Anyone who's monitored the religious right knows that they've operated on the same cycle for the better part of the last 30 years--gain a little power, overreach big time, get smacked down hard. Well, a front-page (below the fold) story in this morning's NYT suggests that--at long last--we may be seeing the beginning of the end of this vicious cycle. According to several analysts, it's not just Obama's reelection and four wins for marriage equality. The demographics are moving against the fundies.
The election results are just one indication of larger trends in American religion that Christian conservatives are still digesting, political analysts say. Americans who have no religious affiliation — pollsters call them the “nones” — are now about one-fifth of the population over all, according to a study released last month by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.Now here's something that should send a lot of fundie eyebrows into hairlines--according to exit polling, white evangelicals made up three percent more of the electorate than in 2004, when by all accounts they were responsible for giving Bush 43 a second term. And yet, they still weren't enough to push Romney over the finish line. Small wonder that Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, thinks this election may be the last time that running it up among fundies is a viable strategy.
The younger generation is even less religious: about one-third of Americans ages 18 to 22 say they are either atheists, agnostics or nothing in particular. Americans who are secular are far more likely to vote for liberal candidates and for same-sex marriage. Seventy percent of those who said they had no religion voted for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.
Additionally, the fundies' base is dwindling--slowly, but surely. The Southern Baptist Convention and the Assemblies of God have been losing members after seeing large spikes since the 1990s. Moreover, Latinos--a demographic that should be open to religious right appeals on paper--are clearly breaking toward the Democrats. According to James Guth, a poli sci professor at Furman University, Latino evangelicals voted for Obama in proportions similar to their Catholic brethren.
There's another trend, though, that this article didn't look into. A significant number of younger evangelicals aren't as hung up on social issues as older ones, and are increasingly willing to vote for Democrats. I can vouch for this personally. I attend a low-key charismatic church here in Charlotte--and by my admittedly unscientific analysis, it's split down the middle between Democrats and Republicans. And most of the 20somethings and 30somethings voted for Obama.
To be sure, we can't pronounce the religious right dead yet. Case in point--the New Apostolic Reformation, the fascist offshoot of the religious right that thinks it can bring about the Second Coming by taking over the world. It's becoming more and more vocal, and yet most people haven't even heard of it. But there was one encouraging sign during the primary. If you'll remember, Rick Perry organized the "Response" prayer rallies with the help of several NAR leaders, including Cindy Jacobs and Rick Joyner. The more people heard about what the NAR believed, the less they liked it.
10:43 AM PT: Since this made the rec list, I thought I'd point out just how dire this really is for the GOP. Take the religious right out of the picture, and Georgia and Texas--the only two reasons why the Repubs are still even in the game electorally--suddenly become battleground states. We also get a fighting chance in some poorer areas of Appalachia that have given Repubs ridiculous margins even though economically they have no business voting Republican.