"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." -- Bertrand Russell

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Was a Win for Obama Victory for Secularists?

Edit: My friend Emily Dietle has an excellent post about churches serving as voting locations that readers of this might article might enjoy.


In the wake of Obama's win, CNN's Belief Blog co-editor Dan Gilgoff is wondering whether the Religious Right's influence has waned. He describes the situation as a nightmare for many conservative Christians. "Same-sex marriage adopted by voters in some states," Gilgoff pointed out, adding, "Rigorously anti-abortion candidates defeated in conservative red states." Though Gilgoff doesn't point this out in his article, it can also be pointed out that, a recent survey indicated that around 30% of young people do not self-identify as having any sort of religious affiliation. It would seem that liberal secularists are winning.

But I don't think the case is as clear as some people would have us believe. Among states in the Bible Belt, with the exceptions of Virginia and Florida, Obama suffered losses (see the election results by state here). The same is true of the Mormon corridor, with Romney leading with a percent difference of nearly 200%. A 2004 Gallup poll reported that Alabama was the most religious state in the country, with 76% of people self-reporting as Protestant. In Alabama, Romney led by a percent difference of just over 58%. And all of the data on Creationism indicate that disbelief in evolution (and belief in a literal view of the Bible) has been remarkably stable (around 50%) since people started taking data of that kind. In fact, a recent Gallup poll reported an increase in evolution denial (though this was within the historically reported variation).

How should we understand this complicated picture, where, by some accounts, the Religious Right is getting more radical, by others they are relatively stable, and by still other accounts (like Gilgoff's) the Religious Right is losing power?