None of the Above: Younger Generation Put Off By Organized Religion, Conservative Political Parties

Do your children go to church?

If you are under 30, do you go to church?

Do you think it is likely that most everyone who attends your church will vote for the same candidate for president?

Is there anyone who attends your church that holds radically different political views from you?

There are a lot of interesting nuggets in a comprehensive survey of American religious views in the annual Pew Research Study on the topic. The survey, using land lines and cell phones, discovered that, for the first time, the number of people identifying themselves as Protestants dropped below 50 percent (to 48 percent).

But I suppose the headline from the survey is the huge number of people who describe themselves as having no religious affiliation at all. One in five Americans say they have no religious affiliation, but among people under 30 it's one in three.

It is well established that evangelicals tend to vote Republican. The Pew survey reveals that of the non-affiliated, 60 percent of them vote Democratic. About the same number of the unaffiliated voted for Barack Obama as evangelicals did for John McCain.

It has often been said that the most segregated place in America is Sunday morning church services. It appears that churches have also become like cable news channels, magazines, and websites—a place where you only come in contact with people who think the way you do. Not just on doctrine, but also political views.

I have been appalled by the statements and attitudes of some state legislators, in Tennessee and elsewhere, when discussing minorities and women. I understand that you have religious or political differences with various groups, but the lack of civility and the insensitive language is sometimes shocking. I'm not just talking about "legitimate rape" or accusing Gov. Bill Haslam of embracing Sharia law because he hired a Muslim.

I think it's because many of these legislators live in a bubble. They think they don't know any gay people. They know they don't know any Hispanics or blacks. Their fundamentalist religion tells them that women are not allowed to speak in church, much less preach. The husband is the head of the household, because St. Paul said so.

Their worldview, reinforced by their segregated neighborhood, their tailored news sources and, yes, their politically cohesive church congregation, allows them to rail against "the other." Diversity is a dirty word, a liberal plot.

The Pew survey concludes that it is these sorts of attitudes that turn young people off when it comes to organized religion and conservative politics. Young people are much more liberal on social issues than their parents and grandparents.

I am not suggesting that churches modify their moral values to please the crowd. You are free to believe what you like. But I'm suggesting that there are a lot of issues that have more to do with politics than Christianity. (Immigration, global warming, taxation.) Attempts to make church doctrine into legislation crosses the line.

The demographics of our country are changing, as are attitudes. As has often been discussed, minority populations are growing. Hispanics will soon be the largest minority group in America.

The country is becoming more secular and, correspondingly, less religious.

Neanderthal legislators do not speak for the majority of conservatives, and certainly not the Republican Party. But outrageousness gets press coverage; the wingnuts have become the face of the Republican Party in the eyes of the next generation.

Churches and the Republican Party will have to realize that diversity is not a dirty word or a liberal plot. It is the future. Or they can continue to dwindle in numbers and gradually become irrelevant.