Displays of religiosity have become increasingly public and de riguer in GOP politics, but the reality is that Americans are turning away from organized religion
Despite a long, slow decline in religious participation among Americans, do not expect Christian conservatives to light a candle rather than curse the darkness when it comes to politics. At least two likely contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, are calling for nothing short of a religious revival. “We have tried everything else,” Jindal recently told a group of Christian and Jewish leaders in Iowa, “and now it is time to turn back to God.”
Yeah, no, especially when it comes to politics. We really don’t need more moral instruction and biblical exhortation from elected leaders. Most indicators of social dysfunction—such as crime, sexual assault, and bullying—are declining. When it comes to politics, what we need is restrained spending, reduced and simplified regulation and taxation, and an embrace of social tolerance that allows diverse individuals to peacefully get on with their lives. If Republicans choose to nominate a candidate who talks as if voters are sinners in the hand of an angry God, they will alienate independents and even conservatives who are forming a large and growing “leave us alone coalition.”
As Americans turn away from religion, the hot-button issues that once divided voters are finding wide acceptance. Nearly 40% of Americans are “unchurched” and “essentially secular,” says religion researcher David Kinnaman, who oversaw a 2014 survey of more than 20,000 respondents. That’s only going to continue. Baby boomers are less devout than their parents, and Gen-Xers and Millennials are less observant still. “The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is,” he told Religious News Service last October.
At the same time, gay marriage, pot legalization, and even abortion are becoming settled issues among voters. In 2004, just 42% of Americans favored recognizing gay marriage as equal to heterosexual unions. The figure today is 55%, according to Gallup. The trend is with regards to pot legalization, which a majority also supports. When it comes to abortion, about equal numbers of us describe ourselves at pro-choice and pro-life (each around 46%), but there has been no rise in support for banning the practice since it was legalized in the 1970s.
While there’s no reason to think that voters are clamoring for more religion in politics, Mike Huckabee will make exactly such a move the cornerstone of his candidacy if he chooses to run for president. The former governor has taken a leave of absence from his gig as a Fox News host while he ponders his options and promotes his new book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. He continues to view gay marriage as an abomination and just last fall threatened to leave the Republican Party if it did not “grow a spine” and defend the traditional definition of marriage.
Click here to read more.
Nick Gillespie is the editor in chief of Reason.com and Reason.tv.