Do you accept the word "sectlessness"? It's pretty much my coinage, but I'm going to promote it as a good, short headline word to refer to the absence of a religious affiliation. I originally had "atheism," but it's the wrong word, because many of the people who say they belong to no religious group also say they believe in God and even that they pray and have what the Washington Post refers to as "regular spiritual routines." I'm trying to picture those routines, and I don't know, I'm just seeing a blank. Hmm. Seeing blankness — that could be a spiritual routine. What do you think? Seems zen, doesn't it? Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm spiritual. Seriously, what do you think these regular-spiritual-routines folk are doing? Anything fancy with bread and wine or just gazing at nature and feeling aglow?
I'm reminded of my father, who when asked (by me) why he didn't go to church, said you can commune with God anywhere, for example, on the golf course. He liked to golf. Sorry, am I being too puritanical? Either participate in some official group ritual or lay off the claims of worship? No, I don't really think that. I'm just skeptical. Hell, I'm skeptical about whether the people who go to church (or other place of worship) really believe what the ritual is supposed to demonstrate. I think many people are there to honor the tradition they feel part of or to keep in touch with a social circle or to facilitate the efforts at community organizing. Maybe the sectless souls with spiritual routines are more sincerely religious.
Ah, well. It's American etiquette to accept whatever people say about their religion and move on to more easily debatable topics. Within that scheme, I'm being rude.
Back to the Pew survey: 79% of Americans named "an established faith group" that they belong to. The 21% — atheists, agnostics, and "nothing in particular" — skew strongly toward the Democratic Party.
This group is the Democrats' "largest... faith constituency" — at 24%. Or so the WaPo says, but that's only if you split Protestants into groups like "black Protestants" (16%) and "white mainline Protestants" (14%), which, added together, is 30%. Note that "white evangelicals" — also Protestants — are viewed as a separate "faith constituency," and these folks skew Republican. 34% of Republicans are white evangelicals.
The study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.How awful! What are you supposed to do when your family's traditional religious group is one that channels politics you don't like? Can you stand to attend services and sit through lectures (sermons) about politics blended with religion? You're supposed to change your religion to accord with your political ideology? That should lead many sincerely religious persons to stay away... and insincere politicos to gravitate toward the like-minded crowd.
I did mean to allude above to our President's religion. For context, let me repeat my own summary of Chapter 14 of Obama's "Dreams from My Father":
While working as a community organizer, Obama was told that it would "help [his] mission if [he] had a church home" and that Jeremiah Wright "might be worth talking to" because "his message seemed to appeal to young people like [him]." Obama wrote that "not all of what these people [who went to Trinity] sought was strictly religious... it wasn't just Jesus they were coming home to." He was told that "if you joined the church you could help us start a community program," and he didn't want to "confess that [he] could no longer distinguish between faith and mere folly." He was, he writes, "a reluctant skeptic." Thereafter, he attends a church service and hears Wright give a sermon titled "The Audacity of Hope" (which would, of course, be the title of Obama's second book). He describes how moved he was by the service, but what moves him is the others around him as they respond to a sermon about black culture and history. He never says he felt the presence of God or accepted Jesus as his savior or anything that suggests he let go of his skepticism. Obama's own book makes him look like an agnostic (or an atheist). He respects religion because he responds to the people who believe, and he seems oriented toward leveraging the religious beliefs of the people for worldly, political ends.