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?
Around the water cooler last Monday, there appeared to be more discussion about the new Coca-Cola commercial that aired during Super Bowl XLVIII than the game itself. The commercial featured a same-sex family, people of many religions, races and ethnicities singing a multilingual rendition of “America the Beautiful.” While some saw the commercial as a reflection of America’s increasing religious, racial and ethnic diversity, others were angered by the ad, viewing it as a not so subtle attack on traditional American values. PRRI’s Graphic of the Week, “America the Diverse,” explores the diversity of America’s religious landscape, highlighting that America is indeed becoming increasingly more diverse.
In what some are calling a bold move, CVS, the second largest drugstore chain in the U.S., recently announced that it will stop selling tobacco products. The move follows a recent trend of drugstores evolving into wellness centers that provide their customers with a more holistic approach to healthcare. Although the retailer will lose more than two billion dollars in revenue, CVS believes that selling tobacco products, such as cigarettes, is antithetical to its mission as a wellness center.
Speaking out against economic inequality, Pope Francis said on Tuesday that fair distribution of wealth cannot occur when people value power, luxury and money over justice, equality, simplicity and sharing. While discussing poverty, the Pope also raised the issue of moral destitution. Seventy-six percent of Americans believe that unemployment is a critical issue facing the country, however, fewer Americans (41%) said that increasing government support for people in poverty is a critical issue.
California venture capitalist, Tim Draper, has a plan for a ballot initiative to divide California into six states. Such a plan would render Silicon Valley the richest state in the nation (where Draper happens to live). Conversely, Central California would plummet below Mississippi to become the poorest state based on per capita income. Undoubtedly, the plan would fuel the controversy over economic disparity in the U.S. Seventy percent of Americans believe that the gap between the rich and poor has gotten larger in the past ten years.
A new book aims to dispel popular stereotypes about Muslim men in the U.S. Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, and Intimacy includes stories of nearly two dozen Muslim men who unveil their emotional vulnerability around falling in love, heartbreak, and caring for sick or dying friends and family. The editors of the book were besieged by submissions; the book includes the voices of men from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, who hold beliefs ranging from secular to orthodox, and include straight, gay, single, married, and widowed men.