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The Rise, Fall, and Bankruptcy of the Religious Right

A report in the LA Times documents an interesting fact — organized religion is on the wane in the US. The number of people who say they have no religious affiliation is increasing dramatically. For decades, only 7% of the population claimed they had no religion, but after around 1990 the number started growing, hitting 17% today. Even worse, among young people, the percentage with no religious affiliation is even higher, around 27%.

But what is really interesting is the cause. In the 1970s and 80s organized religion became political. Some of this was a reaction to the perceived immorality of the 1960s, but increasingly conservative politicians used moral issues like homosexuality and abortion to mobilize support. This briefly worked to increase GOP turnout for elections, but it has now caused its own backlash.

A side effect of this polarization is that increasingly, religion divides the two political parties. Not that long ago, the Democrats elected an evangelical christian as president. It is difficult to believe that they could do that today.

And as religion has been pushed further to the hard right extreme, with the Westboro Baptist Church continuing to picket gay funerals, established religions like Catholics supporting the Iraq war, and hatred being spewed at other religions, particularly Islam, it is hardly a surprise that at least one of the megachurches has filed for bankruptcy.



  1. patriotsgt wrote:

    Don’t forget the hypocrisy of religious organizations like the Catholic church and their sexual predation of children. Their (in the beginning) staunch defense of their accused or lack of condemnation also turned many away. Many other religious groups have suffered the same fate with the most recent being Eddie Long and the Newbirth Baptist church.

    I’d caution though against lumping or seeming to group all religious organizations as drifting to the hard right extreme. I don’t think thats the case and their are many churches that do a great deal of good work, but don’t publicize the deeds. Lets not forget either folks on the left like Rev Al who sometimes cross over to their extreme sides.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Permalink
  2. Bard wrote:

    I would love to see the same poll, but split between red and blue states. It just feels like the South and Midwest have become even more religious in the last 20 years.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Permalink
  3. Patricia Andrews wrote:

    Thanks for a short, brief history of evangelism in America. It is a sad note that religionists have provided such foolishness that people are actually happy when they see a megachurch go bankrupt or worse, relieved when some more rabid icon of the religious right dies! Of course, I speak only of myself!!

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  4. Dave TN wrote:

    “Lets not forget either folks on the left like Rev Al”
    I will be the first to admit to not being a fan of big Al, but I will say that his speech is protected and as far as I know his actions have not caused any clinics to be bombed, federal buildings bombed, doctors assassinated, churches shot up with people killed, or homosexuals to be dragged behind cars. That would tend in my eyes to make him not so extreme as some religious groups.
    Though I tend to disagree with some of Big Al’s views, his intentions appear good and christian.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Permalink
  5. BTN wrote:

    Carter for 2012 (if he isn’t dead by then…). An honest politician is so hard to come by…

    Sunday, October 24, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink
  6. Mad Hatter wrote:

    I think I’ve said this before here but I just wish organized religion would go away. We’d all be much better off.

    BTN, I’d vote for Carter but not until 2016. I want to give Obama another 4 years and hopefully we’ll be able to turn things around and get our House and Senate back by 2012.

    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 8:15 am | Permalink
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    Religion: There is a Catholic sect that is trying to push people out of the Church for not following the dogma of the Catholic Church (who as far as I can see is more interested in “constributions” than anything else)
    What I want to say to that Sect: “You may be Catholic, but you certainly are not a follower of Jesus Christ.”

    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 9:50 am | Permalink
  8. Sammy wrote:

    I belong to a church denomination that has taken a decidedly liberal stance on gays in the pulpit the last few years and we’ve lost a few congregants (if that’s a word) along the way. Some have been some very nice people…whom I’ve still said good riddance to.

    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm | Permalink
  9. Jeff wrote:

    I’m a liberal Democrat, and I’m a Christian. To me, the philosophies of Christianity are drastically more supported by the Left than the Right. The only possible exception you could claim is the right to gay marriage, which has a much greater opposition among conservatives (I’m pro gay marriage, by the way). Even the Pro-Life stance is not exclusive to the Right.

    However, the Right has monopolized religion and turned it into a talking point. They’ve used scripture and catchy slogans to trap people into thinking that they are the only ones who truly stand on the side of religion. Never mind that the majority of politicians count themselves Christians.

    Religion doesn’t mix well with politics, and can’t be accurately demonstrated when used as a weapon. It makes me more than a little upset to see how my own religion has been hijacked by un-Christian conservative fearmongers.

    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  10. ZJD wrote:

    I think it an illuminating historical fact that the motto of the Confederacy was “Deo Vindice,”or, in effect, “God on Our Side.”* The distant posterity of those pious separatists still feel the same way and still fight social and moral progress at every turn, only nowadays with (waning) political influence.

    *The common translation is “God Will Vindicate,” but “Vindice” is derived from the Latin word “vindex,” which often means protector or champion. The intended meaning of the Confederate motto was likely “With God as Our Champion.”

    Monday, October 25, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink