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.
E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and co-author of the PRRI-Brookings Economic Values Survey, discusses what the survey’s findings may mean for the future of the American political and religious landscapes in his latest op-ed for The Washington Post.
Whenever I write sympathetically about religion, I get bombarded by tweets and notes from readers who normally agree with me but cannot abide by the idea that religious belief should be seen as intellectually serious.
And because I have written favorably about Pope Francis, I get more than my share of angry comments about the Catholic pedophilia scandal, which continues to haunt the church and troubles even its most loyal members.
Getting lambasted doesn’t bother me. On the contrary, citizens talking back to the purveyors of opinion is a glorious aspect of free speech. But my correspondents underscore the existence of a strong anti-religious current within a segment of the liberal community that is both an important political fact and a potential problem for progressives.Here’s the challenge: Americans who are left-of-center are far more religiously diverse than their opponents on the conservative side. When it comes to matters of faith, liberals and Democrats have a far more complicated task of coalition management — although religion also raises some serious difficulties for the right.