Battle for the Minds
The Religious Politic and the New Atheists
During the first decade of the 21st century, a battle between the Religious Right and the New Atheists emerged. Both were gaining strength from charismatic leaders, able to articulate their beliefs and accumulate followers. Energized by George W. Bush’s faith-favored presidency, the Religious Right, the most politically active of organized religions, attempted to direct local and national legislation to its social conservative agenda. With most voters crowded towards the center of the political spectrum, the Religious Right maintained control of a solid bloc of "swing" votes by which its minority hoped to control the majority.
The organizing efforts of religious extremes, which indoctrinated adherents to political beliefs and provided dubious information to advance causes, provoked a New Atheism. The New Atheists regarded organized religion as a threat to world peace and to the health and welfare of planet Earth. If issues were resolved by religious rather than by rational concepts, the nation would be hostage to Dominionism, an interpretation of a Genesis doctrine that leads Fundamentalists to believe they are commanded to dominate the political process. To the New Atheists, all organized religions, and especially the Religious Right, were leading America into an abyss. They boldly proclaimed, “It is time for atheists to come out of the closet and combat religious tyranny and its destructiveness.”
The New Atheists had only spokespersons. The Religious Right had leaders, finances, and organizations. How effective could spokespersons be against well-equipped organizations? Not very effective, but the New Atheists were saved from displaying their deficiencies. Replacement of the Bush administration with the Obama administration diminished the political activity of The Religious Right; the New Atheists became an intellectual exercise, the fate of all atheist movements in the United States.
In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump recognized he could not be elected without support from the Evangelical Protestants and his catering to the heirs of the Moral Majority enabled him to win the election. Trump’s victory re-energized the Religious Right, made it more nationalist, and invited elements that were prone to violence. (Note: The term Religious Right is used here to characterize the summation of all devoted who entertain a far-right political philosophy.) The Trump and Religious Right arrangement is responsible for a polarized America, for reversing decades of social advancements, for debasing democracy, for allowing scriptures to make decisions on education, and for skewing America in a cloudy direction. America faces a trend to theocratic shading and to the end of separation of church and state. To some extent, this has already happened, with the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), in alliance with Christian Zionists, pushing U.S. foreign policy into favoring the wants of Zionist Jews.
The Religious Political Alignment
The following table shows the distribution of Faiths. Evangelicals, the denomination that is most led by scripture, represent the highest percentage of church-going Americans.
The next figure shows the voting patterns for each religious denomination.
White evangelicals, the largest religious denomination, voted as a solid bloc and for Donald Trump. Black Protestants favored Biden as the most solid bloc, but their bloc was 25% percent of the size of the Evangelical bloc. A large portion of the unaffiliated, almost equal in size to the Evangelicals, voted for Biden, which places the extremes of religious persuasion close to the extremes of political persuasion. One major difference ─ the Evangelicals have complementary organizations and tens of millions of obedient followers; the non-affiliated have disparate organizations and each person follows his/her own beliefs.
The voting pattern does not tell the whole story. Nearly 88 percent of members of Congress identify as Christian, compared with only 63 percent of U.S. adults overall. The Republican congressional delegation is 99 percent Christian. Jewish members also make up a larger share of Congress than they do of the population (6% vs. 2%). Unlike Evangelical politicos, Jewish members of Congress do not decide on social and domestic issues in accordance with interpretations from the Old Testament, and, similar to Evangelicals, almost all use their Jewish roots to shape a foreign policy that favors Israel.
The Evangelicals are not unique in adjusting their social and political beliefs to scripture teaching; a portion of the Mormon, Catholic, and Protestant denominations is similarly guided and together they constitute the Religious Right.
The religious conservative organizations persuade multitudes to favor their direction on vital issues. A tax-free status increases contributions and adds to finances for political activities.
The Vital Issues
Extreme religious leaders proclaim the need for Dominionism to avoid a loss of choices. From conception to death, a soulless government denies them choices. They are pushed to fight for stability, for freedom, for their social conservatism, and for the issues that define their existence
· Abortion is a never-ending issue that unites many religious groups. These groups promote local laws to inhibit abortion. They have managed to get Supreme Court judges to reverse the Roe vs. Wade decision.
· Religious extremists require the inclusion of teaching creationism along with evolution.
· Foreign policy initiatives of the Religious Right are driven by ultra-patriotism and U.S. exceptionalism, by the causal potency of God in selecting America for an exceptional position that the rest of the world must admire, emulate, and not contradict. The Middle East Conflict has excited the Christian Fundamentalists as if it were a God driven plan to fulfill biblical prophecies. Their support for Israel exceeds Jewish support for Israel and their voting potential deters the U.S. Congress from an honest debate on the issue.
· Stem cell research violates most religious beliefs in conception. Religious groups argue for laws preventing the use of fetuses for stem cell research.
· Islam infuriates Christian Fundamentalists. An obsessive hatred for Islam drives Christian Fundamentalists to attitudes that portend a clash of civilizations
· LGBT Rights is another initiative that arouses the full fury of the conservative religions. Their interpretations of scriptures guide an agenda that essentially views LBGT rights as a disturbance to social order.
The New Religious Right
Previously prominent leaders of the Religious Right — Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, Pat Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network, and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed Jr. have disappeared from the political scene. Another breed of less effective but active leaders has replaced these powerful spokespersons.
Jerry Falwell Jr. could not successfully follow his father’s achievements. Mutual charges of corruption, sexual misconduct, and questionable financial dealings between Falwell Jr, and Liberty University officials have debilitated the Moral Majority.
After James C. Dobson, once considered the most influential of Religious Right leaders, left his Focus on the Family (FOF), the organization continued to do what it implies; focus on self-defined family values but severely reduced its attention to political activities. Have a question on relationships, marriage, entertainment, parenting, social issues, life challenges, or faith ─ FOF has an answer, a biblical answer. People for the American Way describes FOF as:
...anti-choice, anti-gay, and against sex education curricula that are not strictly abstinence-only. Local schoolbook censors frequently use Focus on the Family's material when challenging a book or curriculum in the public schools. FOF also focuses on religion in public schools, encouraging Christian teachers to establish prayer groups in schools.
Family Research Council and its leader, Tony Perkins, are the most prominent in the Religious Right.
The peripatetic Dr. James Dobson also founded the Family Research Council (FRC) as a lobbying group for his Focus on Family. Tony Perkins, a two-term Louisiana state representative and a candidate for the United States Senate in 2002, became its supervisor in 2003, and greatly increased FRC lobbying activities and its promotion of socially conservative views. FRC's website defines its organization as:
Championing marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society. FRC shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. Believing that God is the author of life, liberty, and the family, FRC promotes the Judeo-Christian worldview as the basis for a just, free, and stable society.
The Family Research Council claims 455,000 members and has two publications and several newsletters. Washington Watch Weekly is a 30-minute radio talk show that features Tony Perkins. As a 501(c) research and education organization, FRC is prohibited from endorsing any candidate for public office. Its legislative action arm, FRC Action, “produces voter guides for the presidential race as well as other select legislative races.”
FRC’s sponsorship of the Pray Vote Stand Summit to Champion Faith and Freedom Values, held on September 15-17 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., which also celebrated FRC’s 40th anniversary, demonstrated its political influence. Summit speakers included presidential candidates Donald J. Trump, Mike Pence, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, and Vivek Ramaswamy. Other notable speakers include Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears, Dr. Ben Carson, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), Os Guinness, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Riley Gaines, and many more.
Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Rev. John C. Hagee
Founded by Texas evangelist Rev. John C. Hagee, pastor of the 22,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, CUFI provides “a national association through which every pro-Israel church, para-church organization, ministry or individual in America can speak and act with one voice in support of Israel in matters related to Biblical issues.” CUFI claims a staggering 10 million members, almost as many Jews who support Israel, and when Israel faces a crisis, they “immediately take action and rally support across America, be it in the pulpits across the country, media outlets, our nation’s college campuses, or Capitol Hill.”
The Rev. John C. Hagee, who loves apartheid Israel, has made several remarks that are offensive to Jews. Bruce Wilson, a Dec 6, 2017 Contributor to the Huff Post, exposed Hagee’s remarks.
“God sent Adolf Hitler to help Jews reach the promised land,” the pastor claimed in a 1999 sermon…In a March 23, 2003 sermon broadcast internationally, Hagee claimed European Rothschild bankers, along with David Rockefeller, controlled the U.S. economy through the Federal Reserve…In his March 23, 2003 sermon, Hagee predicted that Jewish financiers were behind a satanic Illuminati plot, based in Europe, that would bring the Antichrist to power. This Antichrist, who in a prior sermon Hagee had predicted would be both partially Jewish and homosexual, would according to Hagee [video link] slaughter up to 1/3 of the world's population and "make Hitler look like a choirboy"
By refusing to condemn Hagee’s anti-Jewish stance Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), show their lack of credibility.
A new kid on the block is a small Texas cellphone provider that warns of rampant “wokeness” and “sexually explicit books” in schools and urges leadership changes. The Oct. 5, 2022, New York Times describes How a Christian Cellphone Company Became a Rising Force in Texas Politics.
All 11 candidates backed by the company, Patriot Mobile, won their races across four school districts, including the one in Grapevine, Texas, a conservative town where the company is based and where highly rated schools are the main draw for families. In August, the board approved new policies limiting support for transgender students, clamping down on books deemed inappropriate and putting in place new rules that made it possible to be elected to the school board even without a majority of votes.
The company’s efforts have been seen as a model by Republican candidates and conservative activists, who have sought to harness parental anger over public schools as a means of holding onto suburban areas, a fight that could determine the future of the country’s largest red state.
The Religious Politic
Most of the American presidents have been deists. Many of them have feigned attachment to religions, and their records show the hypocrisy. George W. Bush touted the Bible, but it is doubtful that the higher authority was pleased with him.
Evangelists took credit for electing Bush in the 2004 election and exit polls confirm their declaration. The Evangelists came out in full force in Ohio, and the "Buckeye" state's 20 electoral votes tipped the election to Bush. The religious conservatives showed they can be the most reliable Republicans, similar to African Americans for the Democrats. Nevertheless, most of them are issue-oriented, distrustful of government, and dubiously contend that fabricated laws intrude upon their lives. Initially, the Religious Right had little success with its social conservative agenda; that has changed to some small steps and one giant step.
· A 6-3 Supreme Court majority has ruled that public schools generally “cannot bar their employees from conducting a ‘private’ and ‘personal’ religious expression while on the job.
· Bills before the Texas legislature allow schools to hire chaplains and require the displaying of posters in every public school classroom that lists a version of the Ten Commandments.
· Book banning has become a national sport, and the Religious Right seeks the most medals. PEN America, a nonprofit advocacy group, reports that 1,586 books were banned in 2022; “33% of the banned books included LGBTQ themes, while 22% “directly address issues of race and racism.” Christian nationalists, led by political leaders, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis seek to ban books, especially those that teach about Critical Race Theory.
· The Supreme Court overruling of Roe vs. Wade, the most major reversal of a social issue, highlights the strength of the contemporary Religious Right.
Polls show that more than half of Republicans believe the country should be a strictly Christian nation, either adhering to the ideals of Christian nationalism (21%) or sympathizing with those views (33%). The Christian nationalists displayed their agenda when eight Senators who voted against Biden’s certification for president were identified as falling “squarely in the ranks of Christian Nationalists.” Newly elected House leader, Mike Johnson, is prominent among the 147 Republicans who objected to Biden’s certification. Johnson is quoted as saying, “Someone asked me today in the media, ‘People are curious, what does Mike Johnson think about any issue?’ Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”
The U.S. has the most devout population of all the wealthy Western democracies and suffers from a higher number of social problems — incarcerations, opioid deaths, drug addiction, crime, mass killings, racial conflict, and economic inequality. Some sociologists have argued that there is a link between relatively high levels of income inequality in the U.S. and continued high levels of religious persuasion.
Is there a relation between having the largest percentage of church-going citizens and increased social problems? Perceived from another perspective, we can conclude that religious institutions are not fulfilling a duty to develop peace-loving, moral, and obedient citizens, The Christians who support the amoral, devil-worshipping, provocative, “never turn the other cheek,” and self-centered Donald Trump are not following the teachings of Jesus Christ. The same Christian community rejected Jimmy Carter, the born-again, most moral and religious of all American presidents.
President Carter put moral aspects high in his agenda, “appealing for racial equality, lamenting economic disparity and making human rights concerns integral to American foreign policy.” He won on some issues but never won acceptance from white co-religionists.
Legislation in a democracy follows the times, is carefully prepared from scientific and academic knowledge, and considers the needs of all the people. In county, state, and federal government, the Religious Right defies the democratic concept of government, preparing legislation that goes against the times, is prepared from dogma and scripture, and considers the needs of those with an atavistic agenda. More attention has to be given to combatting the religious-political alignment, more resources have to be utilized to diminish its influence, and more action has to be instituted to halt its corrosion of American society.