22 August, 2008

A Sign of Hope?

It's possible, just minutely possible, that the religious right's pushed faith too far:

About a week ago, at the candidate forum at Saddleback Church, the Rev. Rick Warren kicked off the event with a fairly straightforward message: "We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics."

As it turns out, a growing number of Americans disagree.

For the first time in more than a decade, a narrow majority of Americans say churches should stay out of politics, according to a poll released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The results suggest a potentially significant shift among conservative voters in particular. In 2004, 30% of conservatives said the church should stay out of politics while today 50% of conservatives today express that view.

Conservatives are now more in line with moderates and liberals when it comes to their views on mixing religion and politics. "Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared," Pew reports.

The results are encouraging, and more than a little surprising. In the decade between 1996 and 2006, Pew Forum surveys showed a stable trend -- a narrow majority of Americans wanted houses of worship to be publicly engaged in policy debates. Now, the numbers have reversed, and a narrow majority wants ministries to "stay out."

About damned time. Now, if only this trend would continue...

Religion and politics have no business mixing the way they have in this country. Time to rebuild that wall, atheist and religious folks alike, before one narrow religious view manages to rip it down completely, and take the country down with them.

1 comment:

Cujo359 said...

Actually, if Rick Warren's definitions of those terms are the same as mine, he's right. From that Pew poll:

Issue: Presidents should have strong religious beliefs:

Poll Date Agree Disagree
========= ===== ========
Sept. 2008 72% 25%
Sept. 2007 69% 27%
Sept. 2004 70% 26%

Statistically, there's no change. The other topic relevant to "faith" belonging in politics is this one:

Issue: Expression of religious faith and prayer by politicians.

Poll Date Too_ Right_ _Too
(Mon, Yr) Much Amount Little
========= ==== ====== ======
Sept. 2008 29% 28% 36%
Sept. 2007 27% 26% 38%
July 2005 26% 27% 39%
Sept. 2004 27% 32% 31%

If there's a change in all that I'm not seeing it.

Apologies for these columns not lining up right. You can check out the poll and see what I mean. These tables are at the bottom of Section 1.

There is increasing skepticism about the wisdom of mixing chuches and politics in most of America. The one exception, if I'm reading between the lines of that poll correctly, is among black Americans. Democrats have shown a slight increase in the number of people who think religion and politics are OK. It's nowhere near the change in Republican thinking on the matter, though.

Check Section 4 in particular for some breakdowns by ethnic, age, and religious groupings.