Putnam and Campbell are particularly concerned with the political effects of American religious divisions. They note that religion and political ideology have gotten more coordinated in the past generation. In particular, people who switched religions are more polarized than those who stayed put; that is, the switchers change toward the ideological pole they leaned toward, moving further away from the many switchers in the other direction. This increasing polarization is especially true of younger generations.
One surprising finding is especially interesting, if a bit ominous for religion:
“people whose religious and political affiliations are ‘inconsistent’ … are more likely to resolve the inconsistency by changing their religion than by changing their politics.”
This does not surprise me in the least. Although... I am curious as to whether this effect is conditioned by one's level of belief orthodoxy or general religiosity. Are those who have more orthodox beliefs in their church's doctrine less likely shift to conform to their political views?
American Grace cannot quite answer this question directly, but see the post American Grace 5 for a partial answer.
Is part of the answer that the people who are changing their religion are not changing their beliefs, but that the denomination of which they were a part is moving away from them? I think that is true of conservatives leaving the PCUSA, for example.
Whit: There is not way to tell which is moving. In general, though, people pick congregations, not denominations.
Your post says that those who switched religions did so for political reasons. That is, they found themselves out of step with the politics of the religion of which they were a part and moved to a new religion they found more in line with their views.
Is it not clear that the PCUSA has moved way left in the last 20, 30 or 50 years?
The Presbyterian Church has always been an active steward of society. When we promoted public schools and prohibition that was regarded as very liberal at the time, and is now seen as conservative. I expect many of today's issues will have a similar trajectory.
Gruntled, with all due respect, I agree that prohibition and public schools were considered liberal/progressive when first introduced. But neither would be conservative today, or ever. Conservatives favor school choice (perhaps including public schools, but it's still the liberals/progressives who favor a public school monopoly). And prohibition, as a restriction on markets, is certainly not a conservative position.
Let's look at some of the real issues of today, abortion, the gay agenda, unions, wealth redistribution, Israel, making nice with leftists in Cuba, Columbia, Venezuela, etc., and so on. Is there any doubt that the center of gravity of the national leadership of 1960 or 1970 would never be where the current leadership is today?
I think we have different understandings of liberal and conservative. I was thinking of the traditional Christian value of protecting the poor and oppressed. I don't think of free markets as a Christian issue, one way or the other.
Growing up as a Baptist in the South in the 60's and the 70's Alcohol was a defining issue.
If you condoned drinking you were a liberal. If you actually drank you were a radical.
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