Why Democrats are cheering for a decline in religion in America

May 26, 2015

It’s a sad commentary on the modern Democratic party, but it’s an accurate commentary nonetheless:

Don’t expect any official “Atheists for Hillary” outreach, but political progressives are cheered by a study showing a rise in the number of nonreligious Americans.

That’s how Albert Hunt starts out a recent Bloomberg column analyzing the recently released Pew Religious Landscape Study. Pew’s analysis of a massive 35,000 sample shows a decline for Christianity in America, both as a share of the total population (down 7.8%) and in raw numbers:

Using the margins of error to calculate a probable range of estimates, it appears that the number of Christian adults in the U.S. has shrunk by somewhere between 2.8 million and 7.8 million.

What does this have to do with politics? Despite loud public protests to the contrary, Democratic strategists are downright gleeful about the drop in the population of people with deeply held religious beliefs. Mr. Hunt explains why:

Republicans consistently do well among voters with strong religious beliefs, and Democrats score better with voters who don’t express religious views…

In the last presidential election, Mitt Romney easily won among Christian voters, and Obama carried 70 percent of the unaffiliated. This divide was even more apparent in the 2014 congressional elections.

The most profound implications of this insight might not be the cultural shift itself, but rather the policies pushed by progressive lawmakers hoping to drive up the number of agnostics and atheists. One thing is certain: wherever they can find votes, Democrats will evolve their positions to accommodate and expand their disparate coalition.

This presents an interesting moment for Democrats that might put them in a Catch-22: will they push policies designed to drive up the number of nonreligious Americans in order to change political demographics? If so, it puts them at odds with traditionally Democratic coalitions, including the African-American community and the growing Hispanic community.

Just as many Southern Democrats have moved aggressively to the Republican party in the last decade, by continuing to push their progressive agenda, the Democratic Party risks alienating even more voters. The question now is if their political calculations earn them a new, amorphous “nonreligious” coalition at the cost of sizable blocks of voters who very much value their religious beliefs and freedom. They cannot hold both.

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