Faith is demography

by DRM

I just finished reading an over-heated novel by Raymond Khoury, The Sign. I’m never really sure why I’ve read one of his novels when I finish: the plots are unlikely, the characters simplified and the themes painted in awfully broad strokes. He’s too cerebral to be a pulp writer, and too unimaginative to be a literary thriller writer. He sits in a space occupied by synthetic plots and stock characters.

In this book, he tackles the issue of global warming and faith. Not typically connected topics, I know. But Khoury works them together in a plot that goes from the Arctic to the middle East to Texas in a big hurry.

A key observation is that the United State is more faith driven today than at anytime in its history. Over the past 20 years, fundamentalist Christians have become a driver of election results, and the absence of religion is construed as something suspicious. Once upon a time the presence of religion was considered a mark against you: witness Kennedy and his attempts to neutralize the impact of Catholicism.

How did this happen? What were the factors in American society that reconstituted faith in a way that drove a political agenda, rather than having a political agenda that accomodated many different faiths?

Here’s the breakdown of religious affiliation from Pew Research’s 2009 study. Only 16% of Americans are unaffiliated with a church.