The last 40 years of politics and religion has been focused squarely on the ascendancy of the Religious Right.
I must admit that I’ve probably contributed my fair share to that discourse, as well.
A motley crew of white evangelicals and traditional Catholics locked arms on some social issues, started voting in large numbers for Republican candidates, and changed American politics forever.
But I think that era of religion and politics is rapidly coming to a close. The Religious Right is no longer a primarily religious movement — from my point of view it’s one about cultural conservatism and nearly blind support for the GOP with few trappings of any real religiosity behind it.
Here’s what I believe to be the emerging narrative of the next several decades: the rise of atheism and their unbelievably high level of political engagement in recent electoral politics. Let me put it plainly: atheists are the most politically active group in American politics today and the Democrats (and some Republicans) ignore them at their own peril.
The data is clear and unequivocal on this point — no one gets involved in the political process to the level of the average atheist.
The Cooperative Election Study always asks a nice little battery of questions about political engagement. It’s phrased simply as: have you done any of the following activities in the previous month? Because the CES is fielded in the height of election season, if someone was going to get politically active, they would be doing so in October or November of an election year.
The group that is most likely to contact a public official? Atheists.
The group that puts up political signs at the highest rates? Atheists.