October 25, 2003


The Nonreligious Left: Why do they fear the religious right? (DANIEL HENNINGER, October 17, 2003, Wall Street Journal)

In last fall's Public Interest quarterly, political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio of Baruch College at the City University of New York argued in "Our Secularist Democratic Party" that the clearest indicator of party affiliation and voting patterns now is whether one is churched or unchurched, believer or agnostic. [...]

Democratic secularists are defined as agnostics, atheists or people who rarely attend church, if ever. According to the national convention delegate surveys, write Messrs. Bolce and De Maio, "60% of first-time white delegates at the [1992] Democratic convention in New York City either claimed no attachment to religion or displayed the minimal attachment by attending worship services 'a few times a year' or less. About 5% of first-time delegates at the Republican convention in Houston identified themselves as secularists."

In the 1992 election, Bill Clinton got 75% of the secularist vote, while the current President's father received support from traditionalists (churchgoers) by 2 to 1. That pattern held in the 2000 election. "In terms of their size and party loyalty," Messrs. Bolce and De Maio argue, "secularists today are as important to the Democratic party as another key constituency, organized labor."

In turn this single self-definition tracks political belief across the entire battlefield of the culture wars--abortion, sexuality, prayer in the schools, judicial nominations. Interesting as that is, what intrigues me more as simple politics is how a Howard Dean, John Kerry or Joe Lieberman can feed these creedal beliefs of the "un-religious left" without in time coming themselves to be known as leaders of the party of non-belief? Or hypocrites. It's a hard river to cross.

In an interview, Prestonwood pastor and SBC president Jack Graham said he expects evangelicals to go to the polls for Mr. Bush "in record numbers." "Our people didn't quite know George Bush in the last election, but they do now." Led through a list of voting issues for evangelicals, the Rev. Graham cites one above all: "that we have people of character in the White House."

What should really trouble the Democrats is the following, WHILE LIEBERMAN BREAKS "JEWISH BARRIER," POLL REPORTS NEARLY HALF OF AMERICANS WOULD NOT SUPPORT ATHEIST (Atheists.org, August 12, 2000)
A poll from the Gallup organization shows that Sen. Joseph Lieberman has made history in becoming the first Jewish American to run on a presidential ticket for either of the two major political parties, and that an overwhelming majority of those questioned say that his Orthodox faith is not an issue. The August 8 survey results show that 92% of respondents said they would vote for a "generally well qualified person for president" who happened to be Jewish, with only 6% saying they would oppose such a candidate. Similar percentages are reported when asked how they feel about a Roman Catholic or Baptist candidate as well.

A Mormon candidate generates a 79% approval rating, with 17% saying they would not vote for an LDS member.

Atheists do not fare as well, though, according to the Gallup survey, which finds "close to half of Americans, 48%, unwilling to support an atheist for president while 49% say they would."

The survey results were compiled between Feb. 19-21, 1999.

If the end of society and the State is to achieve the common good, but a significant portion of the populace disputes that otherwise widely accepted traditional good, can they be valued members of the body politic still?

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2003 7:30 AM

Welp, speaking as the Bright punching bag of the board, I think it's more of a concern, for me anyway, when religious people hold the reins over science policy. I'm trying to imagine if the Wiccans or the Quakers had held the reins over nuclear power in the 40s, in order that our good friends the Russians or even the Nazis would get to use this blasphemous weaponry first.

I'm referencing the Brothers Judd Just Stop position on stem cell research...by the way, the Chinese made another scary breakthrough using fetal stem cells just the other day...that's a breakthrough that the Brothers Judd presidential admininstration won't let our superior scientists make. By the way, all of science can be converted into weaponry. Think novel bio weapons, or even more intriguing designs for assemblers (every cell is an engine doncha' know...)

Look, here's how you guys can support stem cell research: The US is a nation of good loving Christians who occasionally murder 8000 civilians to steal their oil. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is heathenous, islamic/bright scum who are shockingly jealous of our newfound oil wealth. Yet,the Bright/islamic scum is developing the Bomb (stem cell research, ability to fly, space capability...). Therefore, to protect the just and swell Christian nation, we must develop the stem cell bomb, which, once we understand it, could probably be modified for adult stem cell use, and would solve just about every medical problem under the sun and even have implications for nanotech but that's beside the point...

Posted by: Philip Shropshire at October 25, 2003 8:52 AM


The article seems to be all about peoples religious beliefs vs. voting preferences and patterns, and not at all about what constitutes the common good.

What worries the non-religious is the rapiditiy with which the religious will make aggressive judgments about others based on belief rather than results.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 25, 2003 9:19 AM

Sheesh. Nobody who posts here relies more on faith and nothing else than Mr. Shropshire.

Posted by: Twn at October 25, 2003 9:24 AM

It's a little early for the Halloween post, Philip. Save the spookies and ghoulies until you really need them.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 25, 2003 10:41 AM


What is an "agressive judgement" and why is it worrisome?

Posted by: RDB at October 25, 2003 12:19 PM

Yes, Phillip, and do you know how many more technological breakthroughs we could make if we experimented on prisoners?

Posted by: Timothy at October 25, 2003 12:52 PM

Heh. Chinese weapons made out of human baby cells. Yes, that's the pressing concern that will get us conservatives to change our position.

Posted by: pj at October 25, 2003 1:06 PM

We're getting a little snide there Philip, old boy. The ability to make distinctions is a good thing, you know? I'd rather have the Pope in charge of science policy than a self-defined "bright".

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 25, 2003 3:16 PM

Philip, you aren't a punching bag because you're a "Bright", you're a punching bag because you post idiocy.

To equate "Islamic" with "Bright" shows shocking ignorance of the meaning of either term.

The Chinese, who are developing spaceflight, are not overwhelmingly Islamic. Or even underwhelmingly.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at October 25, 2003 5:08 PM

I suspect that if people admired an atheist as a citizen, not knowing at first about his unbelief, they would not have much trouble voting for him.

The last time this came up on this forum, I thought to myself, what are the religious beliefs of the nime members of the County Council? I have known all of them for years.

And the answer is, I have no direct knowledge about eight of them. (I can guess that the three with Portuguese names are Catholics, but whether they made their Easter duty this year I couldn't say.)

The only one whose religious beliefs have ever been a matter of public comment is alleged to worship the owner of a health food store, though he has denied it. He once ran on the Institute for Godly Government ticket, so I believe he believes in a god, though it is not obvious which one.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 25, 2003 8:29 PM


Words failed me a bit this morning. But devaluing certain members of a polity due to their beliefs, rather than their actions, seems a bit aggressive to me.

And OJ makes no mention of the how that dispute is handled. Should the majority of American vote for Dean, that to me would, in the short term, detract from the common good. But as long as the Deanites don't try to eliminate elections, we are obligated to treat them as equal members of the body politic.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 25, 2003 9:51 PM

The question about voting for an atheist is like the question in Christian circles about whether one would prefer a Christian surgeon or one who is profligate but skilled. Politics is not surgery, but I would rather vote for a non-believer who has grit, conviction, and an understanding of history than a Sojourner any day.

In reality, however, an avowed atheist running for office probably would act like a lot of religious folk who get into politics: make his or her religious beliefs the ax that grinds all day long. Voters don't typically like ax-grinders.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 25, 2003 9:56 PM

Jim's found the cutting edge.

Posted by: genecis at October 25, 2003 10:29 PM


The majority of Americans have not voted for a Democrat since 1976 (and prior to that, 1964).

The devaluation is of the person's beliefs - not necessarily the person. The majority of Americans continue to identify themselves as Christian believers. Why would you expect them to vote (the subject of the two articles) for someone who does not share what (for believers) is a central factor in their lives? Where (within the two articles) does equality of treatment enter in?

Posted by: RDB at October 26, 2003 4:31 PM


I would expect them to vote for the person who gives the appearance of doing the best job, completely irrespective of their spiritual beliefs.

I would take a religious Bush over an atheist Dean, and an atheist Bush over a religious Dean.


Because material results count.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 26, 2003 6:55 PM