2003 October 13 Monday
Steven Waldman On 7 Myths About The Religious Right

Steven Waldman makes some great points about religion and politics in his Slate article subtitled Debunking myths about the religious right.

Myth 6: Hispanics are conservative. The perception of Hispanics as conservative is misshapen by the political behavior of Florida's Cubans, who are indeed overwhelmingly Republican. But on the question of gay marriage, for instance, Hispanics were at the national average (54 percent opposed). Professor Green has found a big difference between Hispanic Catholics and Hispanic Protestants, with the latter group more conservative than the former. American Hispanic Catholics, it turns out, aren't that religious. Professors Louis Bolce and Gerald De Maio put voters into three groups according to religious intensity—"traditionalists," "moderates," and "secularists." Only 10 percent of Hispanics turned out to be traditionalists—this fraction in the African-American community was much larger. So, Republicans shouldn't assume that issues like abortion will lure large numbers of Hispanic Catholics.

It has long been obvious to me that a lot of secular people on the political Left are so scared by and opposed to the politics of religious people on the political Right that the Lefties have created caricatures of those religious folks that have prevented the Lefties from understanding the religious folks on the Right or people motivated by religious feelings (e.g. Islamists) in general. A single article can make only a small dent in the caricatures and stereotypes but every little bit helps.

Of course, myth number 6 excerpted above is one that is more widely believed by Republicans who think the Hispanic immigrants are natural future members of the GOP coalition. That this is so obviously not the case shows that myths about religious beliefs are not only a problem on the Left in America. The rhetoric coming from the Bush Administration about Islam betrays another myth held by some (by no means all) religious folks: that all embrace of any kind of old established religious belief is like some kind of tonic that can only make people better. In reality secular ideologies have no monopoly on bad ideas and religious ideologies can be just as dangerous.

I'm a little suspicious of some of the figures that Waldman cites. Polls that ask people if they are religious, what religion they are, and what political views they have are not terribly useful unless the polls explore the intensity of the religious belief and the extent to which it is practiced. There are plenty of people who will self-identify as, for instance, Catholics who haven't been to a Mass or confession in decades. Even if questions about church attendance are asked a significant portion of the population lies because they think it sounds nice to say that they go to church or they feel guilty to admit they haven't. In the case of Catholics real practicing Catholics vote majority Republican while lapsed Catholics vote majority Democrat. So are the evangelicals that Waldman mentions who vote for the Democrats more or less likely to show up at church on Sunday or to pray than the Evangelicals who vote Republican?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 October 13 02:07 PM  Religion Secular Ideologies


Comments
Steve Sailer said at October 14, 2003 10:54 PM:

In Mexico, men traditionally don't attend Church much. Women do. The Mexican state is founded on anti-clericalism. See Graham Greene's "Power and Glory." Vincente Fox is the first Mexican President to be photographed going into a church since the revolution.

As immigrants assimilate, later generations of men often become regular churchgoers in the American mode of entire families going to church. That happened with Italians.


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