Tuesday, November 11, 2008

An Underreported Obama Demographic: Atheists

With all the Democrat interest in voter demographics derived from exit polls, it was more than interesting that Red County reported today that atheists, or "non-religious Americans" (to be politically correct), "came out in large numbers for Barack Obama on Election Day."

Red County's source for this data was Dr. Paul Kengor, Professor of Political Science and Executive Director of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College, Pennsylvania. Kengor estimated that "up to 11 million" atheists voted for Obama:
CNN exit polls found that 76 percent of those who answered “none” when asked about religious affiliation cast ballots for Obama. They comprised 12 percent of voters. That equates to an Obama grab of at least 11 million (generally) non-religious voters—a number notably larger than Obama’s overall popular-vote victory of roughly eight million. That’s a huge advantage for the Democratic nominee, one that gets more powerful every four years.

Let's be clear: one of the great strengths of the United States is freedom of religion. This includes the freedom to reject religion. When Americans respect each other's right to choose a faith or to be thoroughly secular, this fundamental right lives on. Also, like Kengor, "I'm not saying that if you voted for Barack Obama, you're an atheist." Obama captured a majority of the Catholic vote, more than three-fourths of the Jewish vote and even 45% of the Protestant vote.

What bakes my noodle is the continual brouhaha about evangelicals who vote Republican, on which topic Red County quoted Kengor:
It is quite telling that liberal journalists are constantly wringing their hands over the evangelical vote, but could care less about the rise of an atheist vote. Whereas evangelicals scare them to death -- and are highlighted as a dangerous force -- atheists are of no concern whatsoever.
We continue to hear about the Bush "theocracy" even as President Bush graciously fast-tracks a seamless transition to the Obama Administration. This is a demonstration of another great American strength -- stable transitions of power that prevent potential enemies from trying to take advantage of the situation. Compare, for example, Zimbabwe.

Kengor also pointed out that the level of commitment to a faith (which he could measure quantitatively only by frequency of church attendance, a metric which measures only physical, not mental or spiritual, presence at services) correlated with choice of Presidential candidate:

The contrast is clear when broken down among church attendance. Those who attend church services 'once a week' voted for McCain by 55 to 43 percent, while those who attend 'a few times a year' went for Obama 59 to 39 percent, and those who 'never' go to church voted Obama 67 to 30 percent.

The numbers are consistent among denominations: John McCain actually won Catholics who attend Mass weekly (50 to 49 percent), but was trounced by Catholics who don't attend weekly (58 to 40 percent). McCain's largest margin was white evangelical/born-again Christians, which he swept 74 to 24 percent. Yet, even then, that margin was not as wide as those with no religious affiliation who went for Obama.

What's most significant is that this is nothing new. It is a recent trend gravitating to an increasingly secular Democratic Party.

Equally significant, however, was Kengor's point that the margin of "no religious affiliation" voters for Obama was much larger than that of any group of voters of a particular religion. Non-and weakly-religious voters wielded a larger influence than voters who strongly identified with a particular faith.

"Change" and "Hope", therefore, resonated more with secular Americans. Here's how I make sense of it. The non-religious, who deny the spiritual, therefore look to the human race as the be-all and end-all. Some, like Ayn Rand, went further by elevating the human to the divine. This leads to the belief than humans can solve all the problems of the secular world. Entire systems have been built on this materialistic Weltanschauung. Indeed, some of the founders of the United States, such as Jefferson and Franklin, tended towards such a viewpoint, although they were Deists rather than atheists. Communism and Fascism were built on atheism; the former clearly replaces the spiritual with the materialistic.

So now the United States has elected Barack Obama, whom many view as a secular savior, as President. What kind of influence will the secular materialist wing of his constituency have? Will the mainstream media start keening about an Obama "atheocracy" if he heeds their calls for a more secular American society? I doubt it, somehow.

In Response To: More On Exit Polls and Realignment


IntolerantFaith said...

Interesting post.
The faith-based initiatives Obama supports are a step in the wrong direction for us all. Churches don't offer any advantages over the secular organizations/food banks that can accomplish the same tasks without the stigma of religious institutions. When we subsidize one part of a religious organization's budget, it ends up supporting the organization as a whole. I think our money can be better spent through more accountable organizations that aren't exclusionary.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment and for starting a discussion about faith-based vs. secular private-sector efforts to help Americans. Personally, I would support either one over government-run programs.

Russet Shadows said...

This raises a good point. Far too many atheists are Utopianists -- which is to say that are in fact, positivists -- worshipers of man and his strength. Obama appeals to them.

People who know what Christianity is are NOT going to fall for Obama's mangled black liberation theology, as though Christ was walking the shores of Gallilee rounding on white greed.

dezoars said...

The reason evangelicals is scary is because many of them feel their beliefs should become law.

The creation of a theocracy was not the intention of the Founders, and is not a desire shared by a majority of Americans.

While some outspoken atheists are derisive about religion, none of them is advocating its abolition.

Most atheists couldn't care less what Evangelicals believe, as long as they don't try to codify their beliefs through legislation.

Mundy said...

Be careful, there are secularists who think abortion and gay marriage should be illegal.