Religion doesn’t matter much

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Last week’s Pew survey on the influence of religion on Americans’ policy views is notable for revealing how little influence there is. The only areas where religion appears to play a significant leading role in influencing opinion are same-sex marriage, abortion and the death penalty. Sixty percent of pro-lifers and 45 percent of those opposed to same-sex marriage cite religion as the most important reason for their position, while 32 percent of those opposed to the death penalty do the same. But only 12 percent of those who support additional government assistance to the poor cite religion as the most important reason.

Dan Schultz has a good analysis of what this glum news means for pastors who would like to think that what they have to say about the issues of our time. What I’d like to have seen included in the poll is a question on tolerance of other faiths. What’s striking is how little difference religion seems to make in Americans’ positions on anything but abortion and same-sex marriage. On other issues, its race and ethnicity that make for the differences (check out black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics).

P.S. The poll shows an uptick in pro-choice views since last year, from 47 percent who believe that abortion shout be legal in all or most case to 50 percent. (Those who believe it should be illegal in all or most cases slipped from 45 percent to 44 percent). This is a regression to the norm for this decade–and possibly also a reflection of popular sense that the GOP (pro-life) is in the ascendancy.