Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Dunnoist Caucus

It seems that Democrats have bought into the new conventional wisdom that candidates must espouse a thoroughgoing religiosity in order to be competitive in national elections. Is this a sign that finally America's flirtation with secularism has given up the ghost? Or is it more like a sell signal, similar to the stock market where the surest sign that a bull market has topped is when your grandma is taking out her savings to buy stock? Could the Democrats getting religion foreshadow not the triumph of shirtsleeve religiosity in politics but the topping out and gradual decline of the Religious Right's influence on American politics?

Exhibit A for the prosecution is the Pew Research Center's recently released survey "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2007
which shows a declining trend for religious belief among younger age cohorts:

The survey also finds that the number of Americans who say they are atheist or agnostic, or choose not to identify with a religious tradition has increased modestly over the past two decades. In Pew surveys since the beginning of 2006, 12% have identified themselves as secular or unaffiliated with a religious tradition. That compares with 8% in the Pew values survey in 1987. This change appears to be generational in nature, with new cohorts coming of age with lower levels of commitment to a religious tradition. Among respondents born before the baby boom (that is, prior to 1946), only about 5% are secular or unaffiliated. But the number is more than double that (11%) among the Baby Boomers. The most secular Americans are those 30 and younger – those born after 1976 and sometimes called “Generation Y” – 19% of whom do not identify with a religious tradition.

Pew surveys taken over the past 20 years show that the size of the secular group has remained constant over time within each age cohort. In other words, the number of seculars within each generational group is about the same in 2007 as it was 10 or 20 years before. Thus it appears that people have not become less secular as they have aged. For example, 14% of members of “Generation X” (born 1965-1976) did not identify with a religious tradition in 1997, about the same as in 2007.

Whether younger generational cohorts will continue to be less religious than the previous ones is not known, but the data suggest there has been a strong, undeniable trend beginning with the Baby Boomers. And as the older cohort dies out the percentage of non-religious in the population will continue to grow.

Is the Democrat party the natural home for the non-religious? For now at least, but it doesn't have to remain so. Non-religious people, like any minority group, tends to vote for the party it perceives as less hostile to them. When white southern opponents to the Civil Rights movement bolted the Democrat party for the Republican, African Americans became a core voting block for Democrats. Jews have long seen the Democrat party as their natural home due to the old school anti-semitism of the traditional country club Republicans. Modern day Republicans under the influence of the Religious Right have made no secret of their hostility towards secular people. With a growing demographic of highly educated non-religious voters they can no longer afford to do so.


Blogger David said...

You're still misusing "secular."

Blacks started voting majority Democrat during the New Deal. The South didn't start turning Republican until 1980. Jewish loyalty to the Democrats is usually attributed to the fact that both Democrats and Jews are socialists.

April 08, 2007 2:05 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

In Pew surveys since the beginning of 2006, 12% have identified themselves as secular or unaffiliated with a religious tradition. That compares with 8% in the Pew values survey in 1987.

Boy, there's a tidal wave for you. Save your Confederate money, Duck...

Meanwhile the fastest growing declared religion in the States is Wicca, which is doubling every 30 months apparently. I ask you, for how long can the Republicans keep their distance and still hope to be a relevant force in modern America?

April 08, 2007 5:17 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Yes, Peter, that's the overall percentage. But did you see the figures for Generation Y? 19%? And what was the margin of the Republican's last victory? When they had a victory, that is.

At 12%, the Dunnoist caucus is bigger than the Black vote. In another 10 years it will be around 15%. In 20 years it might be around 17-18%. So you're not going to be competitive at a national level anymore by blaming all America's problems on the atheists. You heard it here first.

April 08, 2007 5:59 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Secular is one of the most misused word. So what does it mean to you?

April 08, 2007 6:00 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

"The fastest growing religion (in terms of percentage) is Wicca -- a Neopagan religion that is sometimes referred to as Witchcraft. Numbers of adherents went from 8,000 in 1990 to 134,000 in 2001."

It's easy to post fastest growing percentages when you start from such a small base. The growth in the non-religious population is much more significant. Did you notice that only 7% of the adult population are evangelical? With all the noise they make on the political scene you would think there are many more of them.

April 08, 2007 6:08 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

Yes, and most of them seem to live in Mauai. Anyway Duck, you have to admit this is cute. It's been about two hundred and fifty years since the Enlightenment and just a little less since the Founders established that secular Republic you Duckians are so proud of. You've just hit 12% and here you are wagging your finger and warning us all you are a irreversible force that won't be denied.

That "highly educated" flourish in your finale was charming. I guess you figure once everybody has a B.A. in sociology the world will be your oyster. Say, are there any uneducated secularists?

April 08, 2007 6:41 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

Not many.

I make a simple point, and you mischaractherize it by saying I'm predicting a secular tsunami will wash away America's religious sensibilities. There has to be a word for this tactic of inflating the claims that someone makes in order to make it easier to ridicule. Can anyone come up with an appropriate word?

April 09, 2007 8:49 AM  
Blogger EVadvocate said...


April 09, 2007 8:56 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

Well, it's not quite a strawman. A strawman is when someone just makes up your argument out of whole cloth. This is more subtle. He's taking my argument and exaggerating it.

April 09, 2007 9:23 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Duck: Come see the exaggeration inherent in the system! Come see the exaggeration inherent in the system! HELP, HELP, I'm being argued with!

April 09, 2007 10:11 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

That's cute Joe. I love argument, that's why I'm arguing with Peter's arguing technique.

April 09, 2007 10:24 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

No you aren't.

April 09, 2007 10:32 AM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Sorry about that last one. It's not every day you get two classic sketches in one thread. A little more seriously: you are lumping together as Dunnoists a lot of people who simply share a common dislike for evangelicals. In particular I do not think the D's leadership are Dunnoist. Rather they're mostly salvation-by-works progressives to the extent that they believe in anything beyond campaigning for office; and salvation-by works progressivism has pretty strong roots in the mainline churches. If all you knew about Hillary Clinton was that she was raised as an Illinois Methodist you might be surprised at how much you do know about her.

April 09, 2007 11:41 AM  
Blogger David said...

This reminds me of a unintentionally funny article I read in the last week or two. Some writer was surprised at the large percentage of people who were not "Born-Again" but believed in some Christian doctrine (I forget what it was, but the Resurrection or the Divinity of Christ, or some such). It was as if he had never heard the word "Catholic."

April 09, 2007 1:05 PM  
Blogger David said...

Duck: This will do for getting on with.

April 09, 2007 2:34 PM  
Blogger Duck said...

I'm not lumping them together, I'm just saying that the Democrats are the party that is least hostile to Dunnoists. The study shows that 66% of non-religious self-identify as Democrats. Saying most Dunnoists are Democrats is not the same as saying most Democrats are Dunnoist.

David, secular is used to describe governments and people. When used to describe people it refers to non-religious people. So a person is either secular or religious, religious being those who identify with a religious tradition or profess a belief in God. Show me where you think I've misused the meaning of the word.

April 10, 2007 5:16 AM  
Blogger David said...

You misuse it in your last comment.

April 10, 2007 9:37 AM  
Blogger Duck said...

How is it misused?

April 10, 2007 11:48 AM  
Blogger David said...

You imply that secular and religious are mutually exclusive and that religious denotes "those who identify with a religious tradition or profess a belief in God." I identify with a religious tradition, I profess a belief in G-d and yet not only am I secular, but I am a secularist.

April 10, 2007 1:42 PM  
Blogger Unobtainium said...

The Democratic Party might be the natural home of non-, less-, or alternatively-religious people, but it's also the preferred party of seniors.

Gen-Y might be less religious than the Boomers are, but they'll also be less-than-thrilled to be taxed until they bleed to pay for the Boomers' retirement.

So it's not a slam-dunk that the majority of Gen-Y will end up voting Democratic for anti-religious reasons. They might vote their pocketbooks, instead.

Also, the % of Gen-Y that self-identifies as religious may well increase, as they age. A good part of enlightenment is realizing through experience how much is unknown, both personally and universally.

April 10, 2007 1:55 PM  
Blogger David said...

Which reminds me: As GenY gets older, gets married and gets kids, they'll get churched.

April 10, 2007 1:56 PM  
Blogger joe shropshire said...

Whereas I don't and don't, and am not and am not.

April 10, 2007 2:12 PM  
Blogger Jake's Razor said...

I am a little troubled by the piousness of the Democratic candidates. I know that no atheist will be elected president any time soon - America does not trust us - but this "I'm more religious than thou" attitude among both parties is sickening.

There are no true xians

April 11, 2007 10:32 PM  
Blogger Peter Burnet said...

But surely even a sceptic or non-believer who believes in limited government and thinks we should always be wary of politicians has reason to prefer one who claims to be beholden to a familiar objective moral or ethical code over one who says all is relative and we each must decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. This is about according power over us to strangers, not organizing a dinner party. I think this is why so many non-believers are so prone to exaggerate the spectre of imminent fire and brimstone theocracy--it gives them something in common to worry and fight about and an affinity that wouldn't otherwise be there. Atheism and scepticism may have distinguished intellectual histories, but they aren't exactly great bases for building a sense of community.


That there are no true Christians in the sense you mean is actually a tenet of Christianity and has been since the beginning.

April 12, 2007 5:04 AM  

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