January 25, 2013

New Data on the Desire for Religious Liberty in the U.S.

A Ten Commandments monument which includes the...
A Ten Commandments monument which includes the command to "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy". (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Joseph L. Conn (Secular News Daily) brings us word of a new public opinion poll conducted by the Barna Group. One of the interesting findings was that "66 percent of Americans say no one set of values should dominate in this country." I agree that this sounds positive. A clear majority of those polled appear to value religious pluralism and diversity.

It occurs to me that this group of people should be interested in protecting the separation of church and state. Perhaps groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State have some real potential for growth if they can find a way to tap into these numbers.

Conn notes that not all of the survey results were quite so positive.
Twenty-three percent of those polled say “traditional Judeo-Christian values” should be given preference in the United States. Among evangelical Christians that number rose to 54 percent!
Not surprisingly, there seems to be a sharp disconnect between the majority of those polled and evangelical Christians. That seems like a good thing, as it suggests that evangelical Christians are out of touch with mainstream society on this point. I agree that it is disappointing to see 23%, regardless of religious affiliation, wanting Christian values to be given preference (i.e., Christian privilege).

Conn's assessment of the problem seems spot on.
I think this data tells us why we have so much trouble with the Religious Right. Most Americans have a live-and-let-live attitude toward religion. We make our own decisions about faith, and we expect others to do so as well.

But a sizeable minority of Americans is so sure they’re right about religion that they want the government to give their faith preferential treatment.
Yep. This is why so many atheists complain about Christian extremists seeking to impose their faith on others by legislating their version of morality. I have been thinking about this lately as Mississippi's last reproductive health clinic is in real danger of being closed because the Christian majority in the state has decided that abortion is a form of genocide.

Conn does a good job of explaining why Christians asking our government for preferential treatment poses such a problem. I hope his post is widely read. Even if most of us already understand the objections he raises quite well, it is clear that many of our neighbors do not.