The best evidence indicates that this dramatic generational shift is primarily in reaction to the religious right. Politically moderate and progressive Americans have a general allergy to the mingling of religion and party politics. And millennials are even more sensitive to it, partly because many of them are liberal (especially on the touchstone issue of gay rights) and partly because they have only known a world in which religion and the right are intertwined. To them, "religion" means "Republican," "intolerant," and "homophobic." Since those traits do not represent their views, they do not see themselves -- or wish to be seen by their peers -- as religious.
Our data support this theory. By tracking individuals for five years, between 2006 and 2011, we found that Democrats and progressives were much more likely to become nones than were Republicans. The religious defections were concentrated specifically among those Americans who reported the greatest discomfort with religion-infused politics, regardless of their own partisan loyalties. In effect, Americans (especially young Americans) who might otherwise attend religious services are saying, "Well, if religion is just about conservative politics, then I'm outta here."
These data point to a rich irony about the emergence of the religious right. Its founders intended to bolster religion's place in the public square. In a sense, they have succeeded. Yet at the same time, in a classic demonstration of the danger of unintended consequences, the movement has pushed a growing share of the population to opt out of religion altogether.
Sunday, May 4, 2014
Be careful what you wish for: the Religious Right and the Nones
God and Caesar in America (my emphasis)