Thursday, September 17, 2009

Religious activists, left and right

There's been a new poll about religious activists on both sides of the partisan divide. (The full report, from which I took the graph, is here (PDF).)

Some findings:
In terms of religious affiliation, conservative activists are almost exclusively Christian, whereas progressive activists are more diverse. Among conservative activists, 54% identify as evangelical Protestant, 35% as Roman Catholic, and 9% with Mainline Protestantism. Among progressive activists, 44% identify as Mainline Protestants; 17% as Roman Catholics; 10% as evangelical Protestants; 12% as interfaith, mixed faith, or Unitarian; 6% Jewish; and 8% who have no formal religious affiliation or identify as formerly affiliated.

In terms of beliefs, conservative and progressive religious activists have strikingly different beliefs about scripture. Nearly half of conservatives (48%) view scripture as the literal word of God, a view held by only 3% of progressives.
Nothing new there, of course. We expect the majority of conservative activists to be Evangelical.
Conservative and progressive religious activists have strikingly different issue priorities. A majority of conservative religious activists gave priority to abortion and same-sex marriage, while progressive religious activists gave priority to a number if issues, including economic justice, the environment, and peace. Conservative religious activists overwhelmingly identify abortion (83%) and same-sex marriage (65%) as most important priorities among a set of eight issue areas. Fewer than 10% of progressive religious activists call those “most important” issues. Highest priorities for progressive activists are poverty (74%), health care (67%), environment (56%), jobs/economy (48%), and the Iraq war (45%)
So, the conservatives are disproportionately obsessed with issues related to sex, and whether a handful of committed gay people have any civil rights. No particular concern for war, the environment, the impoverished etc.
Gay and Lesbian Issues. On the issue of same-sex marriage, conservatives overwhelmingly oppose (82%) both same-sex marriage and civil unions, while nearly 6-in-10 (59%) progressives support same-sex marriage, and another third support civil unions.
And anyone who wonders why gay people feel so disenfranchised and opposed to religion, and fearful of state theocracy, there it is. (By the way, head on over to Gay Married Californian for a discussion of the lies being told in Maine--it's prop8 redux.)
Health Care. Only 6% of conservative religious activists agree that the U.S. should have comprehensive national health insurance even if it resulted in fewer choices for patients, compared to nearly 8-in-10 (78%) progressive activists who agree.
There's a fascinating post over at StreetProphets on how the right wing has co-opted the Roman Catholics against health care because of the Bishops' obsession with abortion and gay rights. Indeed, in Maine, rather than help the poor and suffering, the RC diocese is closing parishes and raising money to attack gay marriage. Some misplaced priorities, wouldn't you say?

But this is the one I just can't get my head around:
Torture. A significant majority of conservative religious activists say torture can often (25%) or sometimes (36%) be justified. Only 5% of progressive religious activists take either of those positions, with 79% saying torture can never be justified.
How anyone can claim the name of Christian and support the most ghastly treatment of another human being is beyond me. And this, to me, summarizes the evil of the religious right activists. They are completely corrupted by hatred.

Update More commentary here.


PseudoPiskie said...

This article gives one possible explanation. We have to be carefully taught...

Lifting the Rock said...

Thanks for this. No great surprises but it's good to have one's suspicions verified.

Grandmère Mimi said...

So, the conservatives are disproportionately obsessed with issues related to sex....

Could the lesson here be that repression is bad and doesn't really work? Sexual desires will out, sometimes in weird ways, especially when denial of the desires is the default mode of operation.

Paul M said...

I like to chuckle when conservatives criticize liberals for absorbing the popular culture uncritically. Have you ever heard a Biblical defense of torture? In areas of economics and foreign policy, the conservative position is straight out of popular political culture; there is nothing remotely biblical or even theological about its origins.

JCF said...

How anyone can claim the name of Christian and support the most ghastly treatment of another human being is beyond me. And this, to me, summarizes the evil of the religious right activists. They are completely corrupted by hatred.

Corrupted by hatred? No, I think rather that hatred IS their religion: it's that "Cruel Daddy-God" thang...

NancyP said...

The majority of conservatives want to gloss over the really uncomfortable bits in the Bible - the ones that ask for real sacrifices in day-to-day comfort. The sayings of Jesus concerning money and family/clan-mediated security make *every* middle-class person uncomfortable, because it is obvious that most Americans have not only enough to live on, but have an excess of "stuff", eg. thirty t-shirts, while others around the world lack the basics.

Middle-class liberals wring their hands, feel guilt, give money to secular NGOs with practical missions, vote for government social services and their taxes, and occasionally get their hands dirty.

Most middle-class religious conservatives subscribe to a Calvinist philosophy - poverty always a result of moral depravity, laziness, unGodliness, while middle-class or rich status within the "right" churches indicates that the person is one of the Elect. Giving money to help poor people needing the basics of life, or the better things in life, is counterproductive unless the poor person is converted to the "right" church ("saved"). This is all very convenient for ignoring poverty in the community and in other countries, and giving money to churches to rack up conversion numbers and to add extras to the facilities (beyond seating capacity and a sound system). There may be a point at which some individual churches give equal importance to their function as religious worship, teaching, and care-giving groups and their function as semi-closed social clubs (gym facilities, teen rock bands, hobby groups, singles events, etc). Intense concern about non-patriarchal family structure, "unauthorized" sex, the lack of punishment of "unauthorized sex" (stated as concern about "teh ba-beeeezz" until birth), and non-procreative sexual outlets (masturbation and pornography) allows the conservative to "do something" that doesn't question their Calvinistic approach to poor people and to feel morally vindicated at little personal cost. The pastor's strong emphasis on sexual issues also keeps the members anxious/guilty (who hasn't masturbated?) and distracts some people into navel gazing or gossip within the church community. This inwardness fits well with the typical church growth model used by conservative Protestants promoting church as a total environment reducing the need to rub elbows with the "not-us".

To be fair, there are many non-famous conservative religious layfolk who avoid condescending to the poor while assisting them - who don't cling to the us vs. them mindset.

Leonardo Ricardo said...

They are completely corrupted by hatred.¨ IT

Now, come on, WE didn´t need to have that spelled out for us did we? We´ve have ears, eyes (mostly) and brains and have known the excluding religious blowhards are amongst the biggest LIARS in the world...just shut the door, turn out the light and guess what? Amnesia sets in (or already did)!

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

I just talked briefly on the phone with a friend, who said à propos a link on Rachel Maddow's show, that isn't the lesson at hand that the more we try to become pure, the more we become hateful and evil.

Brief and simple.