Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Welcome to the Morning Buzz, PRRI’s morning dose of religion-related news with a shot of data – because what doesn’t liven up a morning round-up like some public opinion numbers? Here’s an idea to mull over this weekend (particularly if you live in the Pacific Northwest): would you like to live in your own mini-Ikea? Sure, Ikea can be living hell, but without all the people around, your neat little pre-fab Scandinavian domicile could be positively serene. Just make sure they’re not asking you to be in the catalog.
If you missed it, check out Dr. Robert P. Jones’ latest offering for “Figuring Faith,” his Washington Post blog. This week, Dr. Jones unpacks some of the challenges that anti-Shari’a legislation is likely to face over the coming weeks and months.
The Senate threw out the Blunt Amendment, a bill that would have allowed any employer to deny medical coverage for services they objected to on religious grounds. The debate over whether employers should be required to provide no-cost birth control through their insurance, however, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.
At the New Yorker, John Cassidy analyzes the battle for Michigan and concludes that Santorum might just have blown it. Among his “eminently avoidable blunders”: Santorum’s unforgettable declaration that John F. Kennedy’s landmark speech on separation of church and state made him want to “throw up.”
Silly me – I thought the Occupy Wall Street movement was, for the most part, over. Turns out it was only hibernating. According to student activists, the protesters have been reflecting and planning through the cold winter months. This week, they’ll be back, with protests for education reform across the country. The question, of course, is whether these protests make as much of a splash as last fall’s original OWS movement.
We’ve been hearing a lot about Catholics and the contraception mandate, so here’s a change of pace: at Tablet, a magazine about Jewish life, Liel Leibovitz urges readers to “embrace Judaism’s nuanced approach.”
A new study from Pew has some fascinating findings on Americans’ attitudes toward college (Rick Santorum’s emphatic opinion is here). According to Pew, conservative Republicans are skeptical of colleges’ effects on the country, even though Americans as a whole think that colleges and universities have a positive impact.
In New York City, an atheist group is targeting Jews and Muslims with billboards written in Hebrew and Arabic. It’s worth noting that while 19% of the adult population identifies as religiously unaffiliated, only about 3% say they are atheists.
And because the internet was particularly generous with its gifts today, some links for the weekend, in no particular order: Mitt Romney has been stocking up on guns, there will soon be a cupcake vending machine in Beverly Hills (and because I know you were worried, you can get a cupcake for your dog there too), Nicolas Sarkozy had to hole up in a bar to escape egg-throwing protesters, and apparently Samuel Beckett used to drive Andre the Giant to school.
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