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 daily 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?
Yesterday, President Obama requested $3.7 billion from Congress to address the surge of unaccompanied minors coming across the border from Central Americans countries. While some of the funds are earmarked to help the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security deal with the issue of immigration, half of the total amount will be spent on caring for the children. More than 6-in-10 Americans believe the current immigration system is broken but working in some areas (38 percent), or completely broken (23 percent).
In a less-than-surprising move, Utah’s attorney general announced on Wednesday that he will go straight to the Supreme Court to appeal a federal judge’s recent decision allowing same-sex couples to marry. A slim majority of Americans (52 percent) prefer that the legalization of same-sex marriage be decided by the states, while more than 4-in- 10 (43 percent) say the issue should be decided at the national level.
A new study released in the American Journal of Sociology finds that “conservative religious beliefs and the social institutions they create, on balance, decrease marital stability.” The study’s authors note that by discouraging pre-marital sex and cohabitation outside of marriage, conservative religious institutions inadvertently increase the likelihood of divorce. However, Professor Charles Stokes, in reviewing the research, notes that couples who are embedded in religious communities tend to have lower divorce rates regardless of their theology.
In an effort be more inclusive of atheists, the St. Paul Interfaith Network has changed the name of its monthly community meeting to “Inter-belief Conversation Café.” In the Midwest, 2 percent of people identify as atheists.
Seems as if Zack Brown has won the Internet lottery. After posting a Kickstarter campaign to raise $10 to make potato salad, Brown has been gifted close to $70,000 from people around the world.