Barna says two-thirds of teens raised in church drop out in their twenties. Southern Baptists lost two million since 2005. Once-prestigious “mainline” Protestantism is fading to a shadow.

Meanwhile, churchless Americans began soaring in the 1990s and climbed past one-fourth of the population. They tend to hold compassionate social views, making them the biggest faith group in the Democratic Party base. Researcher Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University credits them with tipping the 2020 election to Democrats.

Most of these “nones” are young, and the young vote at lower rates than seniors. But if they continue rising as a progressive political force, America will be a better place.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

King 5: “Universal sex education bill passes WA state senate”

Is America Flowing Demographically to the Left? Why Trump’s White Evangelicals aren’t the Force they were under Reagan or Bush https://www.juancole.com/2020/11/flowing-demographically-evangelicals.html Wed, 25 Nov 2020 05:01:37 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=194614 Charleston, W.V. (Special to Informed Comment) – Maybe 2020 is a turning point – one that won’t be clearly visible until the future. Maybe it marks the end of the four-decade epoch when the white evangelical “religious right” had enough power to tip American elections to the GOP.

White evangelicals fought fiercely for Republicans this year. They gave about 80 percent of their votes to President Trump and strongly favored conservatives in state elections. These born-again fundamentalists have shrunk to only 15 percent of America’s population, but they’re so politically intense that they were 28 percent of voters who went to the polls. Undoubtedly, they tipped some marginal states to the GOP, causing early Democratic consternation on election night. But they couldn’t swing the whole nation. And maybe – with the relentless decline of religion – they never can do so again. Let us hope.

The rise and fall of right-wing, born-again politics is a significant episode in America’s history. Until after World War II, many fundamentalists shunned government, choosing to ignore this world and focus on heaven and hell instead. But white evangelicals – the most racist element of society, some research says – were jolted by several breakthroughs that threatened their vision of America as a Christian “city on a hill” favored by God.

Victories by the civil rights movement and integration of public schools upset conservative white believers. So did the loss of tax exemption by Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist school that first banned blacks, then forbade interracial dating.

Halting of school prayer in the 1960s – followed by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision – coupled with the rise of feminism – and gays coming out of the closet – and the sexual revolution with racy magazines and movies – and the end of censorship and “blue laws” – these and more made white evangelicals feel their country had turned against them. It drove them into politics.

First, evangelist Jerry Falwell launched the Moral Majority to mobilize redneck religion behind the Republican Party. Then evangelist Pat Robertson followed with the Christian Coalition. Election after election, born-again white faith was turned into a huge political machine. GOP strategist Karl Rove helped spur this powerhouse to elect Ronald Reagan president in 1980. Later, it put George W. Bush into the White House.

In their heyday, around 1990, white evangelicals were one-fourth of America’s population. Their soaring political clout meshed well with the “southern strategy” of former President Richard Nixon, who exploited Dixie racism to shift Sunbelt states to the GOP.. The combination of Jesus and white supremacy produced a conservative political juggernaut.

However, a demographic tide began to flow left. America started losing its religion. People who say their faith is “none” became an amazing sociological phenomenon, suddenly doubling in the 1990s, then climbing rapidly to one-fourth of the populace. Among young adults under 40, the churchless ratio is much higher. This godless group generally holds compassionate, liberal political views and has become the largest faith segment in the Democratic Party base.

Meanwhile, religion suffered relentless decline. White evangelists fell from one-fourth to only 15 percent of the public. Respected “mainline” Protestants lost enormously, and Catholics were battered by never-ending pedophile scandals.

Rising “nones” and sinking born-agains have far-reaching political implications – boosting Democrats and eroding the GOP. Many researchers have traced this sociological shift.

Was 2020 a watershed point, when the “religious right” slipped too far downhill to be decisive in forthcoming elections? Keep your fingers crossed and hope that the future will confirm this blessed prospect.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Holy Koolaid: “Evangelicals Freak Out”

In this Election, make no Mistake: White Evangelicals Lost, as “Nones” and Religious Liberals saved the Day https://www.juancole.com/2020/11/election-evangelicals-religious.html Sun, 08 Nov 2020 05:01:33 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=194300 Charleston , W. V. (Special to Informed Comment) – Donald Trump taught America a great lesson. He showed that this nation has a huge number of racist, sexist, jingoist, gay-hating, Muslim-hating, Hispanic-hating bigots – those Hillary Clinton called a “basket of deplorables.” Trump attracted them by millions through his endless attacks on blacks and other minorities. Deplorables clung to him to the bitter end. Now that Trump is heading for eventual oblivion, where will they go?

Many of the deplorables are white evangelicals. Sociologist Robert Jones, head of the Public Religion Research Institute, says they are the most prejudiced group in the United States.

In his latest book, White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, Jones asserts that white churches have always been at the heart of racism, helping lock it into the culture. He says born-again whites display bigotry in many different ways.

For example, they are far more likely to shrug when white police kill unarmed black men, dismissing it as “isolated incidents.” And they generally say the Confederate flag is “more a symbol of southern pride than of racism.”

In contrast, young Americans who shun religion tend to feel greater compassion and understanding. They strongly agree when PRRI interviewers recite this statement: “Generations of slavery and discrimination have created conditions that make it difficult for blacks to work their way out of the lower class.” But fundamentalist whites don’t.

As chief researcher, Jones created a “racism index” to identify bigotry. White evangelicals scored worst at 78 percent, while irreligious whites rated 42 percent. Jones told CNN:

“President Trump, who has put white supremacy front and center, has brought these issues from just barely below the surface into plain view…. White Christians have inherited a worldview that has Christians on top of other religions, men over women, whites over blacks.”

Trump has been the champion of the deplorables. He showed everyone how large their cohort is in America. Presumably, they won’t vanish. Where will they go after the King of Deplorables is gone? I hope they slink downward in shame.

After any election, it’s easy to look back and count various groups of voters who clinched victory. For four decades, researchers have confirmed how white evangelicals secured Republican wins. Now, in the wake of the Biden-Harris triumph, it’s obvious that Democrats couldn’t have won without black votes, or Hispanic ones, or labor union ones, etc.

Or “nones.”

Educated, intelligent, young adults who say their religion is “none” generally hold compassionate, progressive values: favoring women’s right to choose, supporting gay marriage, advocating climate control, urging low-cost college, wanting universal medical care as a human right for all, backing sex education and the public “safety net” that protects less-privileged people, etc.

These liberals naturally lean to the Democratic Party and have become the largest faith group in its base. Unfortunately, they vote at lower rates – but several freethought organizations mobilized efforts to rouse their democratic instincts.

I hope plenty of research ensues in coming months to pinpoint how much “nones” were decisive in swinging the 2020 election.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Evangelist Paula White Praying for Trump’s Victory

Are the Days when White Evangelicals can Swing the Election Passing? https://www.juancole.com/2020/11/evangelicals-election-passing.html Sun, 01 Nov 2020 04:01:18 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=194175 Charleston, W.V. (Special to Informed Comment) – In the classic movie “Citizen Kane,” a ruthless newspaper tycoon runs for high political office. In advance, his publishing chain prepares two possible alternative headlines for the morning after the election. One crows: “Kane Wins.” But if that won’t work, the other says: “Fraud at the Polls.”

Well, I have two possible headlines ready for after Tuesday’s election. My hoped-for one says: “White Evangelicals Fail to Re-Elect Trump.” But if the dismal alternative happens, the other says: “Bigotry Prevails.”

I fervently wish that the era of born-again whites tipping elections to Republicans finally is ending. Religion is collapsing rapidly in America. Southern Baptists have lost two million members since 2005. Overall church membership has fallen 20 percent in two decades, according to Gallup. In a forthcoming book, researcher Ronald Inglehart says supernatural faith is dropping faster in America than in any other western democracy. Both Barna and LifeWay surveys find that two-thirds of youths raised in church drop out in their twenties.

In contrast, there’s a rising flood of educated young adults who say their religion is “none” – and they tend to hold compassionate political views, making them a bulwark of the Democratic Party. They began surging in the 1990s, then soared. The Cooperative Congressional Election Study, released Oct. 4 by Harvard University, says “nones” grew three percent more in 2019, becoming one-third of the adult population. They’re larger than any specific church.

“Nones” vote at low rates, but I hope their general support for progressive values – approving women’s right to choose, backing gay marriage, endorsing free college, supporting universal health care, etc. – will swing America leftward. Maybe exit polls will show how much they affect Tuesday’s outcome.

Actually, the well-known white evangelical embrace of the GOP contradicts their faith’s founder. Jesus was a liberal who taught: help the poor, feed the hungry, heal the sick, clothe the naked, aid the underdog. That mirrors the public “safety net” supported by Democrats. Yet born-again fundamentalists strongly back Republicans, who want to slash the safety net to give the rich a tax break. In a sense, such believers renounce Jesus.

President Trump has sought to make born-again white religion a political machine for the GOP. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne says he has “weaponized religion in a very aggressive way” – choosing an evangelical vice president , filling his cabinet with fundamentalists, constantly catering to Bible-thumping preachers as linchpins of his base.

But that base is shrinking. And this year’s pandemic hindered the ability of churches to meet and pursue politics.

Of course, many other factors besides religion sway an election – but religion is a big one.

Keep your fingers crossed and wait to see which headline works after Tuesday’s election.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Evangelical Christians divided over Trump, how will this affect the 2020 US election? | ABC News

Is the Rising Generation of Unchurched Secularists pointing to a post-Trump Progressive America? https://www.juancole.com/2020/10/generation-secularists-progressive.html Tue, 20 Oct 2020 04:02:28 +0000 https://www.juancole.com/?p=193946 Someday, the coronavirus tragedy will be gone, wiped out by scientific vaccines. And Donald Trump will be just an unpleasant memory, an absurd reminder of what can happen when bigotry contaminates democracy.

This part of the 21st century will be remembered chiefly, I predict, as the era when supernatural religion died among intelligent western people. I think it will survive mostly as an emotional fringe for lower-brow folks such as those who “speak in tongues.”

In other words, the Secular Age is blossoming right now, amid many daily distractions. Evidence is everywhere:

American adults who say their religion is “none” began to explode in the 1990s and climbed to one-fourth of the population. Among those under 30, the churchless ratio now is 40 percent. Church membership has dropped 20 percent in two decades. A stunning 13 percent of American adults are ex-Catholics. Southern Baptists have lost two million members since 2005. Mainline Protestantism has collapsed so much it’s called “flatline Protestantism.” Rejecting religion has become socially acceptable.

The retreat from supernatural faith has been swift and profound. The Atlantic observed:

“History does not often give the satisfaction of a sudden and lasting turning point. History tends to unfold in messy cycles – actions and reactions, revolutions and counter-revolutions – and even semi-permanent changes are subtle and glacial. But the rise of religious non-affiliation in America looks like one of those rare historical moments that is neither slow, nor subtle, nor cyclical. You might call it exceptional.”

The future of American politics may hinge greatly upon the decline of faith. The Republican Party depends enormously upon the white evangelical “religious right” – but it’s fading. Fewer that 15 percent of adults now fit that category. In contrast, “nones” generally hold humane, tolerant, progressive values and have become the largest faith segment in the Democratic Party base.

A Sept. 28 Pew Research report said this right-left split holds firm around the world. It said:

“Religiously unaffiliated adults – a group also known as religious ‘nones’ – are more likely to express accepting views of homosexuality, less likely to prefer traditional gender roles in marriages, and more likely to identify with the political left than are adults who identify with a religion.”

If America is lucky, the erosion of churchgoing will bring a steady increase in support for humane, liberal, public policies.

Do you want universal health care as a human right for everyone? And college that is easily affordable for all, without crushing debt? And continuation of women’s right to choose to end pregnancies? And security for gays against cruelty? And police reforms so white officers stop killing unarmed black men? And greater American involvement in the global battle against the menace of climate change? And sensible protections against gun massacres? And matter-of-fact sex education to reduce unwed pregnancies? And solid support for the public “safety net” that aids less-privileged families? And all the rest of the progressive wish-list?

Nobody can predict the future – but I think a significant hope for the liberal political agenda lies with the Secular Age that is blooming all around us.


Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Losing Our Religion: Finding Meaning Beyond the Pew | NBC Left Field