Friday, December 03, 2010

Religion and politics in America over the last 50 years

Dr. Albert MohlerDr. Al Mohler had a very interesting interview with Professor Robert Putnam, Malcolm Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University, about his book American Grace:  How Religion Divides and Unites Us, co-authored with David Campbell.

There are some interesting things that came out  in this discussion (and in the book)! By 1990, young evangelicals outnumbered those young people that did not have any religious affiliation (nones) 2 to 1. Now, twenty years later, that number is totally reversed, in that the nones outnumber young evangelicals 2 to 1.

Here are some quotes:

“Putnam: There’s no doubt about it.  We show in the book for example that not only is America much more religious in its beliefs and its practices than any other advanced, industrial country, but we’re even more religious, Americans are even more religious judged by their faith and their practice than Iranians of all things.  So America’s very religious.  Now we’ve also become, as a country, more polarized in religious terms over the past half century, so there are more, really deeply religious people in America than there used to be.  And more pretty secular people in American than there used to be.”

“Putnam: Well we begin our story with America in the 1950’s. America in the 1950’s was a very religious place, probably in some respects the most religiously observant time in American history.  Gallup recorded in the late 1950’s that as many as fifty or sixty percent of Americans said they went to church every week and all time records in bible sales and in church building and so on.  And then like an earthquake came the sixties.  And the sixties was many things of course, it was the Vietnam War protest, and it was the civil rights movement, and it was the women’s movement, and it was sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and it was a sharp, it witnessed a sharp fall in all aspects of religious belief and behavior in America.   A large segment of Americans in the sixties, especially young Americans, the boomers were just coming of age in that decade, moved off to the secular age of the religious continuum.  Church attendance fell more rapidly in that one decade than I think ever in American history.”

“Putnam: America has become basically two Americas in part actually because we’re sort of sorting ourselves out religiously.  To our astonishment when people’s politics and religion nowadays are inconsistent, that is they’re liberal but religious, or their conservative but not religious, you might say well if they’re inconsistent what changes to make them consistent.  Do people bring their politics in line with their faith or do they bring their religion into line with their political views and the answer to our shock was most people in that situation changed their religion to fit their politics rather than the other way around.  So we’re sorting ourselves out religiously in terms of our political views.  Actually I didn’t really believe that when I first saw it because I thought it was hard to believe that people would be making decisions about their eternal fate on the basis of how they feel about Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.  But that’s the fact so our politics and our religion today are closely aligned.  To be honest with you Al, I’m not completely sure that’s good for religion, but that’s another matter.”

Listen to Al Mohler's interview at Thinking in Public below or download it here.

You can read the transcript here!

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