Tuesday 23 July 2013

How atheists are saving America

Earlier I mentioned that the Latino population in America is growing so fast, that the Democratic party will gain millions of new voters even if no immigration reform bill passes. I also mentioned that the Republicans have a second demographic problem, in that their party trends very old, and that a lot of their core believers will be dying off soon, to be replaced by younger, more liberal voters. So the GOP is losing ground due to the Latino vote and the age issue.

But there are other problems.

The excesses of the American “Christian” movement are really rubbing people the wrong way, with their mistreatment of gays, women, atheists, children who run afoul of priests, attendees at military funerals, Boy Scouts, anybody they don’t like. People are becoming turned off with the Christian faith, which in turn is damaging the evangelical-conservative coalition. But how bad is the damage, really?


According to a new poll undertaken by Gallup, America made the list of ten countries with the biggest decrease in religious belief. In seven years, even as religion is becoming more and more prominent in American life, the number of believers has dropped thirteen percent in America, a stunning drop of forty million people. That means five million people give up religion every year, or else religious people die off and are replaced by new atheists. If the trend holds – and that’s quite possible, given how irritated Americans are with evangelicals and the Church – then in the next decade, another fifty million Americans will give up their faith. Even if the trend tails off, it would probably be forty million eventually leaving the pews, and it could actually increase in the next decade as the baby boomers die off.

And since religious fervor correlates closely with conservative politics, that’s millions of people who are less likely to vote for the Republican party.  With the GOP losing credibility on national security issues after Iraq, and losing credibility on money issues after they dorked up the economy, the GOP needs all those churches to get the faithful fired up about gays and abortion so they can march them to the polls. But if there are fewer people in the pews, there are fewer GOP voters.

The Gallup poll also indicated that religion is found more among the uneducated and the poor. And the poll strongly suggested that the happier countries are the ones with less religious belief. The most atheistic countries are Australia, Ireland (shock), France (more shock), Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Iceland, China, Japan, South Korea, the Czech Republic. The most religious countries are Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Armenia, Georgia, Macedonia, Romania, Peru, Fiji, Brazil. If you were doing a world tour, which list of countries would you rather visit?

Anyway. Just pretend you’re Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and you’re looking at the electoral maps. Priebus has already tried to attract women, Latinos and the young to his party, and he has failed; an ABC polls says that by a 52-37 margin, Republicans believe Priebus and the other party leaders are taking their party in the wrong direction. And Priebus sees that in ten years, the Latino population goes up about ten million, the current population of elderly drops by about twenty million, and the number of churchgoers drops by perhaps forty million and gets more liberal as well. That is a gigantic, staggering swing away from the Republican party and toward the Democrats.

And Priebus can’t stop any of it. He can’t stop the Latinos from being born or naturalizing, he can’t stop people walking away from the destructive lies and hate peddled by the churches, he can’t stop liberal kids from turning eighteen and voting, and he can’t stop old people from dying. He can’t stop party zealots from chasing moderates and independents out of the party. He can’t stop the state-level GOP legislators from launching their jihad on gays and abortion and voter ID and unions, which is driving more people away. And he can’t stop Obama from improving the economy, adding jobs, pumping up the Dow, pumping up GDP. The downward slide of the GOP is entirely beyond Priebus’s control.

And actually the party even has trouble among its core voters. Another poll shows that even the people who still go to church are getting more and more liberal, as the cranky old conservatives die off. And  a Greenberg poll shows that even the elderly are starting to warm up to the Democrats again. Even among the religious and the elderly, there is erosion.

Which is why Priebus wants to hand the GOP job to someone else before the ship hits the demographic iceberg.

The sad thing here, is that if these demographic trends had kicked in just a bit earlier, Bush would have lost both of his elections. The Democrats would have gone 6-0 in all of the elections after 1988. We would have been spared Iraq, the gigantic deficits, the recession, the ruined international reputation, the wearied military, the endless series of crimes, the illegal prisons, the waterboarding, the retaliations against political enemies. We would have had an intelligent energy policy, a liberal Supreme Court, the public option for health insurance, proper regulation of the banks, and possibly the original World Trade Center. Now we’ll have to waste a few decades cleaning up the last wreckage of the Reagan revolution.

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