Trumpism and religion

by John Quiggin on March 16, 2017

One of the striking features of Donald Trump’s election victory was the overwhelming support he received from white Christians, rising to near-unanimity among white evangelicals, where Trump outpolled all previous Republican candidates. In thinking about the global rise of Trumpism, I’ve been under the impression that the US is a special case, and that the rise of Trumpism in a largely post-religious Europe suggests that the link between Christianism and Trumpism is a spurious correlation.

But, on reading a bit about the Dutch election, I found the suggestion that there is a long tradition of confessional politics in the Netherlands (maybe Ingrid could explain more about this) and that support for the racist PVV is centred on Limburg, and inherited from the formerly dominant Catholic party there. And, re-examining my previous position, it’s obvious that being “largely post-Christian” does not preclude the existence of a large bloc of Christian, and therefore potentially Christianist voters.

So, I’m now thinking that Trumpism can be seen, in large measure, as a reaction by white Christians against the loss of their assumed position as the social norm, against which assertions of rights for anyone else can be seen as identity politics, political correctness and so on. As is usual, as soon as I formed this idea, I found evidence for it everywhere. Obvious cases are Putin and Russian Orthodoxy, the Law and Justice Party in Poland, and Fillon in France. Looking a bit harder, I found that British Christians voted strongly for Brexit. And, in my own backyard, all the Trumpist parties I described in this post (except, I think, Palmer’s) are strongly Christianist.

Of course, there’s nothing distinctively Christian in the actual politics of Trumpism, so the analysis applies equally well to Islamists like Erdoganhat (and al-Baghdadi for that matter) and Hindu nationalists like Modi. In fact, looking over the recent upsurge of Trumpists, the only counterexample I can find to the analysis is Duterte in the Phillipines, who has been denounced by the Catholic Church and has returned the compliment in spades.

What does this mean for the future of Trumpism?

If religious belief is declining, as it would appear to be in the developed world, this analysis suggests that Trumpism is a symptom of that decline. Moreover, on that view, the repugnant hypocrisy of Trumpism seems likely to accelerate the decline of religion, which in turn will hasten the downfall of Trumpism.

Against that very optimistic view, there’s this study by Pew, projecting an increase in global religious affiliation through 2950, on which I’ve blogged a couple of times previously. I had discussions with some of the authors of this study, which gave me a bit more understanding of how their numbers were derived and how they should be interpreted. I don’t think I’m misrepresenting them, but obviously this is my interpretation not theirs.

The first point is that a projection is not a prediction. It’s an analysis of what would happen if trends observed in the past continue into the future. For predictive purposes, this is useful as a baseline. If you think the future will be different from the projection, it must be because the trends in question will not continue. In the Pew case, the central assumption is that rates of conversion between affilations, observed in the current population will be sustained. For example, if 20 per cent of 30-year olds who were baptised Catholic are now Protestants, we assume that the same will be true of people born Catholic in 2020, when we observe them in 2050.

One immediate consequence of this is that, if a dominant religion has, until now, had 100 per cent affiliation in a given country, the projection method implies 100 per cent affiliation forever. The same is true with multiple religions if their proportions have been stable over time. But, given that until relatively recently, 100 per cent affiliation was the rule, this projection method rules out, by assumption, whatever process has produced the rapid decline of religious belief in many developed countries.

A second problem is that, for reasons of consistency, data for the US is from 2010. So, the model takes no account of the sharp decline in Christian affiliation since then, a decline that has already gone further than the model projections for 2050.

To sum up, I don’t think the Pew projections tell us much one way or the other about whether religious belief in general, and dominant religion identity politics in particular are likely to rise or decline over the next thirty years. Since Trump’s victory, there have been quite a few results going the other way. Let’s hope this continues.

{ 120 comments }

1

Maria 03.16.17 at 7:44 am

I think for the observation to make more granular sense, at least in the Anglo-Saxon countries, you need to replace ‘Christian’ with ‘evangelical Protestant’. The article in The Australian is paywalled, so I can’t infer much about Brexit and Christians, but it’s clear that as the UK and US become more secular, many of the people choosing to be religious are picking more fundamentalist varieties.

(Though anecdotally, being rural, older, and middle and upper middle class in England seems to correlate both with voting for Brexit – empire! crumpets! – and also going to church.)

The evangelicals are several standard deviations from the values of the societies they are part of, but enjoy highly-structured organisations, are highly motivated and have wholly alternative means of ‘information’ dissemination. So the flavour of Christians who happily ignore all the ‘whatever you do to the least of my brothers ..’ of the new testament have an outsized impact on the wider world.

Anyone who’s interested in understanding the politics and intrigues of the evangelicals and other strands in at least one form of Christianity should read Andrew Brown’s That Was the Church That Was: http://www.bloomsbury.com/au/that-was-the-church-that-was-9781472921659/

2

Chevalier de la Barre 03.16.17 at 8:21 am

And, re-examining my previous position, it’s obvious that being “largely post-Christian” does not preclude the existence of a large bloc of Christian, and therefore potentially Christianist voters.

NL has a relatively low levels of religious affiliation (about 25%), even being very generous about what it means to be religious. It also has three overtly Christian parties: Christian Democratic Appeal CDA, Christian Union CU, and the Reformed Political Party SGP; which together picked up about 12% of the vote. So it’s difficult to see how any substantial bloc of Christian voters is left to fall behind Wilders, the sheer volume of support for the PVV means his votes must be coming from elsewhere.

3

Gareth Wilson 03.16.17 at 9:09 am

“Against that very optimistic view, there’s this study by Pew, projecting an increase in global religious affiliation through 2950, on which I’ve blogged a couple of times previously. “

Religion is one of the very few areas that you can make projections as far as 2950 in. There’ll still be Christians, for example, because Christianity was around 1000 years ago. But maybe this was a typo.

4

Hidari 03.16.17 at 9:11 am

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, Trump’s obvious intellectual predecessor (indeed, the real ‘creator’ of Trumpism insofar as it has one) is Benjamin Netanyahu, who has surfed a wave of increasing Jewish fundamentalism. So there’s that, too. (I know that this is unsayable in American ‘liberal’ circles but ‘facts are funny things’ as someone once said).

At the risk of also pointing the even more obvious, assuming your argument has a flaw, it is here:

‘ the repugnant hypocrisy of Trumpism seems likely to accelerate the decline of religion, which in turn will hasten the downfall of Trumpism.’

The words ‘seems likely’ are doing an awful lot of work here.

At the risk of committing blasphemy (sic) I don’t see the decline of religion in the ‘West’ as an unalloyed good. E.g. as was tirelessly pointed out by its opponents, Communism was a form of secular religion (and so was socialism/social democracy, albeit in a weaker form). I just don’t see that as being necessarily a bad thing. As Harold Wilson once said: ‘The Labour party is a moral crusade (sic) or it is nothing.’

But in a world that has no need or use for crusades, moral or otherwise, it is difficult to see how the socialist/social democratic dream of building a New Jerusalem (albeit in a secular form) can survive. Indeed, what we have seen in the West is a decline in religion, yes, but at the same time (and for the same reasons?) a decline in party affiliation. In other words people used to see themselves as being Roman Catholic or Protestant, yes, but also as ‘A Labour Man’ or ‘A Liberal through and through’. Now these forms of self-identification are dead, and what remains is the ideology of the market: we all conceptualise ourselves as consumers, and therefore ‘pick and mix’ the parties in terms of our consumerist desires: to put it more bluntly: we vote (and only vote) for those parties that will directly financially benefit us. It is obvious that parties of the Right will benefit from this mentality far more than parties of the Left, and so it has proved.

This might seem irrelevant to Trumpism but in fact, given the vox pop interviews I have seen, not a few people voted for Trump for totally cynical reasons: he will tend to revoke regulation, hence boost the stock market, and my savings/investments are dependent on this: hence I will vote for Trump. As has been tirelessly pointed out, the increasing corrosive cynicism that grows year and year in the West towards politicians, journalists, Priests, civil servants, ‘experts’ and so on can only benefit the Right.

Remember a lot of people voted for Trump because they saw him as being a cheap hypocritical crook, not despite it.

It’s also worth pointing out that total disbelief in politics/religion or any form of collective activity also boosts apatheticism, the true ideology of our times, and hence delivers politics inevitably to the most fanatical, who tend to be the best organised. ‘The best lack all conviction, the worst’ etc etc etc.

As Duncan Black (Atrios) has pointed out, the key problem with American politics is that there is a sentence: ‘Vote Democrat because __________’. You have to finish that sentence in simple words that people can understand. ‘The vision thing’.

No Democrat (except Bernie Sanders, who is despised and feared by the Democrat establishment) can finish that sentence.

‘Vote Democrat because they are not the Republicans’ will not cut it anymore, but it’s all the Democratic establishment seem to have to offer. Until the Democrats can finish that sentence (i.e. create a positive image of where they want American society to go to) you are going to get Trump, and his successors, who will be even worse.

5

Placeholder 03.16.17 at 9:20 am

The ability to inscribe reactionary values into the liberal prejudices and instincts of the respectable bourgeoisie are remarkable – if you know what to look for. It is what every British socialist – and note not a single liberal – knows to call the effect of Ulster’s famous ‘Protestant Atheists’.

This can be measured by Foucault’s famous reminder: the church used to ban sodomy. In Catholic countries the date usually given for the ‘legalisation of homosexuality’ is the end of this proscription. In Italy this is 1896. In France this is 1792. The Catholic hierarchy went against sexual freedom tout court and lost tout court . The strategy to declare homosexuality tout court an obscene madness worked tremendously about White Europe’s decent liberal Protestants who do so celebrate legalising things that in many countries were never a crime.

In short there is a sustained mechanism ensuring that Abrahamic taboos and prejudices not only survive but a refreshed and rejuvenated in new and exciting forms. Indeed as scientific thinking and devotional piety decline even further the remains of American Christianity are fixated on this agenda more fanatically. Trump doesn’t even pretend to respect public piety. They don’t care
https://twitter.com/HeerJeet/status/789847395186020357

So invite the Protestant Atheists above the line – why do you think Britain legalised homosexuality before Cuba? Physician heal thyself.

6

Bill Butler 03.16.17 at 9:26 am

I don’t believe you know what you’re talking about.

The decline in Christianity has little to do with anything other than its churches abandoning the faith. Your perspective is an analytical approach from someone looking from the outside in.

There is a reason why Christianity succeeds over centuries, and you are free to observe why. But organized religion grows out of sincere movements, and fails when the subsequent bureaucracy strangles the message. Think of anything else, like a rock band, or a TV show, whatever crass comparison.

Christianity is dying because it is rarely practiced. It is dying because it has been co-opted.

7

Bruce B. 03.16.17 at 9:28 am

To sharpen Maria’s comment a bit, this is almost entirely about white evangelical Christians (including the right-wing element of Catholicism, at least in America, though it’s primarily a Protestant thing). Black and other evangelicals support Trump in larger numbers than other groups of the same ethnicity, but at nothing like the share white evangelicals give him.

In cases like Turkey and India, it looks like there’s the same kind of support from whatever ethnicity has been dominant there.

8

Zamfir 03.16.17 at 9:49 am

Some points: yes, the Netherlands has a long history of religious politics. There used to be separate political parties for catholics (KVP) and for several Calvinist streams. Together those counted for 50 to 60% of all votes until about 1970. Then a steady decrease started, and the main three religious parties combined to form 1 Christian democratic party, CDA, modelled after Germany’s CDU. Some smaller Calvinist factions kept their own small parties.

In the last decades, those parties together count for about 20 to 30% of the votes, mostly from more rural areas. Over time, the CDA became more protestant-flavoured, where it used to be dominated by the former KVP. The CDA probably has a tendency to dislike Muslim immigrants, but also a countervailing tendency to support organised religion. For a while they half-heartedly courted conservative Muslims.

The PVV has an above average popularity in traditionally ‘catholic’ areas, in particular Wilders’ home province Limburg. I do not know if he’s more popular among practising Catholics, or among the non-practising descendants of former KVP voters. The relative strength of the PVV in Catholic areas might be partially the counterside of a relative weakness in Protestant areas, where muslim-haters are perhaps more likely to vote for the traditional confessional parties.

The PVV itself is not a pseudo-religious party, as far as I can tell. Wilders himself came from the liberal-conservative (and anti-confessional) VVD.

9

Z 03.16.17 at 10:02 am

What if the causation went the other way?

More precisely, if one believes (as I do) that actual organization of beliefs and of the society around religious values (as measured by objective indicators, like mass attendance, rejection of divorce, participation in religiously affiliated associations, syndicates and political parties…) has been waning in advanced Western democracies for quite a time already despite a superficial continuously high rate of self-identification and if one take the central, common point of what you dub Trumpism to be the embrace of explicitly authoritarian and differentialist political values, then maybe the correlation between Trumpism and religious self-identification simply reflects the fact that the same people who want to impose their authority on the rest of society, to stamp on the weak and to reject those they perceive as different will use Trump-like politicians as political vehicles of their authoritarian and inegalitarian inclinations and will embrace (at least in words) certain especially authoritarian and inegalitarian form of religious beliefs (evangelical Christianity in the US, reactionary Catholicism in France…) as social vehicles of the same inclinations. If this holds, the repugnant hypocrisy of Trumpism, as you say, will not weaken a bit the support it enjoys among its core constituency, quite the reverse actually (I take as a confirmation of this statement the fact that Trump scored especially well among Evangelical, as you note, or the fact that the revelation of the outrageous personal enrichment scheme Fillon devised radicalized his religious right supporters, not the converse), though it probably will widen the chasm between said constituency and the rest of society.

As perceptively noted in the article you linked about Fillon, actual religious practice in France is so weak that for all intent and purpose, supporting Fillon, marching against gay mariage or protesting gender studies and the promotion of gender equality in primary schools have become the very definition of being a hardline Catholic in France (much more reliably than regular mass attendance, probably), just like voting for Trump, favoring the death penalty or opposing abortion are probably better indicators of one’s self-identification as an Evangelical Christian in the US than regularly going to Church or being part of a Christian human welfare association. The same can be said with support for the Israel’s worse aspects with respect to Judaism, much to my personal chagrin.

An interesting side note is that in France, there is a strong correlation between being post-religious in that sense and supporting the European Union as it actually exists (explaining why, as you rightly note, the correct French equivalent of Trump within the frame of your religious analysis is indeed Fillon and not the superficially much closer Marine Le Pen); the reason why being left as an exercise to the reader. All this being of course closely linked to the parallel thread on Dutch elections.

10

Atticus Dogsbody 03.16.17 at 10:06 am

Crei’an’tha, my psychocontact from the Alpha Scorpii cluster, informs me that by the year 2950 we will be able to get pins to dance on angel heads for eight days each week, but only during Lent.

11

Peter T 03.16.17 at 10:34 am

In the ongoing debate about the causes of trump, Brexit, Wilders and Hanson, I found this interesting:

https://www.adamtooze.com/2017/03/01/explaining-brexit-trump-search-method/

12

Kevin Donoghue 03.16.17 at 10:37 am

I wondered whether “Erdoganhat” was a joke I’d missed. Googling, I see he does indeed wear some funny hats.

I read Bob Altemeyer’s The Authoritarians recently and it caused me to suspect, as Z does, that religion is just a manifestation of authoritarian tendencies, which aren’t likely to decline just because people turn agnostic. For those who haven’t read it, the book is strongly recommended by John Dean, who knows a thing or two about the sickness in the GOP. It’s available free:

http://theauthoritarians.org/

13

John Quiggin 03.16.17 at 10:59 am

Sorry for typos, everyone. I’ll leave them in there – apparently, the gods are offended by perfection

14

Ronan(rf) 03.16.17 at 11:02 am

I don’t see why these movements that predate trump are trumpism (though you could throw Israel in there aswell)
My understanding is that the use of religion by European populists (a lot of who used to be quite anti clerical) is often mostly as an identity marker, to categorise who is “in group” (the inheritors of western Christian civilisation) and who is out (mostly Muslims)
THe decline of religious belief won’t undermine nativist populism because it’s not an ideological precursor, more an after the fact group identity .

15

John Quiggin 03.16.17 at 11:04 am

Benjamin Netanyahu, who has surfed a wave of increasing Jewish fundamentalism. So there’s that, too. (I know that this is unsayable in American ‘liberal’ circles but ‘facts are funny things’ as someone once said).

I didn’t think of Netanyahu because he’s been around so long, but he’s obviously an example.

I’m puzzled by your second statement. Admittedly, I’m not an American, or a liberal, but to me this looks like the standard US liberal position. That is, the problem is Netanyahu and the fundamentalists rather than Israel as such.

16

James 03.16.17 at 11:13 am

I just happened to read this section of Chapter 14 of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari on the train on the way to work this morning (any typing/input error is my own):

——

All modern attempts to stabilize the sociopolitical order have had no choice but to rely on either of two unscientific methods:
a. Take a scientific theory, and in opposition to common scientific practices, declare that it is a final and absolute truth. This was the method used by Nazis (who claimed that their racial policies were the corollaries of biological facts) and Communists (who claimed that Marx and Lenin had divined absolute economic truths that could never be refuted).
b. Leave science out of it and live in accordance with a non-scientific absolute truth. This has been the strategy of liberal humanism, which is built on a dogmatic belief in the unique worth and rights of human beings – a doctrine which has embarrassingly little in common with the scientific study of Homo sapiens.

One of the things that has made it possible for modern social orders to hold together is the spread of an almost religious belief in technology and in the methods of scientific research, which have replaced to some extent the belief in absolute truths.

——

If you believe Harari’s hypothesis regarding social/cultural building blocks and the need for shared values for society to function, what you are seeing with the Trump wave could be likened to the church ex-communicating Galileo – a culture feeling itself under threat due to the rise of questions that the culture is not prepared to deal with (climate change vs. heliocentrism, for example)

17

engels 03.16.17 at 12:30 pm

as was tirelessly pointed out by its opponents, Communism was a form of secular religion

It was and is a political project motivated in part by a scientific understanding of capitalism’s nature and tendencies.

18

Z 03.16.17 at 12:31 pm

@Kevin Donoghue, I should say though that in contrast to Altemeyer and to much of similar analysis in American circles, I take the locus of the authoritarian and inegalitarian features to be above the individual; that is to say, I think they are not (solely) psychological in nature, but rather anthropological and social. The reason for this belief is purely empirical: there are strong geographic determinants for Trumpist electoral support (or for Communist electoral support, or for social-democratic electoral support…) which would be quite mysterious if these choices reflected mainly individual psychological characteristics.

19

Kevin Donoghue 03.16.17 at 1:19 pm

Z, I’d agree that focusing on the psychology of authoritarians risks falling into the error of thinking that this is something like extraversion or IQ, traits which aren’t likely to vary much with geography or the ups & downs of the business cycle. It’s pretty clear that people are more drawn to authoritarian leaders when their economic circumstances are bad. I reckon we’d be having a lot less trouble with the likes of Trump and Farage if governments and central banks had paid more attention to Keynes after the 2008 crisis. To be fair to Altemeyer, he does emphasize that the links between psychology and politics are a bit rubbery. But he does highlight how people who are drawn to fiery preachers will also be drawn to right-wing politics.

20

oldster 03.16.17 at 1:19 pm

I’m inclined to say something like Z @9, only in place of his “authoritarianism” I would emphasize misogyny (not that the two are in any way incompatible).

Affiliation with most traditional religions is a pretty good marker for misogyny in both the other-hating and self-hating varieties, and misogyny is a major driver of the Trump wave. When religion stops being a good way to express misogyny, then you drop the trappings and take your misogyny in a new form.

Squabbling among misogynists–as when the Trumpists make themselves hysterical over Islam–is a predictable consequence of viewing women as possessions, and viewing the other misogynistic group as a threat to your own possession, and rival possessors. There’s a reason why the alt-right in Europe fabricates stories of mass sexual assaults, or why Trump says all Mexicans are rapists.

21

engels 03.16.17 at 1:37 pm

Don’t Islamophobia and nativism in France mostly fight under the banner of extreme secularism?

22

engels 03.16.17 at 2:42 pm

I agree with a lot of the Tooze piece but

it is not obvious how attitudes towards the death penalty can be tied back to economic stress, in the way that attitudes towards migration may be

seems to miss the point, which I’d have thought would be that the link between such attitudes and anti-EU and anti-migrant mobilisation is contingent and conditioned by economic distress?

23

GK 03.16.17 at 2:52 pm

I’m skeptical about the comparison between European Catholic or mainstream Protestant confessional parties and American (white) evangelical support for Trump. The rise of international “Trumpism” accompanies the decline of labor parties (watch the shrinking gray boxes in these graphs: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/22/world/europe/europe-right-wing-austria-hungary.html), and one of the common themes in those two phenomena is the displacement of parties rooted in organized constituencies (whether unions or churches) by parties whose relationships with their supporters are media almost wholly by mass media–that is, mediated in ways that feel as if they are direct and intimate, not mediated at all, as close to us as the screens that flicker up at us from our palms. (In that regard, Wilders & Trump are good matches.) That attempt to escape from institutionally-mediated political relationships seems to be a key feature of what we’re calling “populism” these days.

In that context, the content of evangelical belief–specifically, the ecclesiology of evangelical churches–seems pretty significant: evangelical Christianity is a set of mediating institutions that claim not to be mediating institutions. The evangelical believer’s relationship to God is ostensibly unmediated and so the function of an evangelical church, qua institution, is at best ambivalent. There’s some kind of affinity, I’d guess, between evangelicals’ ambivalence about their churches’ roles as religious mediating institutions and their willingness to embrace a media-mediated rather than organizationally-mediated political figure like Trump.

In other words: there is a basic structural similarity between labor parties and European-style confessional parties; there may also be a similarity (if hardly a necessary connection) between evangelical ecclesiology and the populist hunger for unmediated connection (in practice: connections mediated in nearly-invisible ways) with political leaders.

If any of this makes sense (and I’m not sure about it myself, yet), then while John is certainly right that there’s “nothing distinctively Christian in the actual politics of Trumpism,” there is still a distinct affinity between Trumpism and the organizational or relational expectations of certain kinds of Christianity.

24

GK 03.16.17 at 2:55 pm

I should have added: there’s also a structural similarity, in this regard, between Trump- or Wilders-style populists and most Green parties.

25

rea 03.16.17 at 2:57 pm

This Dutch politician/theologian has been cited by Betsy DeVos (Trump’s Education Secretary) as a big influence on her thinking:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Kuyper

26

marcel proust 03.16.17 at 3:05 pm

Re: Engels:

It was and is a political project motivated in part by a scientifstic understanding of capitalism’s nature and tendencies.

FTFY

27

Zamfir 03.16.17 at 3:42 pm

GK might be on to something. Germany is interesting in that regard – its political landscape stays stubbornly dominated by CDU and SPD.

28

Kantorovich 03.16.17 at 3:56 pm

Trump had the most improvement among Evangelicals that don’t attend church. Cultural Evangelicals maybe, like the Zombie Catholics of France. And I’ve seen similar data for Swedish Democrats in Sweden, they’re strongest support comes from those who have left the church but still consider themselves “Christian” in some way. I’d be curious if Netanyahu gets similar support, or Erdogan, or Modi in India. I have no data on that.

To be honest I think this is worse, these people aren’t even getting the social and psychological support of being within a community, just the long list of things the culture hates.

29

Jake Gibson 03.16.17 at 4:13 pm

I was raised in an Evangelical church. Which, from my recollection, was not as authoritarian then as now. But, it was not as threatened by secularism at that time. Or did not seem to perceive it that way. A common theme was “live in the world, but not of the world.”
Now it seems among fundamentalists of all varieties, they believe that the world should conform to their view.

When Steve King approvingly retweets Geert Wilders, it seems obvious that “Western Civilization” means conservative Christianity.

30

steven t johnson 03.16.17 at 4:24 pm

There doesn’t seem to me to be much mystery about why “white evangelicals” favored Trump even more than Romney, the Bushes, etc. They like his program of authoritarian rule, dreaming of legal enforcement of their ways. They see it as protection of their rights of course. In the contest with the world, laws against abortion, homosexuality, divorce and the restoration of citizenship and budgetary support for church schools as public education is slowly strangled will vastly more effective than the work of the Holy Spirit. Having God on your side is all very well and good, but state power… And, as patriots, they vastly prefer Trump’s triumphalist commitment to winning wars vastly superior to the subtleties of Obama/Clinton.

Another way of putting it is they view the deep state of America to be Christian, something that is a state of being, an affirmation. Nobody can really agree on doctrine and morals, except when directed against social inferiors, so it hardly matters that Trump is no exemplar of Christian living. Trump is a member of the deep state, come to cleanse the temple of the moneychangers/politicians defiling the the house of the Lord (aka America) with their deals with the heathen.

There is tremendous confusion though about the role of women in religious life. They are the spine and muscle of the churches, even if they choose to obey the fraction of men (usually older) who condescend to religion. Clinton won the election (a point that bears repeating,) despite a very poor economic performance by Obama. But who knows how much more she could have won it by if evangelical African-American women and Roman Catholica Latina women had turned out in larger numbers? (The cottage industry of analyzing the personal defects of the masses to explain Trump’s victory in the Electoral College may be emotionally satisfying. But really, wouldn’t it be much wise to look at the specifics, starting with the whole Electoral College system itself?)

Similarly there is tremendous confusion as to what religion is. Patriotism isn’t religion, even if you call it civic religion. Political parties aren’t religions either. For that matter, despite the uncanny structural and functional similarities between self-help literature and devotional literature, neither is pop psychology. Genuine religions do not borrow science, they write mythology. Genuine religious believers do not just quote scripture, they list canon and write pseudepigrapha. They certainly do not establish their bona fides as theoretical leaders by writing new books. Groupthink isn’t religion, because there’s plenty of groupthink in businesses, especially the boardrooms.

Lastly, seriously relying on the notion of scientism is the equivalent of being a creationist whose program consists solely of criticisms of evolutionary science as of the moment. Otherwise it would be simple to make a case for non-science ways of knowing about how the world is by just citing some of that knowledge acquired by other means. You might, for example, refute scientistic perversions like Marxist political economy by explaining why there’s a business cycle (including why it is cyclical!) or what determines the general rate of profit, or why there’s unemployment, or the secular differences in the economic history of nations.

At a minimum, they might at least show why the global economic system should not be examined as a global economic system. After all, if you want to define religion as dogmatism, not questioning, there’s some huge not questioning right there.

31

Suzanne 03.16.17 at 4:47 pm

@4: No Democrat (except Bernie Sanders, who is despised and feared by the Democrat establishment) can finish that sentence.

Sanders is not a Democrat and is in other respects not the ideal person to explain why you should vote for one. He piggybacked on the party to get a bullhorn for his views. Nothing necessarily wrong with that and nothing necessarily wrong with actual party members regarding him as a PITA — or gadfly if you want to look on the positive side. His newly acquired clout is certainly respected, and rightly so.

In light of the divisions exploited and exacerbated by the current Maladministration, HRC’s “Stronger Together” is looking pretty good right now.

32

Sebastian H 03.16.17 at 6:15 pm

I tried to find it, but a few hours ago I just read an article saying that Trump’s strongest supporters were self identified Evangelicals who no longer attended church. I can’t find it now, but it seems to fit well with your post (though it suggests that the hopeful secularization scenario isn’t as hopeful).

“I’d agree that focusing on the psychology of authoritarians risks falling into the error of thinking that this is something like extraversion or IQ, traits which aren’t likely to vary much with geography or the ups & downs of the business cycle. It’s pretty clear that people are more drawn to authoritarian leaders when their economic circumstances are bad. ”

I agree 1000x with this statement.

33

engels 03.16.17 at 6:37 pm

It’s pretty clear that people are more drawn to authoritarian leaders when their economic circumstances are bad. ”

This what Tooze is talking about, but the examples he gives of authoritarian attitudes are things like support for the death penalty. You don’t think those vary much according to the state of the economy, do you? As I said, I tend to think it doesn’t but the tendency of people who hold such attitudes to embrace an anti-immigrant narrative of national decline and/or nationalist strongmen might do.

(Btw I’m pretty sure extroversion _does_ vary quite a lot geographically…)

34

Maria 03.16.17 at 6:44 pm

I’m a bit amazed that there is a large category of Evangelicals that don’t attend church.

Why on earth would you go in for all the theocracy – I say this as someone who effectively grew up in one – without any of the singing, baking, job-networking, etc. benefits of membership?! Someone needs to explain selective benefits to these people.

35

JimV 03.16.17 at 7:47 pm

According to the Pew exit poll (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/ ), white evangelicals voted 81-16 for Trump vs. HRC. Saying that that was mainly due to non-church attenders would mean than a) most WE’s don’t go to church, or b) most WE’s who go to church didn’t vote in that election. I don’t accept either case, at this point, pending more data. I suspect that the segment of WE’s who don’t go to church is a small minority, but had the same or worse split as the majority.

I will say, based on my anecdotal experience, WE’s are not shy about leaving a church due to small doctrinal differences with the current preacher, and so find themselves between churches some of the time.

36

Shirley0401 03.16.17 at 7:54 pm

Maria @ 33

Q: Why on earth would you go in for all the theocracy – I say this as someone who effectively grew up in one – without any of the singing, baking, job-networking, etc. benefits of membership?!

A: Validation. I know some of these people. There’s no idealogical consistency, no guilt or attempts at self-improvement when they come up short. But when they can find something to use that might put the weight of authority behind their existing predjudices, it’s inconceivable that anyone could have any reasonable basis for argument. What’s that LBJ quote? Something about giving the White man “somebody to look down on?”

37

dbk 03.16.17 at 7:56 pm

Re: @rea above and the influence of Kuyper on the new Secretary of Education:

The Secretary and her husband belong to the Christian Reformed Church, related to the Dutch Reformed Church. Both her own and her husband’s families are descendants of Dutch settlers who moved to Michigan in the mid-19th century, specifically Holland. Both she and her husband are graduates of the church’s liberal arts college, Calvin College (yes, that Calvin) in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This is an extremely complex issue, and one I’m only starting to comprehend. I would recommend, however, Jane Mayer’s 2016 book, Dark Money, as a starting-place, which devotes considerable space to the two families, who are the Christian “royalty” of Michigan and probably, the largest donors to educational 501(c)3s and 501(c)4s, as well as direct donors to countless candidates both in Michigan and nationally who espouse their particular educational causes. One estimate I have seen is that the two families and their various foundations have given around $1b to such causes in the past 30 years. There were (at least) 23 Republican Senators who voted on her nomination who had received campaign funding from the family.

The church to which the Secretary belongs believes that the church is the center of every community, and that public schools (“government schools”) pose a threat to the supremacy of the church as a locus for social life. Public schools are reviled as agents of civil society, which the church opposes. Thus, the emphasis on charters (esp. for-profit charters; like the Puritans, the CRC is adamantly pro-laissez-faire) and even more so, on vouchers for students to opt out of the public school system and attend private, primarily religious schools. These preferences are now reflected in the President’s first-draft budget, where, for example, the NEH, the NEA, and the PBC – all loci of (secular) civil society – are totally de-funded. It is also reflected in enhanced funding for provision of voucher funding to states (on condition that the state allows vouchers – not all do) as well as increased funding for charter schools.

The President is not a member of this Christian fundamentalist sub-group within the larger group of billionaires who have largely funded the sharp turn to the right at the state, Congressional, and now, Executive level. The movement is not new – it’s been around for at least 30 years – but has gained serious momentum since 2016. The Vice President, however, is a member, as his record as Governor of Indiana amply demonstrates.

I think it’s important to consider new legislation and budgetary priorities as indicative not of the President’s own tastes, but as reflections of those of a particular form of Republicanism, one characterized by a desire for an entirely regulation-free business/finance environment, a much-decreased space (or no space) for civil society, and of course, heightened militarism.

38

John Quiggin 03.16.17 at 9:44 pm

My impression is that “cultural evangelicals” were the core of the support base for Trump in the Republican primaries, while churchgoers evangelicals were more likely to support Cruz (equally awful, but without such obvious baggage). But as soon as Trump became the Republican primary, the churchgoers signed on to him and everything he stood for, notably including Putin. And since (impression again) the churchgoers are more politically active, they are now the core of Trumpist support.

39

engels 03.16.17 at 9:53 pm

Marcel, fascinating as it always is to be informed by random strangers that Marxism Is Wrong it does not really affect my point: in their own eyes at least, Marxism and communism are certainly not ‘religions’ but rational, progressive projects—to allow that they are is to accede to a hostile, conservative evaluation.

40

SallyK 03.16.17 at 10:47 pm

@32 Was the article this one from the Atlantic?

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/breaking-faith/517785/

“Secularism is indeed correlated with greater tolerance of gay marriage and pot legalization. But it’s also making America’s partisan clashes more brutal. And it has contributed to the rise of both Donald Trump and the so-called alt-right movement, whose members see themselves as proponents of white nationalism. As Americans have left organized religion, they haven’t stopped viewing politics as a struggle between “us” and “them.” Many have come to define us and them in even more primal and irreconcilable ways.”

41

Tzimiskes 03.17.17 at 12:47 am

I think there are people on this blog that know vastly more about this subject than I do, but I was struck by a Rod Dreher post a few weeks ago where he described his basic ontological disagreement with the contemporary left as a result of his belief in orthodox doctrine which has its roots in ne0-Platonist idealism, to which I’d add Aristotelianism as a strong influence on orthodox religious belief. He was specifically discussing this regarding the idea that man and woman are ideals within orthodox doctrine and that to respect his beliefs we must take this seriously. In case it needs to be said, I am paraphrasing something I read a while back and am probably getting the specific claims wrong in ways that might make both him and serious philosophical students wince.

Now, Trump voters are mostly not the kind of people who are going to engage in discussions of ontology or be familiar with the philosophical roots of Christian orthodoxy. However, I think it is important to keep in mind that a view of the world rooted in scholasticism and its philosophical roots was how essentially everyone in European nations and their derivatives viewed the world until a few centuries ago. Especially with religious groups this style of thinking, while attenuated, seems like a possible approximation of a lens through which they view the world.

So when a topic like what it means to be a man comes up, and manliness seems to be a theme of the current right wing freak out, those with a more religious outlook might be assessing this against an ideal type of a man rather than against trying to find out what men are actually doing, what they value, or what makes them successful. So Trump supporters can dismiss all of the charts and graphs showing trends in the workforce for men, stories about how men lead happier lives if they help more in the household, or statistics on marriage rates that assess how men’s behavior’s lead to marriage and divorce. None of this matters to those with the idealistic outlook because men have to be assessed against the ideal type of men not against observations of what actual men do.

It seems to me that a lot of people seem to default to understanding social facts against ideals rather than against observations of the world as it is. While this has a relationship to religion, in many cases it takes training to get people to look at the world in a different way. So even among the irreligious, especially those with religious backgrounds, there is a tendency to fall back on ideal types to understand the world rather than assessing their own life and politics through systematic observation. This makes communicating with them difficult, if they think a man (or insert other relevant topic here) must be judged against an ideal type rather than against observations of what actual men are like it becomes very difficult to convince them that they should adapt to a changing workplace and social norms. This is a long way of getting to the idea that the relationship might be less directly with religion than it is with being brought up to believe in ideal types, which is often a product of religious upbringing but which still seems to be a common way to teach a child what it is to be a man (or woman, or other category with traditional idealized representations that remain with us despite modern culture moving away from these idealizations in many respects).

42

Main Street Muse 03.17.17 at 1:03 am

“So, I’m now thinking that Trumpism can be seen, in large measure, as a reaction by white Christians against the loss of their assumed position as the social norm, against which assertions of rights for anyone else can be seen as identity politics, political correctness and so on.”

This is a stretch, IMHO. 2016 was a tough year in politics and let’s remember that Trump lost the popular vote; his victory, if I remember correctly, came down to 80,000 votes over three key states. (Correct me if that is an incorrect memory.)

Trumpism is not massively popular – not really a “movement” despite with the liar-in-chief says. The big story about 2016 was the dip in the number of black voters. In my state of NC, the state Republicans worked extremely hard after SCOTUS dismantled VRA to disenfranchise black voters. And it worked.

Trump got the votes of wealthier and older people.

Pew Research broke down the vote since 2000 by religion – Republicans have always gotten a huge percentage of the evangelical vote – with Republican candidates getting between 74 percent (McCain) to 81 percent (Trump) of the evangelical vote. I think that has A LOT to do with SCOTUS and abortion, though the “PC” stuff drives evangelicals to GOP too. LINK: http://pewrsr.ch/2mA1HEF

I live in the Bible Belt, surrounded by people who voted for Trump. There is a despair about the lack of economic prosperity that is significant.

The radical shift to gay marriage – and that truly is a big change in a world that really has not seen gay marriage accepted in many cultures until just recently – was a huge shock to evangelicals. I know students who realized they were gay when at college and for some, they really can’t go home again to the rural, evangelical town they grew up in.

From what I’ve heard from living in the Bible Belt, abortion and SCOTUS were two of the most critical elements in why evangelicals were attracted to Trump. “Pro-life” evangelicals sometimes voted for Trump simply to “save lives.”

I know some wonderful people who voted for Trump because they were hammered by huge ACA increases right before the election. (ACA is NOT affordable – but Democrats ignored that fact.)

Also, don’t underestimate the “anti-establishment” vote. Trump very capably tied Hilary to the “failed political establishment” – and for those still underwater in their mortgage or underemployed, that message was extremely attractive.

43

Main Street Muse 03.17.17 at 1:06 am

DBK @ 37 “I think it’s important to consider new legislation and budgetary priorities as indicative not of the President’s own tastes, but as reflections of those of a particular form of Republicanism, one characterized by a desire for an entirely regulation-free business/finance environment, a much-decreased space (or no space) for civil society, and of course, heightened militarism.”

Yes. What’s so fascinating is the compassionless cruelty of those using religion to “deconstruct” America in this way.

But Trump’s voters won’t like what the budget will cut. 2018 is zooming closer.

44

Main Street Muse 03.17.17 at 1:09 am

Jake Gibson @29 “When Steve King approvingly retweets Geert Wilders, it seems obvious that “Western Civilization” means conservative Christianity.”

When King references Geert Wilders, it seems obvious that “western Civilization means fascist racism.

45

greg 03.17.17 at 6:41 am

The Evangelicals are dancing around the Golden Calf. Trump is a priest of Mammon.

46

casmilus 03.17.17 at 6:50 am

@41 nice to see you mentioning Rod Dreher. I was about to comment on this from @36:

” Validation. I know some of these people. There’s no idealogical consistency, no guilt or attempts at self-improvement when they come up short. But when they can find something to use that might put the weight of authority behind their existing predjudices, it’s inconceivable that anyone could have any reasonable basis for argument. “

Dreher has always struck me as simply the pretentious middlebrow version of this attitude. The pseudo-intellectual mask falls off awfully quickly when he gets angry. The most memorable thing he ever said about gay marriage was when he noted that the news that lots of christian colleges were signed on to the cause was what kept him awake at night – not the philosophical issues themselves, but the fact that his own viewpoint was marginal and not regarded as any sort of cultural authority.

It really hasn’t got through to him that Alasdair MacIntyre has more in common with “leftist” Liberation Theology movements in 70s Latin America than with anything you could sell to a Republican convention. But as long as it’s vaguely “against modernity” it’ll do as this moment’s thing.

47

maidhc 03.17.17 at 7:53 am

I happened upon this Irish TV show looking at cults in Ireland. With all the scandals involving the Catholic Church in Ireland, support for Catholicism has collapsed. The situation would once have been inconceivable. But many Irish people are still looking for something which many cults are ready to provide.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKgx94QIiSc

We look at a number of Cults that are operating in Ireland, including ‘The House of Prayer’, ‘Palmarians’ and ‘Scientologists’.

I suppose most people are familiar with Scientologists but the others were new to me.

These new cults have a very Catholic tinge but become decidedly peculiar on further inspection.

48

Hidari 03.17.17 at 7:53 am

Proponents of the ‘secularism leads to tolerance’ thesis tend to ignore the fact that almost all of the most famous members or associates of the New Atheists lean to the Right (the same goes for the American ‘skeptic’ movement, cf Michael Shermer, Randi and others).

And as someone above pointed out French racism now hides behind Islamophobia, which is usually framed in secular terms.

49

John Quiggin 03.17.17 at 8:32 am

I’ve never been able to detect a clear political position for Randi or Shermer. They were briefly sympathetic to climate “scepticism”, for obvious reasons, but they have dumped that, as has the Skeptic movement as a whole (much to the chagrin of the deniers)

https://judithcurry.com/2015/06/03/why-skeptics-hate-climate-skeptics/
http://www.internationalskeptics.com/forums/showthread.php?t=32017
http://www.csicop.org/news/show/deniers_are_not_skeptics

50

novakant 03.17.17 at 9:06 am

#48

That’s true but these developments coming after the initial secularization which did lead to increased tolerance.

Cf. e.g. Ireland – well, you still can’t get an abortion there, but still it’s astonishing what happened there in my lifetime.

Also, I think you underestimate how Catholic a country France still is.

51

Soru 03.17.17 at 9:53 am

The core Evangelical view is that the Church is for doing good, and the State is for necessary evil.

So anything the state does that is good is likely wrong, because unnecessary. But anything that the State does that is evil the jury is still out on; it might be necessary.

Usually Republican politicians try to reach for support outside that core, e.g. to people who consider having healthcare both good and necessary. But failing to do so to any credible degree is a guarantee of increased Evangelical support.

52

Z 03.17.17 at 10:03 am

I find GK’s comment 23 on the decline of institutionally-mediated collective movements very perceptive (and the emphasis it puts on distinguishing between actual collective structures and unmediated relation still reinforces my suspicion that the ebb and flow of religious self-identification are not pertinent indicators of the relation between politics and religion).

@engels and Hidari Don’t Islamophobia and nativism in France mostly fight under the banner of extreme secularism?

I think that the details are more complicated than that. In terms of the core social groups, you have on the one hand (post-religious) Catholics who recycled their waning faith in often vociferous appeals to the Christian roots of France, attacks on public schools and (to sum up) unflinching support for Fillon. They are (disproportionately) upper-class white collars, Islamophobe, but not nativist (quite the contrary, in fact, it is among them that the highest support for the European project is also found) and not secular. On the other hand, you have much younger, much poorer, working class, secular nationalist supporters of Marine Le Pen but who are very much concerned about immigration but not in fact especially concerned about Islam. 15 years ago, the class distinction and extreme opposition on some core issues (the role of the State, taxes, public education, the EU…) was enough to overcome the similarities but sociological trends and Sarkozy (whose all recent political career has been based on merging the two groups) have changed things, maybe radically. The willingness of the first group to join rank politically with the second will probably be known next May and will in large part determine the final outcome (as the proportion of the 20% of Fillon voters who will vote for Le Pen on the second round will determine if she gets 35%, 40%, 45% or 50,5% in the second round).

53

SusanC 03.17.17 at 10:09 am

@23: was Martin Luther a “populist”? :-) Yes, it’s interesting that there’s a structural similarity between protestant (as compared to Catholic) churches and populist political movements.

@49. Randi’s position seems to be faith (i choose the word delberately) in the effectiveness of the scientific method and the institutions of science. He’s not a postmodernist kind of sceptic. So yeah, he’s not going to be sceptical about global warming once the scientific consensus is to believe in it.

54

SusanC 03.17.17 at 10:34 am

I think I ought to backtrack a little on what I just said about Randi’s position, but I can’t find a link to his article that starts “Happily, science does not depend on consensus.” A distinction could be drawn between the institutions of science as it is actually practised (which papers journals will accept for publication etc.) and some Platonic Ideal of science as it “should be” if anyone was actually doing it.

55

Hidari 03.17.17 at 11:24 am

@49

Shermer actually wrote a book claiming that Evolutionary Psychology ‘proved’ that only free market capitalism worked, because it was the only mode of production that meshed with ‘human nature’.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Mind-Market-Michael-Shermer/0805089160

I think anyone reading his Twitter feed (https://twitter.com/michaelshermer?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor) would quickly infer that he was a hard libertarian-orientated right winger. Steven Pinker is of course more of a ‘liberal’ (in the American sense), but ultimately you only need to see who he attacks: he has spent far more time attacking ‘social justice warriors’ and people in the arts and humanities who ‘lean left’ than he ever has secular Republicans.

Randi has flirted with global warming denial: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/12/17/randi-and-global-warming/#.WMvECoXXLIU.

He has also gone on record as saying he abhors ‘collectivism’. He has also proposed the legalisation of drugs for, erm, unusual reasons: http://www.dailygrail.com/Skepticism/2013/2/James-Randi-Let-Survival-the-Fittest-Act-Itself-Out-Those-Low-IQ-and-Mental-Aberra (and yes I know this is a tinfoil hat site, but Randi has deleted his original comments, and they are real enough).

It’s true that these ‘skeptics’ now grudgingly accept AGW but they go out of their way to avoid drawing progressive political inferences from its existence (Jerry Coyne claims that the cause of AGW is the ‘tragedy of the commons’: therefore, presumably, all we have to do is privatise the entirety of planet Earth and the problem will be solved. Not enough capitalism you see: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/why-global-warming-is-real-and-were-causing-it/).

This is not even to look at insane right wing nutjobs like Sam Harris or sinister libertarians like Penn (of Penn and Teller) whose ‘God, No’ has praise from Glenn Beck on the cover.

Skeptics and American atheists lean right, and they always have (cf Antony Flew). The more influential they become, intellectually, the more rightwards American politics will move (assuming that is even possible). There is no hope for the left there.

Tl; dr: when it comes to their right wing politics, American ‘skeptics’, aren’t.

56

nastywoman 03.17.17 at 11:39 am

‘Trumpism’ is defined by the Urban Dictionary as:

‘The religion in the worship of Donald Trump.’ –
and so the overwhelming support the ‘F…face’ received from ‘white Christians, rising to near-unanimity among white evangelicals, where he outpolled all previous Republican candidates’ – proves that such ‘white evangelicals’ actually changed their ‘religion’ from the ‘worship’ of whatever so called ‘white evangelicals’ used to worship -(the New or Old? Testament? – Jesus’?) – to the worship of Donald Trump – and that could mean anything – from the worship of money to the worship of a…holery – or as we have found out by a very enlightened article of an ex-4chaner the worship of ‘an incompetent joke’.

And thus there is no ‘global rise of Trumpism’.
There was a global rise of the typical ‘Right-Wing and Fascistic attitudes towards ‘them Others’ – out of some economical hardship – but ‘Trumpism’ -(an entirely local US ‘Religion’) – now discredited a lot of these typical -(not very ‘religious’) ‘Right-Wing and Fascistic attitudes’ – as ‘globally’ a lot of people somehow confuse ‘Trumpism’ with anything else they like to confuse it with…?

57

Layman 03.17.17 at 12:16 pm

SusanC: “Randi’s position seems to be faith (i choose the word delberately)…”

Then you’re abusing the word. ‘Faith’ has a particular meaning in belief systems, which is belief despite the absence of evidence; in fact despite the absence of even the possibility of evidence. You have good reasons to trust the science which causes your words to appear for me to read; and you trust it for those good reasons. It isn’t an act of ‘faith’.

58

JimV 03.17.17 at 12:39 pm

Googling “James Randi on Trump” gives this top item:
——-
Magician and atheist James Randi said Saturday [circa Dec. 2016] that he is “depressed” over the results of the recent election, saying President-elect Donald Trump “doesn’t know anything.”

Randi, who is well-known for his criticisms of religion and supernatural fraudsters of all stripes, told me during a Skype interview that Trump is “a blowhard with a bad wig.”
——
Googling “Michael Shermer on Trump” gives:

At the time I liked some aspects of Trump, particularly his stance on having a strong military but not using it (compared to Bush and Obama who both used it all too often), and his seeming willingness to make deals with Democrats in Congress (the only way to get things done).

I’ve since grown concerned about some of Trump’s other positions, however.

That said, all of the candidates are flawed. Cruz is too religious and untrustworthy, as is Rubio. Kasich seems the most centrist, rational, and practical, but he’s unelectable in the primary, as is Bernie Sanders, who is too far left for me anyway. Even my liberal friends who say they’re voting for Hillary admit she’s got a closet full of bad baggage.

To date I have not decided whom I am voting for, and I am not publicly endorsing anyone (as if anyone would care who I endorse anyway as I’m not actively involved in political commentary).
—–
I would have thought MS would have taken the 30 minutes or so it takes to research Trump and come to JR’s conclusion; another illusion shattered. It seems like MS made a few snapshot judgments based on campaign speeches and other propaganda. (Kasich can sound comparatively rational at times.)

59

Ronan(rf) 03.17.17 at 2:05 pm

Z, Have you read Emmanuel Todd’s ‘Who is Charlie’?
He makes a similar argument to the one you’re making about the demographics of the anti Islam base (I often wondered how accurate he was, not being able to speak French so having no access to French reviews etc)

60

Conor O'Brien 03.17.17 at 2:28 pm

GK @ 23 “there is still a distinct affinity between Trumpism and the organizational or relational expectations of certain kinds of Christianity.” and
Z @ 52. ” (post-religious) Catholics who recycled their waning faith in often vociferous appeals to the Christian roots of France,”
Many people seem to follow an archetype of values, such as authoritarian or egalitarian, and rationalise their meanings in whatever way suits their lifestyle.
So that the similar authoritarian value systems of Evangelism or Trump will clump together, even though the particular rationalisations seem at odds.

61

Maria 03.17.17 at 3:27 pm

Shirley @36, thanks. That does, unfortunately, make a lot of sense.

62

engels 03.17.17 at 3:45 pm

Z, thanks. My own impression is probably overly influenced by a French ex-flatmate who was ex-Catholic boarding-school turned fanatical Dawkins/Hitchens supporter. I don’t think I ever really understood his politics but they didn’t seem very left-wing.

63

Lawman 03.17.17 at 3:52 pm

Your use of the term ‘Christianism’ interested me. I think it is a good term as:
.
It distinguishes this group from Christianity: to which many of the values of the ‘populists’ are abhorrent;
.
It suggests a comparison with Islamism: the perversion of the traditions and values of the religion by (ignorant) followers. It is arguable that Islam contains the seeds of Islamism, but this does not apply to Christianity.
.
The common values of religious adherents tend to include social conservatism; belief in family, community and society; and so a rejection of modern militant secular liberalism and ‘globalization’.
.
If you understand this you will understand why the UK electorate voted for Leave EU; and perhaps why Americans voted for President Trump (rejecting the arch liberal Mrs Clinton). The make up of the voters for Leave and EU and President Trump has, at best, a tenuous connection with religion.
.
The position of Britain (Leave EU) is very different from that of the USA in that, here, we were not voting for a set of political and moral values; while in America the two personalities projected particular personal qualities (whether or not their true beliefs is a different matter). If I were an American citizen I could not have voted for Mr Trump.
.
I suggest we should be careful in taking the world wide rejection of a perceived ‘globalization’/ enforcement of a particular form of liberal secular values/ and growing disparity of wealth – as being an assertion of religious values (not that there is much in common between, say, Christianity and Islam).
.
Correlation is not causation. It is dangerous to allow this to fuel dissent, even hatred, between religious groups and atheist secularists. In or out of the EU, under Conservative or Labour government, I am grateful to live in a country with a secular parliamentary democracy with tolerance for both.

64

Z 03.17.17 at 5:21 pm

@Conor O’Brien

Many people seem to follow an archetype of values, such as authoritarian or egalitarian, and rationalise their meanings in whatever way suits their lifestyle.

Yeah, I made a quite similar point in my first post on this thread.

@Ronan(rf)

Have you read Emmanuel Todd’s ‘Who is Charlie’?

Indeed I have, as well as all his other books (except one). The original edition is subtitled “anatomy of a religious crisis” and is accordingly quite pertinent for this thread. As for French reviews, the book caused a violent polemic which, as far as I can determine, was strictly about the 14 first pages of the introduction. The bulk of the book (a demographic analysis of the change in the core electorate of the Parti Socialiste), which is far more interesting, was more or less ignored. As with most of his books, I was myself instantly convinced by a good deal of it and the rest looked more and more correct with time.

65

Kiwanda 03.17.17 at 7:15 pm

Hidari:

Skeptics and American atheists lean right, and they always have (cf Antony Flew). The more influential they become, intellectually, the more rightwards American politics will move (assuming that is even possible). There is no hope for the left there.

From Pew:

About two-thirds of atheists (69%) identify as Democrats (or lean in that direction), and a majority (56%) call themselves political liberals (compared with just one-in-ten who say they are conservatives). Atheists overwhelmingly favor same-sex marriage (92%) and legal abortion (87%). In addition, three-quarters (74%) say that government aid to the poor does more good than harm.

Hidari:

Jerry Coyne claims that the cause of AGW is the ‘tragedy of the commons’: therefore, presumably, all we have to do is privatise the entirety of planet Earth and the problem will be solved.

It’s not clear to me why you think that invoking the “tragedy of the commons” implies support for privatization.

Coyne at least regards himself as a liberal:

I voted for Clinton and have always despised Trump. On the Rubin show, I said I considered myself a liberal and as someone on the Left, and had always voted Democratic.

Although if support for free speech and due process are now somehow “leaning right”, it’s less clear.

66

John Quiggin 03.18.17 at 12:48 am

“not that there is much in common between, say, Christianity and Islam”

On the contrary, they have so much in common that Islam regards Christianity as one of its precursors – both Islam and Christianity take this view in relation to Judaism. And, for a long while Christians regarded Islam as a Christian heresy rather than another religion.

https://www.stpeterslist.com/11698/islam-as-a-christian-heresy-8-quotes-from-st-john-damascene-a-d-749/

Apart from the doctrine of the Trinity (denied by lots of Christian heretics) and the special role of Mohammad, the two are pretty much the same in theological terms. In ethical terms, after you take away differences due to culture rather than religion, they hardly differ at all. A Christian of a few centuries ago would probably find more in common with a contemporary Muslim than with a modern Christian.

67

John Quiggin 03.18.17 at 12:50 am

The ” ‘tragedy of the commons” is an incorrect analysis with right wing implications,

http://johnquiggin.com/2004/05/06/fallacy-of-the-commons/

but the phrase is mainly popular among moderate leftists who haven’t looked into the intellectual history

68

Matt 03.18.17 at 1:34 am

The ” ‘tragedy of the commons” is an incorrect analysis with right wing implications

I remember reading your post about this a long time ago, and I appreciate the problems with the phrase. But I still use the phrase to refer to some phenomena because I don’t know of another short phrase that conveys the same class of actual contemporary problems without the historical inaccuracy/baggage. Individually “optimal” resource extraction without coordination or limits can lead to disastrously sub-optimal outcomes. (I do not believe that coordination or limits must come from markets or prices.) How do you denote instances in the class of actual problems, like farmers overpumping shared aquifers?

69

Kiwanda 03.18.17 at 1:39 am

John Quiggin: One solution to such “tragedies” is communal action, whether by the “joint owners” as discussed in your linked essay, or by governmental action, as discussed by the Hardin essay. It’s hard to see the incorrectness or right-wing implications, so an intellectual history lesson would be helpful.

Regarding U.S. National Parks, the Hardin essay says regarding the need to limit visitors:

What shall we do? We have several options. We might sell them off as private property. We might keep them as public property, but allocate the right enter them. The allocation might be on the basis of wealth, by the use of an auction system. It might be on the basis merit, as defined by some agreed-upon standards. It might be by lottery. Or it might be on a first-come, first-served basis, administered to long queues. These, I think, are all the reasonable possibilities. They are all objectionable. But we must choose–or acquiesce in the destruction of the commons that we call our National Parks.

…and indeed, Yosemite for example requires reservations (some in advance, some on-the-day, first come first served) for wilderness visits.

Regarding pollution:

But the air and waters surrounding us cannot readily be fenced, and so the tragedy of the commons as a cesspool must be prevented by different means, by coercive laws or taxing devices that make it cheaper for the polluter to treat his pollutants than to discharge them untreated.

Does e.g. a carbon tax have “right wing implications”?

A large part of the essay is concerned with overpopulation, the eventual need to end the “freedom to breed”, and why appeals to conscience will not suffice for this purpose. This issue is certainly difficult, and we can hope to avoid the essay’s feared Malthusian outcomes, although a steady-state avoidance of the “population bomb” is not assured. But I don’t see, in the essay, some hint of eugenics or the like. In general I wouldn’t think concern about population growth is “right wing”. So what’s the problem with the essay?

70

Hidari 03.18.17 at 8:06 am

@65 The word ‘liberal’ has, shall we say, a highly technical meaning in American political discourse (meaning of course ‘not a Republican’). Of course in the UK it has a much more specific meaning (a member of the Liberal Party, or, as they are now, the LibDems) a centre-right political party, and, in fact, that is the UK political party where most American liberals would feel most at home (i.e. ‘socially liberal’ coupled with hard right free market economics).

You just need to look at what would have been considered standard ‘left wing’ views about, say, the economy in the 1950s and the 1960s, and then attempting to match them with Coyne’s, to see that his self-description as ‘someone on the Left’ is self-evidently preposterous. Certainly, on his blog he seems to have little time to spare to attack, say, the financialisation of the economy, or the power of unrestrained capital, or to investigate the links between ‘free’ trade and inequality. He always has time to snigger at Muslims though, or attack the ‘Regressive Left’ (AKA ‘the left’).

I would be prepared to retract these accusations about, so to say, the atheist ‘base’ (not the ‘leadership’: as have shown, they are all, with the exception of PZ Myers, on the hard right) if it were shown that they had a disproportionate amount of support for Bernie Sanders, who, despite the moderateness of his opinions, is at least of the left (unlike, say, Hilary Clinton). But I don’t know of any such research.

In any case, my point should be obvious: I am highly sceptical that any move towards secularism in the US will necessarily lead to a move to the left. It’s certainly noticeable that in Europe almost all Western European countries have moved to the Right, politically, at the same time as they have secularised (I mean over the last 50 years or so). I am not implying cause and effect here, although, OTOH, who knows?

71

Hidari 03.18.17 at 8:09 am

@66 The one that gets me is Mormonism. There is simply no objective way in which would argue that the beliefs of the average Mormon are not further away to those of ‘orthodox’ Christianity than those of Islam. Islam and Xtianity are kissin’ cousins: Mormonism is more like Scientology. But Mormons never face the same kind of prejudice in the public sphere as Muslims do. I am sure that the fact that the vast majority of Mormons are white has absolutely nothing to do with this, of course.

72

Z 03.18.17 at 8:27 am

@Hidari members or associates of the New Atheists lean to the Right

English-speaking militant Atheists have always seem a slightly weird group to me (speaking as a convinced atheist who has to go to great-great grand parents to find someone even moderately religious in his family).

@engels a French ex-flatmate who was ex-Catholic boarding-school turned fanatical Dawkins/Hitchens supporter.

And expat in London? S/He looks like the poster girl/boy for the upper class educated Islamophobic group.

73

Placeholder 03.18.17 at 10:24 am

@Kiwanda

Yes, and Sam Harris is astonished at the number of his followers who supported Trump. He was the only one. Maajid Nawaz calls himself a liberal and he complains that feminists are too busy “picking first world fights”, so here is a video of the First Minister of Northern Ireland trying to Save Ulster from Sodomy

74

Lee A. Arnold 03.18.17 at 11:53 am

If I can move this in a slightly different direction, I think that one of the basic problems — world-wide — is the kind of thought-shapes that market fundamentalism has taken us into. There is much that has been written about this problem of “discourse”, although almost always from the scientific, analytical style.

A majority of the people don’t have the analytical skills to sort out the lies. How do we deal with this?

First, realize this has little to do with the level of intelligence or education.

It appears to be a difference in HOW people take “information” into themselves.

There is a fundamental difference between “orality” and “literacy” cultures. It is hard to get a handle on, yet Trump’s speeches give a very good illustration of this, perhaps a perfect example.

The distinction was first emphasized by Walter Ong in his perennial book Orality and Literacy (1982). Here is an adaptation of his list of some traits of “oral” culture:

1. Sounded word is itself power, an action-event. Words are not taken in as mere signs.

2. Your knowledge is limited to what you can personally recall: To retain & retrieve information, without reading & writing, you must think in mnemonic patters shaped for ready oral recurrence. Thus, heavily rhythmic, balanced, repetitious. Use of antitheses, alliterations & assonances, epithetic or other formulary expressions, standard thematic settings (“the assembly, the meal, the duel, the hero’s helper”, etc.) proverbs, etc. This even determines syntax.

3. The logic of argument is additive rather than subordinative. Use of the conjunction “and”, instead of dependent clauses.

4. The discourse is aggregative rather than analytic: Elements of thought are clusters, parallel terms, antithetic terms, recurrent epithets such as “brave” soldier, “beautiful” princess, etc., and these couplings are rarely dismantled.

5. Redundant or “copious”: Heavy use of repetition because spoken words evaporate, which would prevent the continuity that is required for thinking. It also helps overcome the problem that members of the same audience have different comprehension levels; and helps overcome acoustical lapses in the assembly hall.

6. The resulting culture tends to conservative or traditionalist: Use of repetition accentuates the learning of ages, to the detriment of new discoveries and innovations.

7. Close to the human lifeworld.

8. It is agonistically toned: Knowledge is situated within a context of STRUGGLE in the lifeworld. Use of challenges, riddles, proverbs, struggles, descriptions of violence. The flip-side of this is heavy use of extreme praise: “fantastic, beautiful”, etc.

9. Empathetic & participatory, rather than objectively, scientifically distanced.

10. Homeostatic: Oral societies live in a present which keeps itself in equilibrium by sloughing off memories which no longer have present relevance.

11. Situational rather than abstract.

12. Verbomotor lifestyle: In oral society, courses of action and attitudes toward issues depend significantly more on effective use of words and thus on human interaction, and significantly less on non-verbal, often largely visual input from the “objective” world of print or things. In addition, oral folk commonly manifest their schizoid tendencies by extreme external confusion, leading often to violent action, including mutilation of self and others: going “berserk, amok”.

13. Noetic role of heroic “heavy” figures, and of the fantastic & bizarre. Tendency toward melodrama.

14. Orality, community and “the sacred”: it is all combined at the same time.

Note that Ong’s list describes the cognitive style of Trump’s speeches, of Fox News reportage, and describes the thought processes and speech-styles of many voters.

75

steven t johnson 03.18.17 at 2:46 pm

Re the tragedy of the commons, I don’t recall anyone merely referencing it who shouldn’t have been read as favoring private ownership of all resources to prevent the tragedy. And everyone who thinks there might be communal property with feasible equity in its administration starts by explaining how the usual view is a mistake. The creation of a free market in privately owned fishing rights in Iceland is more or less a revelation from God as to how He meant the world to work.

Hidari is I think a little overly generous to PZ Myers. Myers is one of those feminists who demand presumption of guilt, deny the very concept of diminished capacity/not guilty by reason of insanity, favor punishment over rehabilitation as demonstrated by longer prison terms, and generally divides up humanity into the mob of assholes versus the sadly limited number of genuinely human people. There’s nothing left wing there.

He is definitely against Trump, but his anti-Trumpery is of the “hate the American people for electing filth like Trump: variety. Since Trump lost the popular vote, this kind of thing seems to me to be animated by a genuine intense animus against humanity at large. I submit this iron in his soul puts him at least partly in the “hard” right, despite a squishy exterior.

On the general issue of New Atheists, what is new about them is their combination of right wing views and reliance on scientific credentials as somehow adding authority. In many ways they are copies of HL Mencken and Col. Ingersoll and the self-censored Mark Twain. (Except in the context of the times Ingersoll and Twain are far less reactionary than they.)

On the general subject of religion in modern US society, if no one wishes to explain the greater religiosity of women, perhaps the question of how abstinence from alcohol turned from a Muslim tenet into a Christian one might be of interest?

76

steven t johnson 03.18.17 at 5:12 pm

PS Sheldon Adelson as Israeli PM should be a better analogy to Trump than Netanyahu. Strangely, the comparison of Berlusconi and Trump is not yet a cliche, despite its obviousness. Rafsanjani in Iran was an anticipation of Trumpism I think. If we want to play Fall of the (Roman) Republic, Trump is Crassus, with assorted Republicans playing Cato and Cicero. He too may fall foul in the sands of Mesopotamia. At any rate, Trump is not a Reagan but a Nixon. The point is not to sell oranges at the apple cart, but, ultimately to do away with the apple cart entirely.

77

JimV 03.18.17 at 5:34 pm

It seems to me that someone who is indoctrinated in religion from an early age through college, but whose interest in science and math makes him or her question the indoctrination, do some research, and reason his or her way to atheism, will incline toward what we in the USA call (often pejoratively) “liberal” – since as the saying here goes, “reality has a liberal bias”. However, once atheism becomes established and one absorbs it from one’s parents and peers, that may no longer be the case.

Of course, liberal inclinations may not satisfy the “leftier than thou” set.

78

Howard Frant 03.18.17 at 6:06 pm

@4

(I know that this is unsayable in American ‘liberal’ circles but ‘facts are funny things’ as someone once said).

Possibly you are thinking of Ronald Reagan, who once meant to say “Facts are stubborn things” but instead said “Facts are stupid things.” I’m now nostalgic for the days when a Republican president could (intend to) make an appeal to facts.

As an American liberal and a Jew, I have no idea who these liberals are who dare not speak ill of Netanyahu or the religious right in Israel. I think American Jews are impatient with the facile and reflexive anti-Israel attitudes of the European left, but that doesn’t translate into support for Bibi.

Incidentally, the supposed shift to the right in Israel is much overstated; Bibi’s win in the last election was almost entirely a shift within the right-wing electorate.

http://howardfrant.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-israeli-elections-ii-bibis-last.html

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Heliopause 03.18.17 at 7:25 pm

@55
A Skeptical Inquirer reader survey from last year found that 33% self-described as “liberal”, 24% “progressive”, 9% “libertarian”, 6% “conservative”, 5% “moderate”, all others <5% each.

They have also aggressively defended climate science, publishing a number of feature articles in recent years, an interview with Michael Mann a few months ago, etc.

None of this should be at all surprising, as members of the skeptical movement are heavily drawn from the more educated strata of society.

80

J-D 03.18.17 at 10:29 pm

Hidari, the statement
‘Many countries now are both less religious than they were fifty years ago and further to the right politically’
may be true, but the statement
‘Non-religious people now are further to the right politically than religious people now’
is clearly false.

Comparing non-religious people now to religious people and/or their countries fifty years ago obscures understanding by confounding variables. Comparing non-religious people now with religious people now, it’s clear who is furthest to the right, and it’s not the atheists.

81

John Quiggin 03.18.17 at 10:48 pm

@70 Sanders supporters were younger than Clinton’s, and obviously they were liberal Democrats. Non-theists are much more likely to be young liberal Democrats than theists. So, in the absence of direct evidence we can infer that Sanders got more support from non-theist than did Clinton

On the reference to atheist “leaders”, this isn’t a meaningful concept. Atheists and non-theists don’t belong to a movement that selects leaders. All you have is a group of self-appointed spokesmen (gender term used advisedly).

82

nastywoman 03.19.17 at 4:19 am

@70+81

– don’t know – but perhaps there is… something about how young Sanders supporters see ‘religion’ – as the (jewish) ‘religion’ of Sanders for the young Sanders supporters that I know – didn’t play any role – as for a lot of them (us) the word ‘religion’ is more like ‘not losing our religion’ – like in this old song from R.E.M.
And if you -(as an Australian) ever would have met lots of ‘white (US) Christians’ who supported Trump – you might have noticed that a lot of them ‘lost their religion’ -(but in a very unreligious sense) – and so the Urban Dictionary… as silly it might be is to the point of ‘worshiping somebody’ -(and it is always a ‘somebody’ in the homeland) – which represents the hope to ‘win’ some of the (economical) ‘religion’ back.

83

J-D 03.19.17 at 7:10 am

All modern attempts to stabilize the sociopolitical order have had no choice but to rely on either of two unscientific methods

I don’t know whether that is true, but if it is, wouldn’t it follow that the scientific approach involves not making stabilisation of the sociopolitical order an objective?

84

Hidari 03.19.17 at 7:55 am

It’s worthwhile pointing out that the devil is very much in the detail as far as religiosity in the United States goes.

‘Is the American public becoming less religious? Yes, at least by some key measures of what it means to be a religious person. An extensive new survey of more than 35,000 U.S. adults finds that the percentages who say they believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church or other religious services all have declined modestly in recent years.

But the Pew Research Center study also finds a great deal of stability in the U.S. religious landscape. The recent decrease in religious beliefs and behaviors is largely attributable to the “nones” – the growing minority of Americans, particularly in the Millennial generation, who say they do not belong to any organized faith. Among the roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults who do claim a religion, there has been no discernible drop in most measures of religious commitment. Indeed, by some conventional measures, religiously affiliated Americans are, on average, even more devout than they were a few years ago.

Pew Research Center surveys consistently show that not all religious “nones” are nonbelievers. In fact, the majority of Americans without a religious affiliation say they believe in God.

Indeed, by some measures, religiously affiliated people appear to have grown more religiously observant in recent years. The portion of religiously affiliated adults who say they regularly read scripture, share their faith with others and participate in small prayer groups or scripture study groups all have increased modestly since 2007. And roughly four-in-ten religiously affiliated adults (41%) now say they rely mainly on their religious beliefs for guidance on questions about right and wrong, up 7 percentage points in seven years.
The study also suggests that in some ways Americans are becoming more spiritual. About six-in-ten adults now say they regularly feel a deep sense of “spiritual peace and well-being,” up 7 percentage points since 2007. And 46% of Americans say they experience a deep sense of “wonder about the universe” at least once a week, also up 7 points over the same period.’

http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/

It’s also worthwhile pointing out that we have no idea what the Millenials will do as the get older. After all, it has been an (empty) hope of the left for many decades that when the ‘current’ generation (whatever generation that is at the time) ‘get out of the way’ the ‘younger’ generation will replace them and the younger generation tend to be more liberal, ‘left wing’ and so on. And this faith (sic) is continuously disappointed because, of course, people tend to ‘turn right’ as they get older.

Perhaps the Millenials will stay ‘non-religious’ (NOT anti-religious) or perhaps as they near death they will rediscover the faiths of their forefathers. Perhaps there will be another resurgence of religious faith as there always has been in the past in the US (the Great Awakenings) in the next 30 or 40 years. We just don’t know.

85

Hidari 03.19.17 at 8:08 am

‘Comparing non-religious people now with religious people now, it’s clear who is furthest to the right, and it’s not the atheists.’

Maybe with individual people in the United States, but not with nation states, it seems. As I have pointed out, over the last 40 years almost every Western European country has become more secular and more right wing. OTOH Latin America has moved sharply to the Left (‘the Pink Tide’) and yet these states are far more religious than any ‘Western’ state.

On the other hand again, in Eastern Europe we have seen a (relatively modest but apparent) resurgence of religion and a sharp move to the hard right. So it’s complicated.

In any case, in the United States there seems to have been a small move towards irreligiosity over the last 20 years. If there has been a concurrent move towards the Left, I have missed it.

86

Layman 03.19.17 at 12:18 pm

“Maybe with individual people in the United States, but not with nation states, it seems. As I have pointed out, over the last 40 years almost every Western European country has become more secular and more right wing. OTOH Latin America has moved sharply to the Left (‘the Pink Tide’) and yet these states are far more religious than any ‘Western’ state.”

Your first example (Western European countries) is concerned with change in the level of religiosity while your second example (Latin America) is not. For that reason alone it doesn’t help your case, never mind your apparent assumption that religiosity is the only factor in play in determining motion across the political spectrum. It also seems to me that you’re cherry-picking. Is there any Western European country that is both more right wing and more religious than it was 100 years ago? 200 years ago? Is the US so over those time frames? I doubt it.

87

Layman 03.19.17 at 12:24 pm

“In any case, in the United States there seems to have been a small move towards irreligiosity over the last 20 years. If there has been a concurrent move towards the Left, I have missed it.”

Allow me to google that for you. During the period 1987-2007, Americans became less religious while becoming more supportive of leftist views, e.g. Government should help the needy who can’t help themselves, government should help the needy even if it means more debt, less support for ‘old-fashioned values’, opposition to discrimination against gay people, less support for militarism.

It took me 5 seconds to find this.

http://www.people-press.org/2007/03/22/trends-in-political-values-and-core-attitudes-1987-2007/

88

bianca steele 03.19.17 at 3:10 pm

@81

My theory, which is mine (and draws on heavily Internet-centric evidence), is that Bernie supporters are not so much to the left of mainstream Democrats, as an alternate left to the right. On economic issues, they’re obviously farther left than almost all (though the populism adds a wrinkle. But it often seems they’re rejecting Republicanism, without the Democrats being an option for them, and in part plausibly because Democrats are perceived as atheists.

Similarly, vehement atheists seem to be reacting to conservative Republicans, so maybe it’s not so surprising their economics and politics are right wing. They’re not necessarily representative of people who didn’t have such a strong model to react against.

It’s almost as if left wing meaning against those in power and left wing meaning more help for the poor aren’t the same people, any more than right wing meaning pro free market and right wing meaning socially and politically conservative are the same people.

89

steven t johnson 03.19.17 at 5:29 pm

Any discussion of leftism in the US that uses Democratic party affiliation or votes as signs of leftism strikes me as inherently flawed. West Virginia strongly voted for Sanders in the primary, then voted for Trump, Sanders, Manchin, Capito and Evan Jenkin in the national.

90

nastywoman 03.19.17 at 7:01 pm

@89

‘West Virginia strongly voted for Sanders in the primary, then voted for Trump, Sanders, Manchin, Capito and Evan Jenkin in the national.’

Because anybody who has ‘lost her – or his (economical) religion’ – votes for ‘winning’ it back -(whatever ‘religious’ affiliation)

91

nastywoman 03.19.17 at 8:17 pm

– and ultimately:

‘As both Sanders and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek noted after Sanders lost the primaries, left and right are in some sense outdated ideas. The new division in politics is those who favor the current global hegemony and those who are against it. Like the Hollywood heroes, right and left have been competing to become this new radical anti-status quo party. And so far, in both Europe and America, the right has won, implying that, as Arendt predicted, the powerlessness created by bourgeoisie sys- tems of capitalist exploitation might once again implode into far right totalitarianism.’
(quoted from Dale Berans 4chan article about : ‘Trump’s younger supporters know he’s an incompetent joke; in fact, that’s why they support him.’)

And so the (new) religion Trumps worshipper believe in might be The Religion of Idiocy?

92

Hidari 03.19.17 at 9:24 pm

There’s also this: http://www.economist.com/news/international/21716023-democracies-are-risk-if-young-people-continue-shun-ballot-box-millennials-across

and this:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/18/have-millennials-given-up-on-democracy

Tl; dr: yes Millenials are less affiliated with specific organised religions (NOT less religious as such), and also more ‘liberal’. They are also less likely to identify with specific political parties, and (here’s the killer) less likely to vote. They are also more cynical about the whole political process itself.

So the idea that the current small decline in religiosity (assuming it continues, which it may well not) will necessarily lead to a more ‘left wing’ polity, seems questionable.

93

J-D 03.20.17 at 12:32 am

As both Sanders and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek noted after Sanders lost the primaries, left and right are in some sense outdated ideas.

They’re both wrong. The reason people make this mistake, of thinking the ideas outdated, is that they’ve never properly understood the original concepts.

94

J-D 03.20.17 at 12:39 am

So the idea that the current small decline in religiosity (assuming it continues, which it may well not) will necessarily lead to a more ‘left wing’ polity, seems questionable.

It’s not just questionable, it’s obviously wrong. The way in which a polity develops is influenced by many factors, of which trends in religiosity are only one; it’s always possible that any tendency of a decline in religiosity to favour the left will be outweighed by other developments more favourable to the right. However, the obvious fact that a decline in religiosity will not necessarily move the whole polity to the left (to the extent that this is a meaningful description in the first place, which is itself questionable) is not a reason for doubting that a decline in religiosity is favourable to the left.

95

Layman 03.20.17 at 1:12 am

“Any discussion of leftism in the US that uses Democratic party affiliation or votes as signs of leftism strikes me as inherently flawed. West Virginia strongly voted for Sanders in the primary…”

If anything is flawed, it’s this statement. There are 1.85 million people in West Virginia, of whom 1.25 million are registered to vote, of whom only about 230,000 voted in the 2016 Democratic Primary, of whom only 125,000 voted for Sanders. Strongly?

96

nastywoman 03.20.17 at 2:25 am

@94+95

– as I am supposedly ‘Green’ and a member of ‘the cult of less’ and have not lost my ‘religion’ am I ‘left’?

Just help me guys-

97

J-D 03.20.17 at 5:38 am

nastywoman

Just help me guys-

I wish I could, but the available evidence suggests that what you ask does not lie within the boundaries of what’s possible.

98

nastywoman 03.20.17 at 10:13 am

@97
‘I wish I could, but the available evidence suggests that what you ask does not lie within the boundaries of what’s possible.’

Well – so I might have to turn to the old Immanuel-Dude?

What’s about:
‘I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief.’
Or what’s about:
‘Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual’

Or even better Harry Potter?
‘My parents are left-wing, and I would describe myself as that. But also, you know what? I wouldn’t describe myself as that. Because I don’t have to. Because I’m not a political party. Most people are a little bit of each, and we change our mind on various issues.’
Daniel Radcliffe

99

nastywoman 03.20.17 at 2:52 pm

– and a commenter on Paul Krugman post in the NYT about ‘Trumpism’ today mentioned:

‘Another important influence is the theological school known as Prosperity Gospel, which argues that Jesus wants you to get rich, wealth is a holy mission from God.’

As simplistic that might be – it seems to be even more precise than the definition from the Urban Dictionary?

100

Ronan(rf) 03.20.17 at 4:49 pm

This article is, IMO, unconvincing for a number of reasons (the premise is just assumed and he probably gets causation backwards) but it’s relevant here, as it’s arguing the opposite to JQ

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/04/breaking-faith/517785/

101

John Quiggin 03.21.17 at 1:55 am

Ronan @100 I agree the article is deeply confused. However, it contains one piece of evidence relevant to debates upthread

“While white Democrats who went to religious services at least once a week backed Clinton by 26 points, according to an April 2016 PRRI survey, white Democrats who rarely attended services backed Sanders by 13 points.”

102

J-D 03.21.17 at 2:35 am

Ronan(rf)
Fred Clark, blogging as the Slacktivist, offers an interesting perspective on the article you cite (he comes from an evangelical Christian background himself, but he’s emphatically not the Trump-voting variety of evangelical):

“Establishing causation is difficult,” but it’s made far more difficult when we’re not skeptical of the spin from social scientists … determined to find evidence to support their theory that church-attendance makes good Americans healthy, wealthy, and wise, …
… The very same survey data they’ve collected might simply demonstrate … that our churches are really, really bad at welcoming people who are divorced, addicted, or suffering from financial distress. We know, as a matter of incontrovertible fact, that divorced people are explicitly told — as a matter of policy — that they are unwelcome in many churches. And it doesn’t strain our imagination to wonder whether the addicted or those facing financial distress are similarly being turned away …

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2017/03/15/causes-and-effects/

103

William Berry 03.21.17 at 5:19 am

@JD (v. nasty woman):

Correct me if I am wrong, but I think you have only been commenting here for a year or less, so you might not know about the (somewhat regrettable) history of male (if you, J-D, are not male, feel free to embarrass the shit out of me) v. female commenters here. Maybe you should review the record (think of Marthe Raymond, Val, ZM, et al) and reconsider your attitude toward the comments of “nastywoman”.

You have been teeing off on nastywoman over quite a number of threads, now. Just stop, OK.

Just a friendly suggestion, really.

“nastywoman” has an impressionistic commenting style. I am reminded of the free verse style of the erstwhile commenter “roy belmont”, who was a racist, misogynistic, reactionary POS, but found a number of defenders here (he was a poet!) when he was banned.

What’s up with that?

Think about it.

104

rwschnetler 03.21.17 at 6:01 am

J-D @ 93:

They’re both wrong. The reason people make this mistake, of thinking the ideas outdated, is that they’ve never properly understood the original concepts.

What are the original concepts?

105

Lee A. Arnold 03.21.17 at 11:39 am

I live in the boondocks, in an angry sea of Protestant church-going Trump voters. (It is now tiding into a sea of demoralization.) They learn the intellectual falsehoods partly from propaganda like Fox News, partly from faulty inferences in their own noggins. But the strong emotional component is from personal contact and commiseration. So I wonder if the religious identification is due partly to the mechanical requirement of a “social bonding arena” for the spread of any tribal cognitive bias, a.k.a. motivated social cognition. (I put that in quotation marks, because I do not know what it is called in social science. “Institution” isn’t quite right.)

106

J-D 03.21.17 at 9:02 pm

William Berry

Just a friendly suggestion, really.

No, it really isn’t.

107

John Quiggin 03.22.17 at 12:06 am

J-D @106 Let me add my weight to this suggestion. You make useful contributions to discussion. But both here and at my blog, you are unnecessarily combative. Please tone it down.

108

J-D 03.22.17 at 12:33 am

rwschnetler

The original political sense of ‘left’ was ‘the political grouping/party/faction/force supporting action to reduce systemic inequality’ and the original political sense of ‘right’ was ‘the political grouping/party/faction/force opposed to the [political] left’.

The political use of the terms derives from their use in the context of France’s first National Assembly and from the seating pattern there, deriving in turn from the seating pattern in the Estates-General. In that context ‘left’ could be interpreted more specifically as meaning ‘the political grouping/party/faction/force opposed to the ancien régime‘; obviously in that restricted sense the concept of ‘left’ (and also therefore the concept of ‘right’) lost all contemporary applicability with the disappearance of the ancien régime, before any of us were born. Any political applicability of the concepts of ‘left’ and ‘right’ since that point depends on the validity of the generalising move which treats the ancien régime privileges of the monarchy, clergy, and nobility as particular instances of the more general concept of systemic inequality, which produces the definitions I gave above.

109

JimV 03.22.17 at 1:40 am

Lee Arnold: “… I wonder if the religious identification is due partly to the mechanical requirement of a “social bonding arena” for the spread of any tribal cognitive bias … “

I try not to be a cheerleader, but I thought that was a good, interesting thought. (Particularly when it is spread from the pulpit.)

More specific reasons include the white evangelist dislike of legal abortion, removal of official school prayers, evolution teaching, and anti-discrimination-against-those-whom they-would-like-to-discriminate-against-laws, which they associate with liberal Democrats.

Today was the village government voting day, here in another white suburb (not sure if it is more protestant or catholic, though). There was a single Democrat on the ballot, for an alternate trustee position. For mayor and all the other trustees there were only Republican candidates.

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J-D 03.22.17 at 5:56 am

More specific reasons include the white evangelist dislike of legal abortion, removal of official school prayers, evolution teaching, and anti-discrimination-against-those-whom they-would-like-to-discriminate-against-laws, which they associate with liberal Democrats.

It is not the case that white evangelicals have adopted a political alignment because of their anti-abortion stance; rather, they have adopted the anti-abortion stance because of the political alignment. Thirty or forty years ago, white evangelicals rejected as unbiblical the Catholic view that life begins at conception. Because they now hold that an inerrant Bible teaches that life begins at conception, they are obliged also to hold that it has always taught this and that they have always held so; records of the contrary facts must be consigned to the memory hole. Oceania is at war with Eastasia; Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

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Hidari 03.22.17 at 7:05 am

@108
Interesting article in the Atlantic, following up on that.

‘(Justice Louis) Brandeis did for many New Dealers (things such as) drafting legislation and essentially formalizing the populist social sentiment of the late 19th century into a rigorous set of legally actionable ideas. This philosophy then guided the 20th-century Democratic Party. Brandeis’s basic contention, built up over a lifetime of lawyering from the Gilded Age onward, was that big business and democracy were rivals. “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few,” he said, “but we can’t have both.” Economics, identity, and politics could not be divorced, because financial power—bankers and monopolists—threatened local communities and self-government.’

The idea that big business, concentrated wealth, corporate power, whatever you want to call it, and democracy are antithetical is of course completely accurate, and it is this key insight that what Matt Stoller calls in that article ‘Bank Friendly Democrats’ have forgotten. There are huge differences between the methods of, say, the Democrats of FDR, and, say, the Labour Govt. of ’45. The Americans, for socio-cultural reasons, have always tended to break up monopolies, while in Europe they were simply taken over by a (democratic) state (nationalised). But the key insight: that you can have a world dominated by corporate monopolies (in our world, Facebook, Google, Apple) or you can have democracy, but you can’t have both, this insight has been lost. Hence the terrible situation we currently find ourselves in. This world, our world, where we have the formal trappings of democracy but little (or none) of the substance, is the background for Brexit and Trump.

The whole thing is worth reading, although Stoller is too kind to the post-1970 Democrats who collaborated with the Republicans in gutting the New Deal, even playing the old ‘this isn’t a right wing vs. left wing’ card at the end (as though the modern Republican party is in favour of democracy!!).

In any case, Zizek is wrong. Left wing and right wing are differentiated purely and simply by their attitude to financial power. If you are against concentrated wealth, unrestricted corporate power, financial power, you are left wing. If you’re not, you’re not.

Of course what follows from this is that many or most in the ironically named ‘Democratic’ Party are not left wing, but we knew that anyway.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/how-democrats-killed-their-populist-soul/504710/

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J-D 03.22.17 at 10:58 am

Left wing and right wing are differentiated purely and simply by their attitude to financial power. If you are against concentrated wealth, unrestricted corporate power, financial power, you are left wing.

Maybe that’s true within some particular limited contexts, but it’s not an accurate expression of the original or the most general sense of the concepts, which originated in a different context as I’ve already described.

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Layman 03.22.17 at 12:06 pm

Hidari: “Of course what follows from this is that many or most in the ironically named ‘Democratic’ Party are not left wing, but we knew that anyway.”

Call me silly, but I think the way you determine if members of the Democratic Party are on the left or not is to examine their views on a variety of topics.

For example, on wealth concentration and inequality and poverty:

– >88% of registered Democrats think government should do a lot more about it
– >70% favor increased taxes on the wealthy and corporations
– >63% think government aid to the poor is necessary

http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/01/29/inequality-poverty-divide-republicans-more-than-democrats/

(I get that you have an axe to grind, Hidari, but facts are stubborn things.)

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JimV 03.22.17 at 2:56 pm

J-D, that may be true, but it doesn’t match my anecdotal memories of those days. We (the white evangelicals I grew up with) were not against birth-control, as the Catholics were, but were outraged at the idea of aborting a viable fetus. I think the notion was, God may have wanted that fetus to be born, and going against God’s will is a sin.

One of my nephews, at the end of his interview for Medical School (about 30 years ago), when asked if there was anything not covered in the questions which he wanted to discuss, took the opportunity to say that he believed that abortion was wrong and that he would never do an abortion or work with abortionists – knowing that this might jeopardize his chances for acceptance. If there was a theological 180 for the sake of partisan politics it has become completely internalized – there is no double-think in those whom I know in the following generations.

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J-D 03.23.17 at 5:26 am

JimV
I didn’t grow up as a white evangelical, or as any sort of Christian, or, come to that, as any sort of American, and I don’t want to be taken as challenging your recollection of your own experience. I am relying for my information on one source, but that source is somebody who grew up as a white evangelical in the USA (and as far as I can tell still considers himself to be one), and he does appear to have substantial documentation:
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/02/18/the-biblical-view-thats-younger-than-the-happy-meal/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/10/29/revisionist-memory-white-evangelicals-have-always-been-at-war-with-abortion/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2012/10/30/hey-remember-when-evangelicals-were-pro-choice-because-of-the-bible-what-a-difference-30-years-makes/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2014/03/18/white-evangelicals-getting-ready-to-rewrite-the-bible-again/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2016/03/11/this-is-what-abortion-politics-is-for/

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Charles Peterson 03.24.17 at 5:06 am

Self-appointed Atheist spokespeople such as Sam Harris can more freely engage in anti-theist rhetoric (and therefore sell more books) precisely if they don’t need to care about working with them in electoral coalitions like the Democratic Party.

If you live in the USA and hope to keep things from getting disastrously worse in the short term with regards to inequality, bigotry, or worse, you pretty much need to be involved with the Democratic Party, despite it having always been a (now somewhat lesser) part of the ruling plutocracy.

And that describes fairly well my friends here in the red state of Texas, almost all of whom could be described as Atheists, Leftists, Liberals, and Democrats. We’re people who marched with the local Occupy, and yet still voted for Hillary Clinton in the general election (after having vigorously supported Sanders until after the Convention). The Democratic Party is the only big tent that most of us could find remotely tolerable, and 3rd party politics is one step above or below worthless in the modified Madisonian system (there’s a very long shot one of the two parties could be replaced…but it’s a very long shot, and “disciplining” the party has been very difficult under the circumstances of the past 37 years, and not looking like it’s getting better).

I’ve grown more and more suspicious of people who can only demonize Atheists, Liberals, and Democrats, though many of my friends frequently do demonize liberals and Democrats (but not always). We all need to work together (not that we need to be fully “united”).

I’ve listened briefly to some of the speeches of Madalyn Murray O’Hair, and at first pass she sounds more like a New Dealer than a Libertarian. She had notable concerns about the environment and voted for Democrats. Her organization was called American Atheists (fwiw) though I’m not sure of that organizations left/right orientation on economic policy and the like now.

But most activists attempt to draw as many as possible into the fold based on the area(s) of their greatest concerns, without trying to filter them out based on other issues.

For me, the economic policy issues have always been at the top (by which I mean better jobs and less inequality), however I’m beginning to think some kind of greater rationalism would be useful also. In the past, I hadn’t really cared about people’s other beliefs. But taking this broader view looks even more hopeless.

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Charles Peterson 03.24.17 at 6:53 am

Atheism or at least anti-clericalism has been the general tendency of the left since the French Revolution. Marx was Atheist and declared Socialism and Communism must be. And so it seems that in most times and places far more leftists were and are Atheist than otherwise. Why should it be different in America?

Now at the same time, Ayn Rand was an atheist, and there has been an Atheist streak in the American Objectivist and Libertarian camps from the beginning. And there has been an Atheist streak among other groups for self-selection reasons, people who believe in Civil Rights for example.

So if you are going to generalize about American Atheists and say they are almost entirely Libertarian, you are also saying something about the relative sizes of these communities.

But why should you be making such generalizations about American Atheists? It would seem to go along with being critical of American Atheists, for one thing, and unfairly so, because there are obviously American Atheists of many stripes.

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Charles Peterson 03.24.17 at 7:16 am

Humanism (not Rationalism) is what’s needed in facing down a fascist impulse.

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JimV 03.24.17 at 12:26 pm

J-D, thanks for the reply, and I see where you got your impressions on this issue.

My own quick citation search found “American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelism”. From Google Books:

https://books.google.com/books?id=Z3SvBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA145&lpg=PA145&dq=Billy+Sunday+on+abortion&source=bl&ots=PS_MxSJuxz&sig=sk-QRUIFACu23CHoXeZOb46pG8E&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjjx9SiiO_SAhWDPiYKHZ5BBOIQ6AEIPjAF#v=onepage&q=Billy%20Sunday%20on%20abortion&f=true

“Since most fundamentalists opposed contraception, they also opposed abortion. Not many discussed publicly the topic in the first half of the 20th century, but those who did equated the practice with murder. Billy Sunday …declared “the murder of unborn babies the curse and damnation of America”. … [other well-known evangelists with similar views cited] …

For a few fundamentalists, however, the issues of birth control and abortion seemed more complicated …”

I did not realize there was fundamentalist opposition to birth control, having mistakenly claimed the opposite in my previous comment. I don’t recall receiving any religious instructions of any kind on the sex act, except not to do it outside of a marriage, but I knew fundamentalist married women who used the pill.

My overall impression is that, as said in the source above, most fundamentalist leaders disapproved of abortion, but a few were willing to consider exceptions such as taking the life of the mother into account.

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Kiwanda 03.24.17 at 3:29 pm

JimV: See also Randall Balmer’s article on the origins of the religious right, or Jonathan Dudley’s. Re the OP, I also came across Roger Friedland ‘s article about Trump’s anti-abortion anti-Islam anti-Hillary Big Tough Daddy appeal to evangelicals.

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