Culture Wars Continuing?

See full video here and comments:

As I’m from Iowa, I noticed that several other commenters to Maddow’s blog had already added a bunch of links to issues here in Iowa:

Iowa is a good place to look at in trying to grasp where the culture wars are heading. Iowa is an ideological middleground and plays an important role as a testing ground for candidates.

Right now, the gay issue is big here in Iowa. There was an interesting speech given by Zach Wahls about his gay parents and it has received some attention from the national media:

There is also the issue about the judges being ousted over the gay marriage issue. It was an important event considering the influence that big money had from out of state, but I don’t know how much longterm impact it will have:

I think there is some danger with liberals/progressives focusing on the culture wars. It’s a waste of energy and a dissolution of focus because it can’t be won. The culture wars will die out on their own. Public opinion shows most Americans are closer to supporting liberal/progressive views:

The culture wars gained momentum with the Boomer generation. And the only thing keeping it going is the Boomer generation. The Boomers were the largest generation until the Millennials were born. Yes, Boomers have been reluctant to give up power, but they are getting old. It’s inevitable that Boomers will increasingly be retiring and dying off. The younger generations replacing them are the most socially liberal generation this country has ever seen.

The culture wars have left the national stage and turned to fight on the states for a simple reason. Public opinion is turning away from the culture wars. The moral minority of the religious right realizes they can only win fights by spending tons of money and energy on key issues in key states. They are effective in using this strategy. They may win many battles, but they are losing the war. Most Americans, especially the youth, are becoming less religious and becoming tired of the politicization of religious moral issues:

What Is Your Religious Preference? 1948-2009 Trend

How Important Would You Say Religion Is in Your Own Life? 1952-2009 Trend

Do You Happen to Be a Member of a Church or Synagogue? 1937-2009 Trend

Do You Believe That Religion Can Answer All or Most of Today's Problems, or That Religion Is Largely Old-Fashioned and Out of Date? 1957-2009 Trend

In a recent study, the majority of Americans wanted to see an increase in religious views among government officials and less of the church speaking out against the government. The polls are not necessarily conflicting though, said Jay Richards, senior fellow of Discovery Institute and author of “Money, Greed, and God.”

“Most Americans think religion is losing influence in public life and most view this as a bad thing. Most think that members of Congress should have a strong religious faith, but a slim majority also think the churches should steer clear of politics,” said Richards.

Two-thirds (67 percent) of Americans believe religion is losing influence on the American way of life. Approximately 62 percent specifically noted its decline on government leaders, according to the research released by Pew Research Center on Thursday.

One of the biggest changes over the past 20 years has been that more and more Americans, when polled, cite no religious affiliation at all. That group, which Putnam and Campbell call the “the nones,” “has been skyrocketing actually in the last 15, 20 years,” Putnam says.

“So it’s now, roughly speaking, 35 percent [to] 40 percent of younger Americans … who say that they have no religious affiliation.”

That’s a big change. For many years, the researchers say, only about 5 to 7 percent of Americans felt they belonged to no religion. The shift, Putnam says, is “a quite novel and interesting, significant development.”

As for the Americans who do belong to religious groups, tolerance is flourishing among them, too.

[…] increasing lack of affiliation with any religion amongst younger generations in the United States, saying that the percentage of Americans in their 20s that declare no affiliation is now between 30 and 40 percent.

This comes on the heels of the recent news from the Pew Forum’s US Religious Landscape Survey that over 15 percent of Americans now report themselves to be unaffiliated with any religion. But looking at Putnam’s recent work, it is clear that there is a generational divide: young people are more secular than ever.

Why? Writing about Putnam’s speech, former George W. Bush speechwriter and Washington Post op-ed columnist Michael Gerson characterizes the trend this way:

The politicization of religion by the religious right, argues Putnam, caused many young people in the 1990s to turn against religion itself, adopting the attitude: “If this is religion, I’m not interested.”

And as ABC news reported on Putnam’s speech:

This movement away from organized religion, says Putnam, may have enormous consequences for American culture and politics for years to come.

“That is the future of America,” he says. “Their views and their habits religiously are going to persist and have a huge effect on the future.”

For just one example of this, look at the generational divide on support for marriage equality (found via Daily Kos)

Fifty-four percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday say marriages between gay or lesbian couples should not be recognized as valid, with 44 percent suggesting they should be considered legal.

But among those 18 to 34 years old, 58 percent said same-sex marriages should be legal. That number drops to 42 percent among respondents aged 35 to 49, and to 41 percent for those aged 50 to 64. Only 24 percent of Americans 65 and older support recognizing same-sex marriages, according to the poll. (emphasis added)

With full marriage equality in five states now and New Hampshire poised tosoon be the sixth, it is clear that the political landscape for marriage equality is shifting. The current generation of young voters are less likely to support future efforts to limit or repeal marriage equality. Hopefully Proposition 8 in California will be one of the last of its kind – while two-thirds of voters over the age of 65 supported it, the measure failed to gain a majority in any other age group.

While some of the political implications of this increase in lack of religious affiliation among young Americans are clear, another major question is, will it stick? Are young Americans going to be secular for good? As reported by Gerson::

Putnam regards the growth of the “nones” as a spike, not a permanent trend. The young, in general, are not committed secularists. “They are not in church, but they might be if a church weren’t like the religious right. . . . There are almost certain to be religious entrepreneurs to fill that niche with a moderate evangelical religion, without political overtones.”

Putnam’s book on this research is yet to be published, but I’ll be interested to read it when it comes out, because his discussion with the Pew Forum seemed to mainly focus on politics and the negative impact of the Religious Right on religious affiliation amongst younger Americans. But political and social views are only part of the picture. What else influences younger people’s lack of religious affiliation? In their report Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S., the Pew Forum provided additional research on this very subject, examining the reasons why Americans in general change affiliations or leave their former religious affiliations without adopting a new one.

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