Saturday, December 11, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

American Grace: Conclusion

Putnam and Campbell conclude that religion is the glue that holds American society together. Most people, of all faiths, think all good people go to heaven (or the equivalent good outcome).

Even the "intolerant tenth," who think there is only one true religion, think religious diversity is good for America.

So why doesn't religion divide America, as it does other nations? Because nearly all Americans have friends or relatives of other faiths in their social networks. Putnam and Campbell call them "Aunt Susan" and "my pal Al."

The conclusion that Putnam and Campbell reach at the end of American Grace:

“Devotion plus diversity, minus damnation, equals comity."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

American Grace 11: How Does a Religiously Divided Nation Get Along So Well?

The puzzle that Putnam and Campbell are trying to explain: how a country with high religious diversity and high religious devotion has such low religious conflict?

The answer is that we are not really very divided by religion. The secular tenth are the outliers on most measures. The moderately religious and the very religious are alike in most things.

On feeling thermometer measures - how warm (positive) toward Group X do you feel? - the results are a little unexpected:
Mainline Protestants, Catholics, and Jews are all liked by others at above average rates;
Evangelical Protestants and Nones a bit below average;
Mormons, Buddhists, and Muslims (in that order) are least liked.

In the end, ideology generates more animosity than religion does.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

American Grace 10: Religious People Oppose Dissent

The one civic negative that Putnam and Campbell find about religious people is that they are more likely to oppose dissent and accept restrictions on civil liberties.

After disposing of two possible arguments - that religious people are more Manichean in their worldview, or that religious skeptics support dissent - the authors offer a different explanation.

Religious people support authority more than secular people do. Religious people build up the social order by giving and serving those in need. For a similar reason, they build up civic order by supporting the authority on which that social order legitimately rests.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

American Grace 9: The Religious are More Civic

Religious people give more and do more for religious and secular life than secular people do.

People in religious networks give and do more than people with religious beliefs but no networks.

People who profess no religion, but who nonetheless go to church sometimes, give and do more than their co-(non)-religionists who do not go to church.

Arthur Brooks, who I have written about before, says that conservatives give and do more than liberals. Putnam and Campbell find that this is because conservatives are more likely to be religious. Secular conservatives are not notably giving or civic-minded. In fact, American Grace argues,

“According to the best available evidence, the ‘civic good guys’ are more often religious liberals, not religious conservatives.”

Monday, December 06, 2010

American Grace 8: The Glue of Religion and Politics

The core of American Grace is the connection between religion and politics. The main finding is that the more religious people are, the more likely they are to be Republicans; the more secular they are, the more likely they are to be Democrats. There are, of course, some secular Republicans, and many religious Democrats, but the trend line is clear.

Except for African Americans, who are both very religious and very Democratic.

Putnam and Campbell consider several issues that might connect religiosity and partisanship. This is their overall conclusion on this issue:

The glue which holds religiosity and partisanship together is the political salience of two issues in particular: abortion and same-sex marriage.

In the late '70s the two parties took the same position on these issues, so religious traditionalists had nowhere in particular to go. From the first Reagan election on, though, the Republican Party took a conservative line on both of these issues. There after, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party clearly captured the conservative religious and liberal secular poles of the electorate, respectively.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

American Grace 7: Evangelizing Faiths Are the Least Homogeneous

Putnam and Campbell found that 90% of American congregations are ethnically homogeneous. There is still a strong ethnic foundation to religion, most especially for Jews, Black Protestants, and, to a lesser extent than a generation ago, Catholics.

The least ethnically homogeneous congregations were found among Mormons and evangelical Protestants. This is somewhat ironic since Mormons famously resisted admitting black men to their priesthood until the 1970s, and conservative Protestant sects were the core of the religious resistance to integration and black civil rights a generation ago.

However, the whole nation has enjoyed a sea change in racial attitudes. Religious people are now against racism and for ethnic diversity, pretty much across the board. The remaining racists tend to do their organizing outside of religious networks.

Moreover, it makes sense that Mormons and evangelicals would be creating congregations that are increasingly diverse by ethnicity: these are the faiths that most evangelize new people into the faith. And, for the same reason, Mormons and evangelicals are the least ethnically based of major faiths, because what holds them together is common faith, more than a common background. Evangelical megachurches, in particular, have made a concerted effort to evangelize beyond their white base, which has paid off in the past decade or so.

The growing points of American religion are getting less and less segregated, and the younger generations are more and more likely to value ethnic diversity. This bodes well for the future.