Saturday, April 11, 2009

Christian Political and Moral Influence: On the Wane

In his recent Newsweek submission The End of Christian America, Jon Meacham discusses the waning influence of Christianity in American life. Citing research from the American Religious Identification Survey and the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life, Meacham makes note of the declining numbers of self-identified Christians - down 10% since 1990; the doubling of the religiously unaffiliated - to 16%; and the quadrupling of those willing to describe themselves as atheist or agnostic - to over 3.5 million.

While these statistics indicate a clear trend toward an increasingly secular society, the matter of convincing those disposed to a religious way of life that this is a good thing not only for secularists but for Christians as well, becomes an important issue.

First, regarding concerns of those who fear that becoming more secular means becoming more evil, this patently absurd myth must be exposed - and expelled. Equating secularism with amorality is a serious misjudgment based upon profound ignorance and fear - an entirely unenlightened perspective that is increasingly, and thankfully, being understood as the relic of religious prejudice that it truly is.

Preserving the richness of religious aspects of our culture is dependent precisely upon the disentanglement of church and state. While the constructive engagement of religion and politics is an integral aspect of our cultural makeup, keeping church and state the separate entities they were intended to be gives us all that is good and honorable about religious influence. Affairs of the state, however, are rightly managed in a wholly secular sphere. As Barack Obama once stated, "Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific values."

As secular interests grow their influence, the question arises as to whether they can truly offer a more enlightened brand of morality. Analyzing the impact religious morality has had on civilization reveals both its positive as well as negative effects. That a newer, secular morality might better serve modern humanity is a notion that, while disconcerting to many religious conservatives, has much about it to celebrate. Not only have many plainly misguided values been propagated largely by religious concerns, but these very same concerns have also been credited with promoting many positive values the origins and essence of which are by no means uniquely religious.

As to whether or not political matters are rightly the purview of religious institutions, recent experience in America plainly reveals just how maladaptive such a condition can be. The most conspicuously political religious group - Christian evangelicals - have proved to be a divisive force in American society, compelling many of their leaders to rethink the wisdom of infusing the body politic with overtly religious morality and rhetoric. In fact, the emergence of so-called moderate evangelicals is stemming the tide of political influence by their more traditionally hard-core brethren.

With Christian influence presently in decline, the time may be right for secular interests to prove themselves up to the challenge of promoting a kind of morality that in practice is capable of serving not only the dynamic and diverse culture that is America, but also mankind itself.


  1. Gene Roddenberry had a vision. I hope one day to live in harmony with those who believe differently than us.

    P.S. I am digign' the new background.