Surprisingly, the Democratic Party just broke one of the great taboos of American politics and admitted the United States is a “post-Christian” nation.
“WHEREAS, nonreligious Americans made up 17% of the electorate in 2018 and have the potential to deliver millions more votes for Democrats in 2020 with targeted outreach to further increase turnout of nonreligious voters; and”
“WHEREAS, a record number of openly nonreligious candidates are running for public office.”
It appears the DNC’s members have seen the Pew Religious Landscape Study results that show we can describe up to 45.7% of Americans as “non-religious” or “actively secular.” To clarify, Pew estimates up to 22.8% of Americans identify themselves as “religiously unaffiliated” and 15.8% call their faith “nothing in particular.”
In addition, 4% of Americans identify as agnostic and 3.1% as atheist. Add those four numbers together; and you get 45.7% or nearly half of Americans, and presumably close to half of voters.
The Democrats are now a Post Christian Political Party
Importantly, the DNC Resolution acknowledges:
“WHEREAS, the religiously unaffiliated demographic has tripled in the last two decades, now representing 25% of the overall American population and 35% of those under the age of 30; and”
“WHEREAS, religiously unaffiliated Americans overwhelmingly share the Democratic Party’s values, with 70% voting for Democrats in 2018, 80% supporting same-sex marriage, and 61% saying immigrants make American society stronger; and”
“WHEREAS, the religiously unaffiliated demographic represents the largest religious group within the Democratic Party, growing from 19% in 2007 to one in three today; and”
“WHEREAS, the nonreligious have often been subjected to unfair bias and exclusion in American society, particularly in the areas of politics and policymaking where assumptions of religiosity have long predominated.”
The Democrats are Officially Secular
In addition, the resolution makes a blatant attack on the Religious Right with this statement:
“WHEREAS, those most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by their particular religious views have used those religious views, with misplaced claims of “religious liberty,” to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community, women, and ethnic and religious/nonreligious minorities; and”
“WHEREAS, the Democratic Party is an inclusive organization that recognizes that morals, values, and patriotism are not unique to any particular religion, and are not necessarily reliant on having a religious worldview at all; and”
Finally, the DNC resolves:
1. “The value, ethical soundness, and importance of the religiously unaffiliated demographic, a group of Americans who contribute in innumerable ways to the arts, sciences, medicine, business, law, the military, their communities, the success of the Party and prosperity of the Nation; and”
2. “That religiously unaffiliated Americans are a group that, as much as any other, advocates for rational public policy based on sound science and universal humanistic values and should be represented, included, and heard by the Party.”
Therefore, the Democrats have become the first major political party in American history to rebrand themselves an officially secular organization. This is a paradigm shift for a party, whose former leader; President Bill Clinton (D-Arkansas), openly paraded into the Baptist Church with a Bible in his hands just 20 years ago.
Are American Liberals No Longer Christian?
Predictably, the only major media organization that noticed this paradigm shift is Fox News.
However FiveThirtyEight’s Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux and Daniel Cox make a good case that the resolution shows American progressives are no longer Christian. They note that the 2018 General Social Survey estimates around 38% of liberals are nonreligious. Note that estimate is lower than the Pew Data that indicates 45.7% of Americans are nonreligious.
However, there is evidence liberals are more openly secular. For example, Pew estimates that 64% of liberals admitted they are “unsure” God exists. That number is up from 47% of liberals who were “unsure” about God in 1991.
Hence, the DNC is only giving the Democratic base what it wants. The DNC is taking a risk because it risks offending groups the Democrats need; including many African Americans, and some Hispanics.
On the other hand, President Donald J. Trump’s (R-New York) well-publicized racism could drive those voters away from the Republicans. In addition, the number of nonreligious is also rising; Thomson-DeVeaux and Cox estimate that around 22% of moderates identified as nonreligious in 2018. Conversely, only around 11% of conservatives identified as nonreligious in 2018, down from around 14% in 2016.
Thus, the DNC could write off the religious vote as something its members think Democrats will never get. Instead, the Democrats will wisely concentrate their efforts on those most likely to vote for them. Note: that strategy worked well for Trump and Republicans in 2016, and Democrats in 2018.
A Paradigm Shift in American Politics and Culture
I think the DNC’s resolution represents a paradigm shift in American politics and culture.
Importantly, the Democrats acknowledge that many Americans are secular and want a secular society. That sets for the stage for new political conflicts particularly with frightened Evangelicals who fear persecution by secularists.
Only time will tell if the DNC’s action gets votes. However, it is a watershed moment in American politics and a trend we need to watch.
In particular, this trend puts Republicans in a difficult position. Republicans need the votes of believers, but they will increasingly need the nonreligious to win elections.
The Grand Old Party (GOP) has avoided that conflict, so far, by running candidates that appeal to both secular and religious voters; i.e. Trump. However, I think open conflict between secular and Christian Republicans is only a matter of time.
Will Christians Withdraw from America?
Finally, the DNC’s resolution will increase discussion about proposals; like pundit Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, among Christians. To explain, Dreher believes Christians will soon need to withdraw from mainstream culture and build alternate institutions to preserve their faith.
So yes, America is becoming a Post-Christian nation and Post Christianity is becoming an issue in American politics. Only time will tell what implications Post Christianity holds for our politics.