Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fewer Conservatives Want to See Mix of Church and State

Recent polling by The Pew Forum, the results of which were published on August 21, 2008, found an interesting – and unusual – deviation in conservative voters' views on the issue of the separation of church and state as opposed to their views on the same subject during the 2004 presidential election. What does this mean for the age-old argument concerning our founding fathers and the debate on the separation of church and state?

The Pew Forum states "disillusionment" as the rationale behind this change of heart, with a growing number of religious conservatives indicating they would prefer less mixing of politics and religious bodies and less of politicians talking up their personal religious convictions.

Four years ago, only 30% of conservatives believed that religious institutions should stay clear and out of politics; today that number has grown to 50%. The sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans that previously existed on this issue are now blurred – enough so that the Pew Forum says they have "disappeared" altogether.

Perhaps this disillusionment stems not only from an unpopular Presidency, but from the loss of the political power radical Evangelicalism held in this country four, and even eight, years ago. It would not be an understatement to say that evangelicals possessed a strong hold over our political and soon-to-be elected officials during the last two presidential elections; it also enjoyed a vast network of believers amongst American citizens. It was a belief system that believed – nay, promulgated – the "return" to this nation's supposed Christian ideals and methods of governing, and it would not be a far stretch to say that Americans have had a change of heart after seeing firsthand that such beliefs do little to "improve" the state of things in our country.

Today, according to The Pew Forum poll, Democrats and Republicans are equally divided on the issue of separating church and state. Whether this is entirely due to the abundance of criticism for our current government, or because more people have come to understand that our founding fathers never intended for church and state to be mixed, one cannot say with absolute certainty. Whatever the reason, it is certainly a boon to those of us that – through careful research and study – have determined that the founders of this nation were never fundamental Christians and that they ever intended this country to be founded on such values.

19 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The "values" question remains open, even if those of you who "through careful research and study" claim to have determined otherwise.

Moreover, in the context of the Founding, we should not use "religion" and "church" interchangably, as in their separation from "state." Two different things entirely.

And even with this [what may be a temporary] shift in attitudes, roughly half of Americans still think churches should continue to speak out. Neither can even that half be said to advocate a theocracy.

And further, churches were at or near Ground Zero in both the abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. We should not applaud in principle those trends that simply suit our druthers when it comes to current events.

Shanna Riley said...

Sorry, Tom, I just don't believe the values of our founding fathers were "fundamentalist Christian". Undoubtedly there were important Christian influences in each of their lives from their childhoods on, however, to say that it formed each and all of their adulthood values is stretching it a bit...especially concerning some of their later writings. Christian-type values? Sure; most people do. Fundamentalist values on which they based the founding of this country on? I've yet to find anything to prove it.

Furthermore, I "claimed" nothing. I simply stated that I - and those in my same mindset - have determined; meaning for ourselves. I can't claim with 100% accuracy what anyone was thinking centuries ago; not a one of us can. We can only do our own studies, research, examinations and come up with our own best conclusions. The differing viewpoints we all have here make this the very heart of the wonderful dissertation of this blog.

As to applauding anything - once again I must point that you have misread my post. As to the actual percentage change, I was merely stating what the Pew Forum found. The rest are my observations about it. I have no data to go on except what was offered there at what I read at the Pew Forum - which concerned the last couple of elections and this one. I'm not saying such changing percentages were not factors at other times; quite likely they were. I only, however, commented on what I had before me.

I truly do believe this is only a temporary shift, as you say. In fact, I've little doubt to it. You claim that "roughly half of Americans" do want the church involved? It wouldn't surprise me, one way or the other - can you tell me where this statistic comes from? I'd like to do some more research on it for another project.

You are 100% correct that "religion" and "church" are two different things wherein the founding is concerned...but obviously my post is talking about the church-led religions that are being talked about in the Pew research I quoted. I apologize if I didn't make that more clear. I realize Jefferson was a religious man - yet that hardly made him a proponent of the church. Yes, two different things, indeed!

Tom Van Dyke said...

I got the data from the Pew study you linked. I tend to skip the narratives and look at the numbers for myself.

Sorry, Tom, I just don't believe the values of our founding fathers were "fundamentalist Christian".

Oh, heaven forbid, I would never argue that, Shanna! In fact, such folk get both barrels from me.

There are other POVs between heaven and hell...and nothingness.

Shanna Riley said...

I'm glad we're in agreement on that one, then. Again, I apologize if my last sentence wasn't more clear, but I was implying that the founding fathers weren't "fundamenalist Christians" - certainly wasn't going to say they weren't at all Christian.

I think the other POVs are as infinite as there active minds and living bodies on this Earth...no two will ever be in perfect agreement or accordance; due to this we can enjoy spirited debate and lively dissertation.

Thanks for your comment, and hope we can discuss more issues in the future.

Phil Johnson said...

.
Nice job, Shanna.
.
It appears the Pew data shows us that there is a solid movement regarding the issues of any church/state mix.
.
And, that exemplifies the constant ebb and flow of American society since the Founding itself.
.
Enlightenment vs. Logical Religiosity.
.

Shanna Riley said...

Thank you, Phil. I agree - there has been a constant ebb, and I doubt that will ever really change. As much as we debate the issue, I don't think it will ever be fully resolved. People may fluctuate, but there are some very hardcore believers on both sides of the separation of church & state issue.

Phil Johnson said...

.
"... I doubt that will ever really change."
.
I know that it sure seems as though things won't change. But, I believe they truly will.
.
All of us know that there is a cycle to history. As we look back over our past, we see the vacillation as though it will just keep going back and forth and back and forth. But, it is a retrograde and things are really evolving.
.
It's too bad we won't live another hundred years to see these things go away. I know the nihilists expect the end to come at any moment with the sound of trumpets and blood dripping from the moon. But, naaaah! Humanity has experienced many times when it seemed all was lost. And it was for the very unfortunate that were sacrificed in the name of one ideology or another; but, there have always been survivors--more to the point, there has always been those who prevail.
.
I do believe in humanity. We will most certainly succeed.
.
The consillence is near. We have great reason for great hope.

http://www.2think.org/hii/wilson.shtml

Check it out.

Phil Johnson said...

Is every one able to appreciate how despondent many of the Colonists were at the prospect of winning an insurgency against the Crown of England during the revolutionary era? Can you imagine how depressing it must have been for those poor struggling early American--our fore-bearers? I know that some of my ancestors were there and I can feel their pain and longing to be free of the despot's grasp on their throats.
.
It's a sure thing some of them thought things would never change.
.
But, they did and here we are.!! Humanity's glory is right there above the clouds just waiting to shine through.
.
We've done it before and we will do it again!
.
Where are the sickly naysayers?
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Sickly naysayers? Sounds like Nietzsche.

The consillience is near! The consillience is near! Oh, I don't think so. I like EO Wilson, but his expertise is in bugs, and men are not ants.

This faith in "science" is misplaced, as its claim to explanatory power about the mystery of life necessitates constipating the human vocabulary. The "materialistic" explanation can only answer "how." But man is the creature who wonders "why," which science cannot answer, or even ask.

Humanity's "glory"? Oh, my. Soon he'll be claiming the credit for creating himself.

Phil Johnson said...

."I like EO Wilson, but his expertise is in bugs, and men are not ants."
.
I don't know if I should be surprised that YOU would put yourself above E.O.Wilson or not. I read the book and the author makes an outstanding argument. I doubt you could hold a candle to his brilliance. Which, by the way, detracts nothing from your obvious skills. It's a good idea we stay in our league.
.
As far as putting faith in science, no one really has to do that in order to recognize its superiority over the metaphysical. Yes, science deals with the material world in which we mortals live out our mortality. And the consilliaence deals with the material world--YOU know, that which is able to be observed?
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Yes, I know.

Tom Van Dyke said...

heh.

http://www.nyu.edu/classes/neimark/eow.html

PT: You call yourself a deist. What do you mean by that?

EO: A deist is a person who’s willing to buy the idea that some creative force determined the parameters of the universe when it began.

PT: And a theist is someone who believes that God not only set the universe in motion, but is still actively involved.

EO: But I’ve been doing a kind of Pascalian waffling as a deist. I think being an atheist is to claim knowledge you cannot have. And to say you’re agnostic is to arrogantly dismiss the whole thing by saying that it’s unknowable. But a provisional deist is someone like myself who leaves it open. You see, evolutionary biology leaves very little room for a theistic God. I’d like it to be otherwise. Nothing would delight me more than to have real proof of a transcendental plane.

PT: Why?

EO: If the neurobiologists came through with enough evidence and said, There is another plane, and it is quite conceivable that the individual essence somehow implanted there is immortal, wouldn’t you be happy? I’d be very, very happy. I’d congratulate my colleagues when they went to Stockholm to get the Nobel Prize, and I’d be personally relieved.

PT: Relieved of what?

EO: It would mean that human existence really is exalted and that immortality is a prospect, providing this God is not a God of irony and cruelty who is going to send everybody the other way. That reminds me of an argument I like to give. Maybe God is sorting the saved from the damned, but the saved will be those who have the intellectual courage to press on with skepticism and materialism. They would be His most independent and courageous creations, would they not? Particularly the ones who faced the charges of heresy.

PT: They get to heaven because they still wanted to, even though they believed there was no heaven.

EO: Right.

PT: I would be deeply disappointed if there was a God. The universe looks so stunningly impressive because it can do this trick all by itself. A deity undercuts it.

EO: I understand what you’re saying. That the human soul was self-created in such an astonishing way that we’re only just beginning to understand.

PT: A universe that needs a push to get it right every now and then—that’s just a second class universe.

EO: So the universe that made itself after it got started, however it got started, is a first class universe. This is what I say, actually, in Consilience. We’re free, thank God.

PT: Or thank something.

Phil Johnson said...

.
TVD responds with "Yes, I know."
.
Then, why do you diss Wilson? That was unbecoming to you.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I didn't diss him. I like him. But materialism's explanatory power is insufficient for man's needs and abilities [he is able to ask "why"], and therefore there can be no conscilience. Don't get so mad all the time. And it didn't take but a google to find "PT" giving man credit for his own creation. I'm familiar with the landscape, Phil---both sides.

Phil Johnson said...

.
I suspect you are familiar with the landscape, Tom, and that is the problem.
.
Some come here to gather information. It is important, in my thinking, that none goes away with false understandings of what is because of a flippant comment by someone who DOES have such a good mind as yours. You must realize that some will believe some things just because you post them. Unto whom much is given, much is required. You must use wise care as you wield your blade.

Wilson's expertise in Entomology in no way detracts from his presentation of what he calls the consillience.
.
It has come to be popular to knock science; but, science continues to unfold wonders in the material world beyond our previous imagination.
.
What wonders lie in the near future? We learn from our history.
.
p.s. I never get mad. Upset? Maybe. But, mad? Nope. Not me.
.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Good. And perhaps I was simply trying to draw you out, or to hit the books, Phil.

;-[D>

Nobody here but us chickens, looks like.

Now, thx for the compliment in there, and I hope you notice that I shy away from truth claims, and indeed object to them when they're made on this blog. [Jesus is God, there is no God, whatever.] I do want people to be able to believe what I write, and so I double- and triple check almost everything so that they can and try to stick to the factual and logical---the material, if you will.

But we reach a point---and EO Wilson is it---where I simply point out where the materialistic approach to accounting for reality, our reality, man's reality, proves insufficient. I'm happy enough to get someone to ask hisself "why." Our mileage will vary on the answers, and I suppose there are as many understandings of God [or godlessness] as there are people in the world. But this is why we are not ants, who have only the hive-mind, and where EO Wilson's explanatory power breaks down. It cannot account for the individual, and smart man that he is, he admits that.

[See his musing that only those who "question" are the ones who go to "heaven." This echoes Plato's parable of "the cave" strongly, where the philosopher see what's outside it, and the common folk stay inside, trying to make sense of the flickering shadows on the wall.]

But Wilson is also an [unwitting?] ally of those opposed to modernity, and the belief that man's nature is malleable by politics and culture. "Sociobiology" indicates that there is much "hard-wiring" to man, and there's far more to changing or moving him than reprogramming his software.

Phil Johnson said...

.
There you go again, Tom, mixing apples with oranges.
.
The material world and the metaphysical world are two distinctly different "places". You already know that; so, you shouldn't try to mix the two.
.
Science is the tool we use in the search to quench our thirst for knowledge about the material world. Religion is the tool we use to satisfy our interest in the hereafter as well as the present spiritual.

Mixing the two gets us in a mess.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Aw, Phil, and I thought we were getting along so well again. You know, I make time for you, where I won't for others. Call it affection, call it respect, call it faith in you.

But it really irks me to be accused of intellectual dishonesty, like mixing apples and oranges. That's my hot button, I admit. Call me wrong, tell me you don't like my sunglasses. But don't challenge my ethos, my integrity. It's all I got. [Remember Vice President Ben Kingsley saying that in "Dave"?]

You claimed that materialism is superior


As far as putting faith in science, no one really has to do that in order to recognize its superiority over the metaphysical.


to metaphysics, and I suspect you really mean you reject metaphysics entirely. So be it. But I keep up on science [I subscribe to Discover!] and if there's a "conscilience" in the works, it's with all those tired "religious" notions, like the creation myth and the discovery of "The Big Bang." [Aristotle, who believed in an eternal universe, would be damned surprised.]

You must understand that in the non-materialist view, one cannot not "mix the two" because they are one in the same, what we call "reality." That's what the Founders meant with their deep belief---an almost universally expressed belief, and that includes Jefferson---in divine providence, which was as real to them as a musketball off your eyebrow.

akaGaGa said...

Or perhaps the "disillusionment" is really an awakening on the part of Christians who finally realize that any contract with the state is detrimental to the church.