When you mix religion and politics you risk losing the integrity of both. That’s been my view for a very long time. I was raised Baptist, a conservative religion, certainly, but one that believed in and was dedicated to the separation of church and state. The pastor of my church refused to utter a single word about politics from the pulpit – not only because he personally believed that if you mix church and state, bad things happen, but because it is the law, and the law is and was always meant to be respected and obeyed.
What a difference between the church of today and the church of my younger days! And what a difference between the state of today and that of just a decade ago. The extreme religious right has created a disaster for both the church and the state, and it’s gotten steadily worse since the Tea Party rose to infamy in the U.S. Our political leaders now preach corrupted versions of Christian doctrine from their seats in Congress. Various state capitals across the country have become religious tribunals, where Tea Partiers and conservatives create religious laws and force them down the throats of angry citizens who do not share the same views as their elected ‘religious and medical advisors.’ We see more and more people on the streets in protest of government and fewer and fewer people in the pews of the church. This was the reason we needed to keep church and state separate; when we allowed them to intertwine, we allowed both to be tainted by corrupt leaders of state and by corrupt leaders of religion.
So what have we learned? A lot it seems. A new study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that by injecting itself into the political sphere, Conservative Christians most likely put themselves out of business. By allowing the likes of Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and Michele Bachmann to become the voice of political and religious views in the ‘congregation’ which we used to call a government, Americans became entirely turned off by right-wing political and religious viewpoints. The study shows that the younger generations are rejecting the religious right by a rate of about 83 percent, and what may be even more surprising is that now only 47 percent of 66-to-88-year-olds still consider themselves religiously conservative.
On the other hand, the number of religious progressives, or those who consider themselves the Christian Left, is steadily increasing, as more and more people reject the rigid philosophies of the American right-wing. To have Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, or Paul Ryan stand at the pulpit of our government and tell us they know more than our Founders, who solely believed in the separation of church and state for this very reason, is offensive, to say the least.
But government zealots have proven one thing: religion and politics do not mix. It’s bad for government and it’s even worse for religion. Thanks to the likes of right-wing extremists who have managed to work their way into the spotlight, a majority of Americans are moving away from religion altogether. They now associate Christianity with extremist viewpoints, hatred of government, oppression of women and minorities, judgmental statements about the poor, hatred of gays, rejection of science, opposition to education, and the list goes on and on.
On the bright side, the study suggests that religious conservatives are a dying breed, while the percentage of the population that consider themselves part of the religious left is growing with each generation. Currently, religious conservatives only make up 28 percent of the population, while the percentage of those on the religious left has increased to 19. The study predicts the number of religious progressives will overtake the number of religious conservatives, if observed trends continue.
Taking all of this into account, however, it is apparent that the greater majority of U.S. citizens associate with no religion at all. For the religious minority to enforce extreme doctrine on a country in which the majority of the population does not identify as religious, will certainly result in serious political repercussions in future elections, particularly as fewer and fewer people feel even the slightest desire to attend their Sunday services.